One of the funny things I end up doing a ton as a bookseller is promoting books I haven’t actually read. For the first couple of years I totally avoided this. I just wasn’t sure how yet. I mean, what if I was wrong about the title and it turned out to be totally sucky? I’m proud of being on at least the minimal end of what is considered “well read” in this country, and I usually stand by my recommendations without flinching- I have good taste in books. Or at least I try to believe that. Suggesting someone read something I haven’t actually taken the time to digest myself puts this self image in danger however. I mean, how could I keep it up with that nagging doubt in the back of my head? The concern that there is somebody out there saying, “See this book? It’s awful! The guy who sold me it is an idiot! A fool with no sense of poetry! I bet he read the whole thing upside down!” it’s a dreadful thought.
I pushed these grim fears aside finally of course, I finally managed to get it together and recommend something I hadn’t actually touched to someone and on my first try, with Todd Balf’s book Major, I nailed it. The fact that Major actually is a really good book helped (I read it a couple of years later) , but I had the pleasure/confusion of running into the customer again after he’d finished it. Pleasure because they’d enjoyed it and thanked me for the recommendation, and confusion because at that point in time I still hadn’t read the book and I was suddenly sucked into some Seinfeldian scenario where I had to live this brief moment in the face of my own lie and discuss the book. It went okay though. Nobody called BS on me at least.
Having developed a method for talking about books I’ve never read finally developed of course. Obviously culling a knowledge of who’s who in the respective worlds of publishing, editing, and criticism has allowed me to make reasonably informed statements about a title without actually having seen them in the physical. Then there are just those super easy ones. The ones that I’m always thankful for when the release date approaches. Case in point, David Byrne’s new book, How Music Works. It helps having read his previous, Bicycle Diaries, a book which reads brisk and smooth as a ride on the vehicle he promotes, but even so How Music Works bears a name that I know I can get behind. I mean it’s a book about music by David Byrne. He would know. I mean, JUST LOOK AT HIM:
So just putting it out there. We’ve got Byrne’s new book at each of our locations, and even though I haven’t read it (yet), I know it’s good. Who wants to be the first to confirm this for me though?