Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adventures in Receiving

For those not aware, Carl and I have switched positions. Carl, the people-friendly and well-read former receiver, is now on the floor. And I, the ornery and underslept floor bookseller, am now doing the receiving. Behold the great switcheroo!

Truth be told, this update is actually rather old news. I've been back here for awhile now, and I've learned quite a bit. And not just about receiving, mind you. Here's a sampling of important lessons I have learned since I started.

1. Books are heavy. Typically not by themselves, but if you put them all into one very large box, they're weighty. And then multiply that by fifteen, and you have a normal Boswell day's receiving. Just the other day, I was absolutely certain that Workman had shipped us two boxes of cinder blocks. Turns out they were just dictionaries.

2. Some publishers and wholesalers have clean, organized packing lists. And some don't. I'm looking at you, Perseus!

3. Packing peanuts may be convenient and effective, but they get EVERYWHERE.

4. Even the messiest individuals become rather organized when doing this job. I learned this lesson quickly - it only took one episode of frantically rooting through damaged books and old invoices to get to the ringing phone before I cleaned up.

5. When I worked on the floor, I typically worked the closing shift. Receiving is almost exclusively first shift work. Coffee is worth its weight in gold. Perhaps even worth its weight in Workman cinder-block-dictionaries.

6. Being a receiver in a bookstore on a Tuesday is stressful. For those unaware, new books usually come out on Tuesdays. There's a lot of flailing involved.

7. You learn a lot about each of the publishers/wholesalers and their individual ideosyncrasies. HarperCollins uses fantastic boxes, great for reusing. Baker & Taylor and Ingram wrap their shipments in plastic within their shipping boxes. MPS uses boxes that you can't break down without essentially ripping them in half. Penguin does new releases on both Tuesday and Thursday. And Norton uses those packing peanuts that I love so much.

8. Compared to the floor, there is next to no downtime. If not receiving, there are returns. If not returns, there are invoices to match with packing lists. Handling damaged books. Breaking down boxes. Taking out recycling and garbage. Never a dull moment!

9. Open the door if using Goo-Gone. It gets goop off of books better than anything, but it smells something fierce and is probably not too good for you.

10. Take pride in your work. The receiver is the first link in the chain, after all. I have a deeper appreciation for the book shop because of what I now do - there's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that I wasn't aware of. It's kind of nifty to see - and be part of - the bigger picture.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's new in Boswell's Best

Up at the front of the shop, next to the registers, is a small two case section of books deemed Boswell's Best. It seems like a pretty bold statement to make. What does it mean to be Boswell's Best? Why those 40 titles (50 with kids books)? I have a whole list of criteria, sometimes it makes sense (for instance, if bookseller tackles me and starts yelling about how much they loved the new Philip Pullman, it goes on the Best) and sometimes it doesn't. Quite simply, they are new and exciting titles that we are hoping pique your interest.

Here is a sampling of what you kind find up there right now:

1) Parrot & Olivier in America by Peter Carey. From two-time Booker Award winner Peter Carey comes the story about American Democracy experienced through Parrot, a spy, and Olivier, part of the French aristocracy who runs away to the United states to escape the guillotine. Olivier has a very de Tocqueville start to life. Thomas Mallon has a good review in the New York Times, you can find it here.

2) Good Man Jesus & the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman. There are books that even get booksellers jumping up and knocking people over to lay claim to, and Philip Pullman's new book does not disappoint. The day we received his new book Jocelyn went rogue with delight. This is what she had to say: "A mythic re-imagining of the life of Jesus, this is as nuanced and enthralling a story as you'd expect from Pullman."

3) Third Rail by Michael Harvey. From Carl: "Taking place in 2010 Chicago, this one is a thrill ride on Chicago's El, where a deranged killer (or two?) is indiscriminately shooting riders and then moving on to other sites in Chicago for more carnage. All the while he's taunting Kelly, who gets pulled into the case in more ways than one. Yes, this time, it's personal! Images from his childhood come rushing back as the killer lets Kelly know that he's been watching him for years. It's then revealed to him that the madman has kidnapped Kelly's girlfriend. What will he do next? The details of contemporary Chicago and Kelly's Irish-American background add a lot of flavor to this fine entry to the series. I encourage you to read the first two as well."

4) Russia against Napoleon by Dominic Lieven. We know the story, we've read War & Peace, but Dominic Lieven presents new detail from previous inaccessible material from the Russian archives. He blends both the military strategy and the political intrigue to present a complete picture of Russia's brilliant, yet costly defense of their homeland. I am a huge Napoleon fanatic, so this is a must read for me!

5) Long Song by Andrea Levy (due 4/27). From the author of Small Island, which is a PBS mini-series, comes a tale of 19Th century Jamaica. The story unfolds during the slave rebellion of 1832, and is told through the eyes of July, a house slave.

Coming Next Week (5/4/2010):
Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer--Just started reading this, wish I had read it months ago.

Coming Next Month (6/8/2010):
The Passage by Justin Cronin--I will be talking about this book all summer--simply fantastic!