I recently read a couple of delightful books that my dad gave me, Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops and More Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops, both by British bookseller and writer Jen Campbell.

weird things collage

They’re collections of short dialogue vignettes, real things that real people have said to real booksellers (most of which bookstores are identified in the book). I found many of them laugh-out-loud funny. There are also a lot of amusing illustrations throughout both books.


Long ago, I got a seasonal job at a local Barnes & Noble for the Christmas holidays one year. The store was approximately 30,000 square feet (for everyone outside the US, Google tells me that’s 2787 square meters), and we had tens of thousands of book in stock. And it was a daily routine for customers in the store to say things to me like, “I’m looking for a book–it’s blue. Do you know the one I mean?” Or: “I saw an interview the other day with the author of a book. I don’t remember the writer’s name. Or the book’s title. It had something to do with families. Do you have it?”

On one occasion, a couple came into the store who knew exactly the book they wanted–title & author–but they had no idea where in our immense store to look for it, so they asked my help. It was a book that a radio psychologist had recommended to married people who wanted to enliven their sex life. I helped them find the book–and the section of the store where they could find similar books. About 20 minutes later, the store manager interrupted my lunch in the back room, saying someone at the cash register was asking for me. When I went to the register, the couple was very apologetic about cutting into my break; they wanted to buy the book now, and they were too embarrassed to deal with a different clerk. (They were nice people, and I hope they enjoyed their book!)

Anyhow, author Jen Campbell also has a new book out which I’m looking forward to trying, The Bookshop Book.

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If you, like me, are not slim, you might have body image issues. (Actually, in our culture, even if you’re as trim and toned as a Hollywood movie star, you might have body image issues.) You might also have a lot of misconceptions, as I have had, about the health issues so noisily associated in our society with weight.

Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession With Weight–And What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown and Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail To Understand About Weight by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor have been eye-opening reads about how much the extremely lucrative multi-billion dollar diet industry influences the medical community, how much of what is conveyed to us as “facts” about weight is based on blatantly skewed studies (and often funded by the diet industry), and how much of what the media and even our own doctors tell us about our own weight-related health is misinformation.

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I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, and I’ve also become a huge Agatha Christie fan in recent years. Many talented actors narrate Christie novels, but I think Hugh Fraser (who played Captain Hastings on the long-running Poirot TV series) probably does it best, and I particularly enjoyed his rendition of Taken At the Flood. Another favorite narrator is Emilia Fox, who narrates They Came To Baghdad, whose heroine is one of my favorite Christie characters.

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Scottish actor Alan Cummings is, in part, a mystery tale. On the eve of Cummings participating in a British TV show that will delve into his family background and heritage, the actor’s estranged father, with whom he has not been in contact for years, tells him he is not really his son–and won’t say more than that. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that there is also an untold story surrounding the death of Cummings’ maternal grandfather. Balanced against these dark family stories and Cummings’ story of surviving his abusive father’s terrifying violence are amusing and engaging tales of the award-winning actor’s international career in film, television, and theatre.

My late-night winter drive home from ConFusion (an sf/f convention in the Detroit area that I usually attend–because who doesn’t want to go to Michigan in January?) this year passed more quickly than usual thanks to Cary Elwes’ delightful As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride, narrated by the author–with guest narrations from many of the actors who appeared in the movie, as well as from the director and other key people involved in the production. A very engaging book–and it made me eager to watch the movie again.