All The Books I Can Read

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Review: I Can’t Remember The Title But The Cover Is Blue by Elias Greig

on December 5, 2018

I Can’t Remember The Title But The Cover Is Blue
Elias Greig
Allen & Unwin
2018, 224p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Hilarious, unpredictable and, at times, touching, this compilation is the perfect gift for fans of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and The Diary of a Bookseller.

As any retail or service worker will tell you, customers can be irrational, demanding, abusive, and brain-scramblingly, mind-bendingly strange. They can also be kind, thoughtful, funny, and full of pathos. Something about the often-fraught interaction between customer and worker, with the dividing line of the counter between them, loosens inhibitions, and has a kind of hot-house effect on eccentricity.

In I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue, veteran bookseller Elias Greig collects the best, worst and downright weirdest customer encounters from his years working as a Sydney bookseller. From ill-behaved children to nostalgic seniors and everything in between, this hilarious and unpredictable book is the perfect gift for anyone who’s ever been on the wrong side of a counter.

When I was younger, my dream job was owning a bookstore. Like the ones in books or tv shows/movies that are half new books, half secondhand with a coffee machine or something and I could spend most of my day reading books and the other portion helping people find the books they want. Now when you’re about 10, that sounds perfect. It’s also incredibly unrealistic. Despite my love of books and how much I enjoy talking about them and recommending titles to people, I’ve never worked in a bookstore. I’ve never worked in retail because actually I don’t have that much patience and I’m not the sort of person to be polite when someone is rude to me. To be honest, books like this are just another hilarious reason why I don’t see a career in book sales.

Elias works in a bookstore on Sydney’s North Shore and decided to keep a bit of a diary, some daily interactions with customers. Some of the best are detailed here and there’s a bit of everything – customers who are irritatingly vague about a book they’re after, expecting him to read their minds to intuit it, customers who don’t keep their little darlings in check, customers who want him to google things, or print things or do other things that have nothing to do with books. Some of them are funny, some are thoughtful, others are downright bizarre and some are infuriating. I especially got a kick out of things like where someone comes looking for the latest Mark Latham or something and Elias is delighted to inform them that no, they don’t have that in stock today! There’s also a customer whom he suspects might possibly be a Nazi sympathiser based on his orders through the shop and he wavers back and forth throughout conversations with him.

The author has a very laid back and engaging style and the drawings that accompany many of the stories are simple but really well done and give a nice visual. Each of the customers is given a bit of a snappy name too, relevant to why they’re there, or what they’re looking for or the type of customer that they are. The format is really fun – each interaction is only a page or two and it’s short, snappy conversations and wry observations. It’s the sort of book you can read in a single sitting (like I did) and it won’t take you too long at all and it’s also the sort of book you can pick up and read a couple pages here and there whenever you have a spare few minutes, like in the car at school pick up, waiting for an appointment etc. It’s the perfect little companion for any book lover or person who appreciates the challenges of working in retail!


Book #196 of 2018

4 responses to “Review: I Can’t Remember The Title But The Cover Is Blue by Elias Greig

  1. Brona says:

    As someone who does work in a bookshop now, I found most of these interaction hilarious, although I’ve never had a supplier flirt with me over the phone!

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