Of all the books in the world

This morning when I got to work I spent a good long time stocking the bookstore back up from it’s not-too-picked-through-but-less-than-full state. Nothing had sold out, but it always makes me feel better to know that the shelves are as stuffed as possible, and to move things around to feature them more appropriately. I like an empty stock-room, a feeling which must be credited to the 8 years I worked at Six Gun City, a wild-west-themed amusement park in Northern New Hampshire. During my time there, which constitutes the bulk of my retail experience, it was deeply engrained in me to stock, stock, stock, and that an empty shelf is a wasted opportunity to give the customer exactly what they’re looking for – especially if it’s sitting in the back room. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me because if we had seven different kinds of cap guns in the gift shop, what use was the eighth? Don’t get me wrong, when I was asked to stock, I stocked. A time even came when I was the one telling people to stock. But it never made sense.

It makes inherent sense to me here, though. If someone’s looking for a Russian account of patricide, he does not want to be faced with several copies of Crime and Punishment, he’s looking for The Brothers Karamozov (which you can find nestled among the other Dostoevsky we carry: The Idiot, Crime and Punishment, The Gambler, Bobok and A Nasty Story, House of the Dead, The Devils, Poor Folk and Other Stories, The Village of Stepanchikovo), and no other book will do. I suppose my bosses at Six Gun City had the same feelings about the nuanced differences between eight and twelve shot ring cap guns, I think it’s a matter of priorities (to think: I almost stayed at the wild western haven nestled among the White Mountains just long enough to share my previous bosses’ feelings about toy guns.)

This process of stocking always gives me a slight anxiety, however. Each time I am struck with the realization that I will never get to read all of these books. I liken it to when you’re browsing your record (CD/tape/mp3) collection and find that you want to listen to all of the records at once. I hold all of these beautiful books in my hand and want to read them all immediately. I want to go home, forget work, pick up a book and not put it down until I am done, and then I want to pick up another one, and another and another until my shelves are bare. Then I want to fill them all up again and start over. But then life intervenes and instead of ripping through a shelf of books each day I master a chapter or two before I get up and make breakfast, I catch a page or two while I’m making dinner, and I sometimes get a paragraph read before my eyes close entirely at the end of the day. Some days I get to read for hours, some days I just look longingly at my books and just don’t have the time. Either way, I know I will never be able to read all the books out there. I’m content to try, though.

So here I sit in the full-to-the-brim Henry Miller Library nearing the end of a very busy day – we started sales for the Animal Collective concert on May 27th and sold out in the first 20 minutes the tickets went on sale, hundreds of disappointed people (if only we could fit thousands of people into our intimate little grove and have it still be an intimate little grove!), 300 very happy fans, and what promises to be a very exciting concert on that Wednesday evening. Speaking of our bookstore stock, I will leave you with a look at our most recent staff picks:

Eric has selected Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad, and Plato’s Republic with the following to say about them: “These are three of the greatest and most enduring accomplishments of western civilization. The Iliad is a war story that shows, through its main character Achilles, the all too human struggles of humanity and barbarism, humility and pride, wrath and reason, and shame and glory. The Odyssey, on the other hand, tells the of fantastic adventures of Odysseus, the quick-witted and iron-willed soldier, who endures peril at every turn on his 20 year long journey home. Finally, Plato’s Republic shows through dialogues with Socrates — arguably one of the wisest people to ever live — that an individual must first live a virtuous life to then contribute to and improve the State, and ultimately the lives of others.”

Magnus has selected There’s a Riot Going On by Peter Doggett, and had the following to say: “Good book. The sixties is often a romantic illusion among people, especially around these parts. This book scales off some of the hype and nostalgia and is peppered with original and thoughtful observations. If you are curious about the sixties this is the best compendium of the era that shook the western world that I have read.”

He also selected The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr and said: “Good book. Talks about what a lot of people are talking about intelligently and with a great historical parallel drawn between the current ‘cloud’ computing and the electric utility system.”
I have selected East of Eden by John Steinbeck and think this book is a complete masterpiece. If I were to string together a bunch of adjectives that describe this tale that follows entire generations on their struggles, they would include: epic, unsentimental, heartbreaking, timeless, powerful, and beautiful.

I also chose Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac and think this book is best left by your bed, in your bathroom, on your kitchen table, or wherever it is you find yourself reading material in drips and drabs. Start your day with a haiku, read a life lesson for lunch, and end it with a stream of consciousness completely devoid of punctuation but not lacking in take-your-breath-away-profundity. Kerouac at his most disjointed and beautiful!

If we’ve convinced you via the internet (as we convince people in our store), please go ahead and call us up for a copy (or come on down if you live locally). We’d be happy to ship to you, and it’s better to buy from us than from some faceless corporation with a massive website. We’re not faceless – we’re the three little bookworms at the top of the page! 831 667-2574 is our number, and you can just give us the title and we’ll get the book out to you as soon as possible. You can also email me: keely.richter@gmail.com and request a copy and I will get one out to you.

I hope y’all get to read all the books in the world,

Keely

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