Today, I secretly pretended to work at a bookshop. If you’re a regular here at the Open Book, you might know that a sizeable amount of my blogs are about bookshops and what I do, buy, and see there. Pretending to work there was a first, I think. Want to know what I did? Read on!
There are times, increasingly often, that I find myself wondering whether I have chosen the right career. I recently realised I’ve been a teacher for ten years, and that thought made me sad rather than proud. Whenever I feel this way, I visit the local bookshop, in order to surround myself with all my papery loves and the reasons I studied English in the first place and became a teacher. I then look around and try to take in all these unexplored worlds waiting for me. Sometimes I even close my eyes, smile, and pretend that I’m a character of one of those books that are about people who love books above all else and spend all their time in bookshops, and that I’m its main character, and that there’ll be countless people reading about my, admittedly not very exciting, life. (My imagination never keeps this up for a long time, however, since I always remind myself that I’m not a literary character but a real person, who happens to be extremely clumsy. Fictional women never bump into people, accidentally knock books off their shelves or fall of stairs, do they? It wouldn’t make for good reading, I’m afraid.)
Today, my fantasy was about working in a bookshop. I walked around the shop and imagined I’d be talking to all the people browsing books. I would ask them what their favourite books were, and they would happily share their thoughts with me (and let’s be honest here: real bookshop employees don’t do this – but hey! it’s my fantasy!). They would listen to my recommendations, purchase all of them, and return in a couple of days telling me they’ve finished them (which won’t be possible because they will all have left with at least ten books each, and they will not have managed to finish them all in a couple of days, but hey, it’s still my fantasy) and they truly loved them and my recommendations were spot on and could I please tell them which other books they should read? And I would become employee of the month, of the year, even of the country, and I would be famous, and I would never have to go back to teaching…
If only. After a while I woke up from my reverie and knew my life wouldn’t change just like that. I pinched myself and muttered that I’d have to accept that I would have to be a teacher for just a bit longer. I felt my initial sadness returning, mixed with grumpiness. And then something beautiful happened. I was browsing the second-hand department, and without really looking for it, I found my favourite book (or one of my favourites anyway (I felt bad for all the other books I told I loved them most in the world so these words in parentheses will reassure them)) in the entire world, the book that I have been talking about ever since I first read it, and the book I keep recommending to everyone I know: Immortality by Milan Kundera. I love it so much I even managed to discuss it in the lecture I gave about a Dutch book. My anger disappeared, and a smile lifted the corners of my mouth. I wasn’t planning to buy this book, of course, since I already have it (and a Dutch version as well). Instead, feeling the remnants of my daydream still coursing through my body, I pretended to be working at the bookshop again.
Unlike imaginary Elke, I didn’t talk to people. I didn’t bother them at all. Instead, I did something much more subtle: I ensured Kundera’s wonderful novel caught the attention of potential buyers. I looked around, made sure nobody was looking at me, and highlighted Immortality. I took it from the shelf, browsed through it (my own copy is much prettier, I couldn’t help but notice triumphantically, before I realised that this should be of little importance), and put it back. But this time, it didn’t quite align with the other books; instead, it protuded from the shelf, just a little, but enough, I hoped, to make people pick it up, read the blurb, be impressed and immensely curious, and buy it.
I was in full daydream-mode again. What if someone bought Immortality just as much as I did? What if it changed their life? What if they would start recommending it to everyone in the same way as I did? What if they would, from now on, rearrange bookshops’ bookshelves in order to make sure people would notice this particular novel? What if I’d become a trendsetter, and Immortality will be a global bestseller because dreamers like me make it enter our collective minds? Oh, what if…
I pinched myself again, blinked, and took just enough time to take these three pictures. After about five minutes, I left the store with four books, three pictures, and the idea of one blog post forming in my mind.
Which book would you subtly recommend to everyone who’s even remotely interested in books? How would you do this? Do you think I’m losing my mind? Have you ever had any bookshop daydreams? Do you ever pretend you work in a bookshop? Do you ever imagine your life will change because of books? I’ve really lost my mind, haven’t I? Please share your opinion in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!