From author Ann Patchett via The Washington Post:
When Karen Hayes and I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville in November 2011, I hadn’t really considered what an enormous boon it would be to my lifelong goal of forcing books on people. There were so many logistics to deal with — finding a space to rent that had good parking, finding employees, finding shelves — that there wasn’t a minute to think about the fun part: recommending books. After all, I’ve been telling people what to read since I was able to recognize words on paper. I was the kid extolling the virtues of “Charlotte’s Web” in the school cafeteria. “Fern saves the runt from being killed,” I told my friends. “And so her father lets her keep him.”
. . . .
But now that I own a bookstore, I no longer need to rely so heavily on my immediate circle to ensure that people are reading the books I love. At Parnassus, there is a constant river of people flowing past the new fiction releases, past U.S. history and down toward the children’s section, and many have no idea what they want to read. They’ll walk right up to me and say, “I’m looking for a book.” I wait for a minute, thinking surely there’s going to be more to that sentence — “I’m looking for a book I heard about on the radio” or “I’m looking for a book like ‘The Goldfinch’ ” — but often there is nothing else. They just smile up at me, trusting and curious, waiting to follow my instructions. It makes my heart soar. I ask them to tell me the last couple of books they’ve liked, just so I have some idea of who I’m talking to, then I lead them gently over to the shelves and get to work.
. . . .
This is nothing at all like an algorithm. I don’t keep a piece of paper by the cash register and mark down how many of the people who bought “Gone Girl” went on to buy “The Girl on the Train.” I’m a reader who stays up half the night ruining my eyes because I can’t tear myself away from the new Richard Price novel, “The Whites.” When I recommend a book it’s because I’ve read it, not because I’ve sold a certain number of copies.
And when’s the last time your Internet superstore told you that you might be making a mistake? I recently brought my friend Jane to the bookstore. Jane was visiting from Wisconsin. She picked up a novel that I, too, had been drawn to read. It started out with such promise and then disintegrated into a pile of ashes. I tapped the cover, shook my head. “Not this one.” I can’t always be there to steer people away from the bad book and toward a good one, in the same way I can’t always keep pedestrians from falling down open manholes, but when I see something, I say something.
Link to the rest at The Washington Post