One of the things my store prides itself on is our high level of customer service. This means that if you come into my store with only one or two pieces of information about a book, we’ll try our hardest to figure out the answer. Every now and then, we get some rather silly requests, such as the person a few holidays ago who called on Christmas Eve and asked in a strange, high voice for books on “Monkeys? Monkeys doing things like humans”—turns out he wanted photos of monkeys having sex. I had a friend who worked at a Borders in Braintree who said that they had a customer say they knew the title, but not the author and could they help them? “The title is Dante’s Inferno.”
When the floor staff can’t figure it out, they usually call me to play what we call Stump the Bookseller. Today it was a book that had been on our front nonfiction table within the last few months, subject is something like Africa and economic development, and was reviewed in the Economist. Well, then. I threw out a few suggestions, none correct. Hung up, went back to work for a few minutes, then it came to me. Of course the customer had already gone by then, but I raced down to the floor just in case. I love the challenge of figuring these things out, like a test of my memory.
Oh, the book I think they were looking for was The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier.