Do you have this children's book I've heard about? It's supposed to be very good. It's called "Lionel Ritchie and the Wardrobe".
It goes without saying that booksellers are the salt of the earth. That they are also long-suffering and possessed of a fine appreciation of life's quirks and oddities is the joy of this tome by poet and short story writer Jen Campbell, who toils at an antiquarian bookshop in London.
Chock-full of mind-boggling queries and responses, it's like eavesdropping on incredulous staff in the storeroom. And it really is jaw-dropping at times - as well as being laugh-out-loud hilarious. If you haven't discovered it yet, run don't walk to your nearest bookshop.
Customer (holding up a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses): Why is this book so long? Isn't it supposed to be set in one day only? How can this many pages of things happen to one person in one day? I mean, I get up, have breakfast, go to work, come home...sometimes I might go out for a drink, and that's it! And, I mean, that doesn't fill a book, does it?
Customer (having read the blurb to Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief aloud to his son): Excuse me, is this book based on a true story?
Bookseller: It's about an American teenager discovering he's the son of Poseidon by accidentally vaporising his maths teacher.
Bookseller: So, no.
Dead-pan responses from the booksellers are particularly well done, especially when books are not the main concern of a surprising number of people who pitch up in bookshops.
Customer: The things on the walls...
Customer: Do people still have them in their homes?
Bookseller: Yes, I think so.
Customer: My friend's just made some - would you be able to sell them for him?
Customer: I've got an aubergine and I don't know what to do with it.
Bookseller: Oh, well, what did you buy it for?
Customer: I didn't - someone gave it to me and I just saw you've got cups and saucers in the window - do you know about cooking?
Bookseller: ...Our window display is the Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice in Wonderland.
I've been chortling ever since I picked up this book - it would make a brilliant gift - and I can't recommend it highly enough for booklovers and those of us who really appreciate all that the booksellers of the world do. The good news is that there's a second volume, and (I've just discovered as I went over to Jen Campbell's blog) she's announced today that she has a new book in the pipeline, The Bookshop Book. Hurray!