Lesson for a Bookstore

Some years ago Oxford University Press released an edition of James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson with Boswell’s Tour of the Hebrides chronologically inserted. The Tour, published several years before The Life, is a journal of Johnson and Boswell’s travels in the Scottish islands. Since I had been reading and collecting books by and about both men for a long time, and since The Tour was not readily available, I ordered the Oxford edition from a local bookstore. Later, while paying for my copy, the store owner said to me, “Samuel Johnson… I bet you don’t know his cat’s name.” I paused, smiled, and answered, “Hodge. Dr. Johnson’s cat was named Hodge.”

The bookstore owner’s deflated pride has been a lesson I’ve not forgotten in the 25 years at Faulkner House: Don’t flaunt knowledge; share it. Customers, I always assume, know as much as I do, and if they are avid collectors, they likely know more. So I listen and learn.

More will come on Johnson and Boswell and other of my favorite writers, as well as some of my most memorable bookstore moments and encounters. Happy reading to you.

-Joe DeSalvo, owner, Faulkner House Books

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