Of course, just to make life easier for those who sort books, we at the Book Fair have four categories which can contain any or all of the other categories: novels, cookbooks, history, art, what-have-you. I remember in a previous blog asking you to guess which these were, but no one sent in any guesses. I suppose I shouldn’t have offered the book collection of this blog as a prize.
The first of these, as you probably guessed, is Foreign Language. There are just as many different books in other languages as there are in English. (Even some of my stuff has been translated into French, but the State Department has asked me to be quiet about this: something about holding offensive weapons in reserve.) We DO sometimes put art and photography books in art and photography even if they’re in Polish or French, but it depends on how many words are involved. If there are a hundred full-page illustrations and two pages of text in Swedish, the book will sell equally well as a similar book with only two pages in English. If you have a hundred illustrations but a sixty-page explanation of them in Hungarian, the book goes to Foreign Language.
The second is Children. It’s sometimes a toss-up—would a children’s cookbook sell better among the cookbooks or among children’s books?—but in general a book aimed at children should go among its fellows. (Unless it’s in Hebrew, Turkish, or Dutch—then it goes to Foreign Language.) For some reason, the other topic besides cookbooks which makes people inquire is Religion. Should these religious books for children go into Children or Religion? Besides the obvious rationale, that a book for children should go among children’s books, there is the point that, nicely though Religion sells, Children sells better. (Once again this year, the section almost sold out completely, barring two shelves of Middle School nonfiction from the sixties. We started with more, so even some of THAT sold.)
HOWEVER, there is a subject which trumps even Children and Foreign Language, and that is Chicago. Any book having to do with Chicago—even some novels—ought to have its chance. And just about anything can happen in Chicago. It isn’t ALL books from the Law and Crime category. There are books on art movements in Chicago, sports in Chicago, dance and music in Chicago. We get Chicago cookbooks, Chicago ABC books, and Chicago poetry (actually, we generally put Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems in poetry. It’s significant enough in the history of poetry that we just figure that’s where the customer will look. Besides, anything completely consistent is untrue to life.) Chicago reference books, Chicago architecture: Chicago tops just about any other topic.
EXCEPT Collectibles. Since the Chicago section sits right across from Collectibles, there’s always a question of where to put the high-priced Chicago books. In general, the two-digit prices go on THAT side of the aisle, and the three-digit prices come over to the Collectibles side. This is sometimes a source of confusion, and it gets worse when you get into collectible Cookbooks and collectible Art books, since Art and Cooking also sit in the same room. Customers can NOT recall from which side of the aisle they picked up that four hundred dollar Mexican cookbook. (It was the first Mexican cookbook published in English for serious home cooking.) But there are also collectible mysteries, collectible science fiction paperbacks, collectible books in foreign language, collectible books for children…like the other three categories, it can encompass everything covered by the rest of the Book Fair. It tops the other three, and nothing can top….
Unless it’s signed, I guess, and then it goes into Signed Collectibles, where you will sometimes even find autographed economics textbooks. Even our exceptions have exceptions.