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October 21, 2005

My Role as a Book Concierge to My Friends

Posted by admin

You would think after recommending books to the 1.1 million readers in our Network each month I would find suggesting books to friends to be a snap. But, oh no, this is pressure. In the past months I have found myself sweating my role of what I call, "Book Concierge."

As you can imagine, our house has quite a library in it. There are sets of bookshelves all around the house. I try to keep them categorized, but I confess I could use a few rainy weekends to get my system back under control. My sons want me to get book cataloguing software, which would be a great idea, but would kill the charm of wondering where a book is like an absent-minded librarian. I usually have a pretty good memory about how I sort the shelves, but there are moments when I can work myself into a frenzy when I KNOW we have a book and I cannot find it. As an example, I even have a four-high double deep stacked shelves of advance reading copies in one of the upstairs hallways. The other day I KNEW I had a copy of THE HISTORIAN there and sure it was...on the last shelf I looked at!

For me, the shelves at the house look like the shelves at the office --- jam packed with books. Thus when friends are heading off on trips, they stop by to visit and to meet with the "Book Concierge." While picking is pressure, hearing the feedback when you pick the right book is fun. Glenn, who is the father of one of my little one's best friends stopped by last week and told me how much he loved SHADOW DIVERS that I had given him for his trip to Greece. That sent me to the shelves looking for THE LAST DIVE since I thought he would enjoy that as a followup. On this same Greek trip Glenn's wife, Alita, wanted light beach reading. I cannot remember the six books I gave her, but she said she loved them all.

My friend Dez came by a few weeks ago before she took a trip to Bali with her significant other. She wanted just TWO books. Imagine THAT pressure. I could not just do two. She left with NIGHT FALL, THE KITE RUNNER, SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN and another book I cannot remember. She wrote a postcard from Bali and said --- "Leo loved THE KITE RUNNER." Now I KNOW this is a great book, but making sure that it was a book that Leo would enjoy was the challenge.

Yesterday I brought a copy of SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN to the nurse at my doctor's office. She had finished reading THE KITE RUNNER with her book club and was looking for something that was a story of friendship in an exotic location. And yes, for those of you noting that I mentioned this book twice, I DO like SNOWFLOWER. (And yes, that's three times.)

At the Y where I swim I have talked books in the locker room over the noise of the water in the showers. I have left lists of book ideas at the Y front desk for people I have met there. I have listened to people tell me about their personal book reading habits. One morning I watched another swimmer sit in the parking lot for a while after she stopped her car. When she entered the locker room I asked, "What were you listening to?" She laughed because I was right. She was hooked on an audiobook.

I learn a lot about people by what they tell me they are reading.

I have written lists of book recommendations for the moms of the boys on my son's baseball team. In between watching the action, I try to get a handle on what their sons like and from there make lists.

My friend, Jimmy, who lives in North Carolina has gotten so many of my favorite books from me over the years that if I saw his bookshelves, I might see a synopsis of my last eight years of reading. I remember last year his son was watching LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL at school and he remembered I had sent him the screenplay. He was trying to find it. I said, I think I sent it when you lived in Texas, so maybe it never got unpacked!

With friends and family borrowing books I have but one rule. They must return! I am not as anal as I was as a child where I had a stamp system like at the library. Instead now, I remember. When I looked for SHADOW DIVERS for Leo, I remembered Glenn had it!

I am sure that many of you play this same role with your friends. Have a story to share about you as Book Concierge? Then drop me a note at