Adventures with Hereward Corbett of the Yellow-Lighted Bookshops

I recently found a small notebook that I kept with me while working in the shop a couple of years ago.

In it was a list, gathered together over a period of a couple of months, of some of the more curious titles and authors that we were asked for – the simple mistakes, asked for with a straight face and in all innocence. Some are spelling mistakes, some misheard, some mis-said, and some from the place where the memory just plays tricks…

These are my favourite dozen:

Useless. Homer’s classic poem, from a note on a piece of scrap paper.

Handmaid’s Tail (from an email).

Three Men and a Goat. Jerome K Jerome’s masterpiece of Victorian humour.

Did we have any books by GWR Token? Again, from an email. Author of the Hobbit, etc.

The Girl on the Bus. This took a while to work out as it sounded like something Larkin might have written, but the customer was insistent it was a modern thriller. It turned out to be The Girl on the Train.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Norman? The autobiography Jeanette Winterson should have written.

Rip Roaring. A children’s author who wrote about a boy who was a Greek god (Rick Riordan).

Donkey Oaty. This from a younger member of staff, Cervantes’ masterpiece.

Virginia Woof, a straightforward typo from an English student’s reading list that amused me a lot.

Rick Stein’s horror books for children? RL Stine, author of the Goosebumps series.

And finally, possibly my two favourites.

Where the Grandmas Sing. Better them than the Crawdads.

And those books that everyone is talking about, who’s the author? Normal People and Beautiful World Where Are You? It is, of course, Sally Rooney, and sadly not Mickey Rooney, as the customer thought.

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