When I first became unemployed my initial thought was that I would probably never work again. PhDs are notoriously cumbersome items to have on a CV, add a history of chronic fatigue and you’ve got potential employers running away screaming. Plus all those conventional book-based options, like book reviewer or writer are so incredibly hard to get into nowadays, it seems barely worth trying. But in the spirit of never say die, I thought that the way to get employed in this brave new world is to offer people services they didn’t even know they wanted! Bearing that in mind, here is a list of jobs for which I would be eminently qualified….
1. There was an article online that I noticed a few months back about a London-based service that advised people what to read next. I kid you not! Clients proffered a list of books they’d read and enjoyed and the ‘experts’ suggested ways they could expand and develop their reading. I thought: I could do that. What a cushy way to earn a living! I’d throw in a tarot card reading and some vitamin advice for free, too.
2. Mister Litlove’s instant suggestion was that I run a pre-dinner party briefing service. Invited to a culturally taxing dinner party, and expected to have opinions on the ‘in’ books of the moment? I could advise anxious guests on what to say.
3. Book therapy. This has worked so well for me these past few weeks, I would happily share my knowledge with other suffering souls. There are fine distinctions to be made, after all, between the kind of reading that soothes a cold and the kind that can be borne with the ‘flu. And you’d need different books to read if you were divorcing than if you were moving house, or having your in-laws to stay, etc.
4. Buying entire libraries for millionaires. I’ve heard of this happening! Super rich people buy huge houses and have nothing to put in a library and no time to undertake the vast amounts of shopping required. Oh you could leave it all to me and I would be delighted to fill the acreage of shelves. I’d even read the books that need to have their pages cut so it appears their owners have read them.
5. I take a particular delight in reviewing books for authors I know, as it’s a speciality of mine to put my finger on what it is they are really trying to do or say. So I would happily work with authors in the broader category of a thematic editor, helping them to see what their real issues and preoccupations are. No more need for unconscious genius!
6. There have been so many scandals in the papers lately about authors writing their own reviews on amazon and dissing books by others. For a small consideration I would be very happy to write meaningful reviews for authors, only I would have to actually like the book and I’m not about to write bad reviews for competitors, either. But still. I’d write them for publishers’ sites, too, for all those poor, lonely midlist novels that never get much publicity or attention.
7. Don’t have time to read bedtime stories to your children? Oh how I loved doing that! Given I read Harry Potter 1-5 over the course of one summer to my son, I have tremendous stamina for this sort of work.
8. Personal shopper in a bookstore. Why don’t these exist already? Particularly at Christmas and in the run-up to the summer holidays. No matter how awkward or curmudgeonly the relative, I’m sure I could find suitable reading matter. And I could tailor holiday reading to fit the chosen location.
9. Literary terrorist. This is an offshoot of the personal shopper, only in vigilante mode. The idea would be to patrol the bookstore, taking out of the hands of naïve shoppers books like the ghastly Fifty Shades, or Wayne Rooney’s autobiography and suggesting far more satisfying purchases instead. I could also rearrange piles on tables and shuffle the book bins, so that offensive items like Tony Blair’s memoir or the latest ‘novel’ by Jordan no longer see the light of day.
10. TBR counsellor. This is a special online service I could offer to book bloggers. I’ve noticed how much anguish there is regarding the size, scale and height of the average TBR, which often leads bloggers to despair and embark on desperate culls. As Freud himself might have said, I can’t prevent anyone from being a book hoarder, but I could certainly help others to live happily with the trait. Feel you’ve bought too many books? Ashamed of the number of trips you make to the library to return unread novels? These and many other bookish problems I am sure I could resolve.