Robert Gray, the bookseller who writes one of the most astute and engaging blogs in the book trade, has a wonderful post this week at Shelf Awareness on "The Shame List." The Shame List includes "those backlist books every bookstore would be 'embarrassed' and even 'mortified' not to have in stock when a customer asks for them." He lists a few titles--some you might not expect--that are on his personal shortlist of books he'd hand-sell without even looking at the shelf. And he asks readers what titles are on their own Shame Lists.
I can’t remember where I saw this, but I once read a piece by an author about her “Middlemarch test.” If she went into a bookstore and it didn’t have Middlemarch, she knew the place was not up to scratch. Maybe that’s setting the bar too low, but I would certainly agree that if there’s no Middlemarch the backlist pickings are going to be slim.