New York City Bookstore Tests Employee Literature Knowledge

New York City Bookstore Tests Employee Literature Knowledge

By: Daniel Steingold | July 15, 2016

An independent New York City bookstore recently had a New York Times profile written on it, which in large part detailed its book knowledge quiz.

Greenwich Village’s Strand Bookstore, opened in 1927 by Benjamin Bass, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, currently sells 2.5 million books a year.

The bookstore also has around 200 employees, each of whom is paid at least $10.50 an hour, not including perks such as health benefits, union representation, and employee discounts.

Strand, however, is probably most well-known for its quiz it gives job applicants, intended to weed out knowledgeable readers from those who are just looking for any job.

The quiz, which expects applicants to be able to match books and authors, asks about classic writers and texts that aren’t always common knowledge, such as Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex.”

Although the quiz is short— it only takes about 90 seconds— it still is agonizing for many; only about two of the 60 people who apply to Strand on an average week, get hired.

The quiz was added in the 1970s, shortly after Strand moved to its current location. Although the retailer has changed in many regards in the past decades, the quiz remains a constant.

Strand touts themselves as having “18 miles of books,” in addition to plenty of other merchandise, including branded items, snacks, and Moleskine notebooks.

While some struggle with the test, others find it easy. Not all books tested are obscure; “Moby-Dick” and “The Tipping Point” are frequently asked.

Regardless of the difficulty of the test, it is clear that it is unique in the industry. When a nearby Barnes & Noble employee was asked if her location did a similar assessment, she simply said, “No, there’s no test.”

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