Gerry Johnson, the new MD of Waterstone's, has sensibly pointed out that classifications still used in bookshops no longer match the titles on the shelves. So far he has suggested a few fresh categories - such as "globalisation" - rather than the brutally honest rethink buyers might prefer. The Christmas frenzy creates opportunities for fearlessly frank, WYSIWYG labelling in stores. So why don't retailers kick off the festive season with candid descriptions of the sub-genres now favoured in the trade, along with a hype-free sketch of typical authors? One can but dream...
Mid-Life Motormouths: He's plump, he's smug, he's bigoted, and he can knock off 300 pages of "politically incorrect" twaddle as fast as you can say "back-tax bill". A perfect gift for every dyspeptic has-been in 40-inch waistband jeans who confuses Rod Liddle with Evelyn Waugh.
Postgraduate Tarts: Her agent swears that "Poule de Luxe" really did get a First in Greats from Balliol before turning tricks with minor soap stars to fund her Harvard MBA - and, no, she's definitely not a middle-aged editor from East Sheen cackling into her Chablis as she takes in the eye-popping size of that cheque.
Counterfeit Chaps: He lives in Tooting and writes captions for a lads' mag. But under a hyphenated nom de plume this retro gent will lay down the law on how to wear a tux, mix a drink, tie a fly, button a fly and sweet-talk the fillies. He'd like to act the David Niven rather than the David Essex that he (and his reader) really is.
Neo-Victorian Oddballs: This rum cove in tweeds spent 20 years nosing around fake-Gothic churches; now he comes along with a 1,000-page pastiche chiller full of fogs and flagellations. A dead cert for book groups, said the agent; alas, they're chortling over Rupert Everett instead.
Ivy League Divas: No, we didn't understand her metaphysical road novel about Schopenhauer and surfing either. But she sports Marc Jacobs, hangs out in arty Brooklyn bars and is buddies with David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Safran Foer and other cult types with even longer names.
Clapped-out Comedians: From the Royal Variety Performance to daytime name-that-fruit quiz shows in 10 uneasy steps, via drink, divorce and red-top-friendly "moments of madness". No one gives a monkey's any more, but publishers are praying that someone will imagine that their nostalgic auntie might, after a snowball or three.
Teenage Vixen Superstars: The lips of Lana Turner, the dress sense of Lily Savage, the soul of Emperor Tiberius. This reality-show dominatrix has packed more into her 18 years than her agent has into 80, and has the boudoir diaries to prove it. Be very nice to her now, book people, so you you don't end up scrubbing her marble floors with a toothbrush 10 years down the line.
Borderline-Psychotic Chefs: In any other line of work we'd be talking Asbos and ABH, if not a 28-day Section. But this kitchen devil has a two-star gaff and snorting buddies who run indie TV firms. So the glossy tie-in tome prints his angelic primary-school pics and scrumptious recipes for plum duff, ginger beer and cheese on toast.
Control-Freak Pedants: After 20 years fuming quietly on the subs desk, she struck gold with a stocking-filler hit. Now it's our turn to suffer: we will buy and obey her rulebook on god-daughters' thank-you letters, silver service, overnight stays by long-standing gay couples, and the diplomatic history of the Schleswig-Holstein question.
World Cup Walkovers: This burnt-out soccer wunderkind bombed in Germany, hasn't scored in months and leaves his sports-hack ghostwriter whimpering in despair. But another couple of volumes into his megabucks, multi-memoir deal and he'll come good with the old "I-went-to- 'substance'-hell-and-back" routine. Honest...Reuse content