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The ability to “read” customers is a pleasant attribute in a neighborhood bookstore. A gentleman, whose name we did not catch, at Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont Boulevard helped us select a birthday present for a friend. Armed with basic information — likes nonfiction, considering a career move to teaching or counseling — he made entirely appropriate suggestions. The first, Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag, would have been relevant given our friend’s interest in documentary film (of which we had not told him), but a bit grim for a gift. The next suggestion, The Best American Non-Required Reading 2004, seemed a good fit, and, as it turned out, she had a previous compilation from the series and was happy to have the latest one. We have experienced good customer service before in other local bookstores and even local branches of chain stores, but this exchange simply reminded us how nice it is, in such a big city, to encounter someone who listens closely, makes associations among ideas, and helps one appreciate a small neighborhood business.