Diary Of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

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Published by Profile Books [Publication date 28.09.17]

First off, I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback. In fact I found this wonderful site Netgalley where you can review books that are just out or due to be published in the coming months. A real find for a book lover like me! Anyway, onto the review…

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving. This is his diary of a year running his bookshop, ably assisted by a series of characters, both staff and customers. It is very funny and Shaun has a knack of penning descriptions of the customers who frequent his shop, form Mr Deacon who orders his books in person, rather than online through to the inane questions asked by customers who think they are funny, with such gems as ‘I can’t find anything to read in here’ and ‘It is cheaper online’.

You also get an insight into how hard it is to keep a second hand bookshop going with the mighty Amazon and eBooks/Kindle changing the book market place dramatically over the past few years. When he bought the bookshop in 2001 we had the Net Book Agreement (NBA) and chain retailers like Dillons, Ottakers and Borders, who have all gone now, plus eBooks were just starting to make an impact (there is a YouTube clip of him taking a shotgun to a Kindle and mounted in the shop – ironic for me as I read the book on my Kindle!).

He is ably assisted/hindered by his one full time member of staff Nicky, who leads a novel way of life that includes raiding the local Morrisons bins for ‘Foodie Friday’. You get an insight into the world of assessing and buying book collections, usually after the death of a family member and can read the passion he has when he discovers a rare book or one beautifully bound and/or illustrated. The bookshop itself is used for events, including an annual literary festival and even has a bed in it, which makes a change from the usual coffee outlet found in a chain bookshop.

Having worked in a bookshop (okay it was WHSmith’s but I was the Book Department Manager), I can relate to his perceived rudeness to some of his customers. As he says in the book he can get away with it as he owns the shop, sadly others in retail have to accept the insults and sarcastic comments some customers can send your way. He is never overly rude though, just to those that deserve it.

There is the Random Book Club, where each month you get a book chosen at random from the shop’s extensive stock. Great idea, like a Secret Santa but just every month and involving books.

Reading this book wants you a) to read many of the books he recommends and b) visit his bookshop, if only to meet some of the customers like Mr Deacon and the owner himself. If you have any interest at all in books, do read this as it will reinforce your love of books and bookshops.

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