The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Meet Shaun Bythell, bookshop owner, bibliophile, and misanthrope extraordinaire. He lives and works in The Bookshop, Wigtown, whose crooked shelves contain anything from a sixteenth-century Bible to a first-edition Agatha Christie. A booklover’s paradise? Well, almost…
In Shaun’s honest and wryly hilarious diaries, he reveals the highs and lows of life in the book trade, as he contends with eccentric customers, bin-foraging employees, and a perennially empty till. Along the way, he’ll take you on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommend lost classics – and introduce you to the thrill of the unexpected find.
I will be honest I have always rather fancied owning and running a bookshop, even though I know it would be hard work and I would probably be constantly worried about finances. However, I would be very happy to be surrounded by books all day.
I must admit I was rather surprised by this book. I picked it up at my church which has many second hand books for sale and thought it looked good fun. What I wasn’t expecting was the wit, humour and sometimes sadness within this book.
Bythell’s diary of his book shop adventures for one year was a real eye opener and very funny. Bythell’s shop seems to attract some very weird employees with the most eccentric being Nicky. I’m not entirely sure why Bythell put up with Nicky as she seemed more of hindrance to business rather than a help. I would not have had the patience Bythell has with Nicky or in fact half of his staff. Bythell at times seems to be the only sane one at the shop and that is saying something.
One of the things I really liked with the diary entries was the daily updates of takings and customers. It was really interesting to see how the time of year affected the amount of customers and takings. I also really enjoyed seeing how there are certain returning customers who are clearly returning regularly and ordering random books because they are loyal to the shop and don’t want to see it go under.
As the diary entries go on we see what a witty and humorous character Bythell is and how he clearly uses humour as his coping mechanism because without it he would clearly either cry or completely lose it with certain members of public. The element I found sad was seeing how the book trade had changed so much over the years and the damage Amazon was having on the second hand book shops. It was sad to see how the life of the second hand book shop was having to adapt to survive and even that adapting might not save it.
Wigtown has been on my list of places to go since I was a teenager and I very nearly went with my parents but ill health had to shorten our trip sadly so Wigtown was saved for another day. After reading this book I want to go even more and will be pestering my husband for a holiday there very soon. I will definitely be reading more of Bythell’s book and I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.
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About the author
Shaun Bythell is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town, and also one of the organisers of the Wigtown Festival.
When not working amongst The Bookshop’s mile of shelving, Shaun’s hobbies include eavesdropping on customers, uploading book-themed re-workings of Sugarhill Gang songs to YouTube and shooting Amazon Kindles in the wild.