Originally published: 2017 (This edition 2018)
Author: Shaun Bythell
Published by: Profile Books
Length: 320 pages
Reading dates: 25-28 September 2022
The Shoreham by Sea book club are following the Chichester Libraries Reading Challenge this year and the choice for September was a book about books, reading or libraries. We always make suggestions and then vote and The Diary of a Bookseller was chosen (which was great as it was on my TBR).
Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost …
In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.
The Diary of a Bookseller an eye-opening look at what it is like to own and run a second hand bookshop. Shaun Bythell bought The Book Shop in Wigtown, Scotland back in 2001 when he was 31. Wigtown is officially designated as Scotland’s National Book Town and there are around 20 book related businesses as well as an annual book festival. Shaun’s shop is the largest 2nd hand book shop in Scotland with roughly 100,000 books, many of them specialist and collectable.
The diary is a year of Shaun’s life and details the day to day life of a bookseller including the funny things customers say and do, the members of staff who have very little respect for him and the ongoing struggles with Amazon and Abe Books whom they sell books through. He is often offered collections of books, mostly from people who have died and visits all sorts of people to take a look, occasionally finding some real gems.
Part of his business revolves around fulfilling Amazon orders and he details at the beginning of each day how many online orders they have and how many they are able to fulfil (sometimes they can’t find the book in the shop!)
I enjoyed The Diary of a Bookseller but at times it was a little repetitive and not much happened. I appreciate that was because it is based on his true life experience so not every day is going to be exciting but I wonder if he should maybe not of documented every single day. I also think I would have enjoyed it more if the blurb didn’t describe it as hilarious, because I felt a little let down. I found it humorous but not hilarious.
I liked the descriptions of his staff and the wider community including the grumpy postman and his disobedient staff and the descriptions of the book festival made me want to visit. I enjoyed the daily stats which included online orders, how many customers visited and the till total at the end of each day.
I think for me (and most of the book group) this was a 3/5 book. I enjoyed it in parts but for me it didn’t live up to my expectations.
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.
It sounds as if the edited highlights might have been a better idea from a reader’s perspective, although then you would have missed out on seeing the variance in daily stats. But I can see how it would get repetitive and why you rated it lower than you’d hoped. Thanks, Clair. Helpful review.
[…] The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell […]