Book review: The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
The Bookseller`s Tale
Shaun Bythell, a Scotsman of slightly curmudgeonly nature and a deep and abiding love of books, buys a bookstore in Wigtown and sets about making it arguably the most popular bookshop on the Scottish isle. In between trips hither and thither to look at book collections and buy as he sees fit, he keeps a diary, and at the end of a year, transforms his frequently trenchant observations into a book The Diary of a Bookseller, Profile Books, 2017.
The book is an entertaining read even as it imparts nuggets of information on the slog involved in running a bookstore and making money out of it, too. We learn how books on railways are an irresistible lure for most male readers; that book auctions can yield absolute treasure troves while book collections being sold often contain more duds than gems; that Terry Pratchett and PG Wodehouse are all-season bestsellers; that fresh stock always moves the fastest; and this the loveliest: that when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.
The funniest shtick of the book, though, is the series of questions the bookshop owner/author is met with, on a daily basis. Sample some…
Customer 1: My book club`s choice is Dracula. But I don’t know what he has written.
Customer 2: You don’t sell books, do you? (Then laughs uproariously).
Customer 3 and 4: So they don’t have the book you are looking for? Aye, they do but just the one copy.
Customer 5: I`ve looked under the W section of fiction but I can`t find anything by Rider Haggard.
Customer 6: So what is The Book Shop? Do you sell books or what? Do people just come in and take them? Is that what happens in here?
Customer 7: Confuses EL James with MR James and buys Fifty Shades of Grey thinking it is horror fiction.
Customer 8 ( (the rudest): Are you having a bonfire? For your books? I`ve never seen such rubbish, all they are good for is a bonfire.