A WRY AND HILARIOUS ACCOUNT OF LIFE AT A BOOKSHOP IN A REMOTE SCOTTISH VILLAGE
"Among the most irascible and amusing bookseller memoirs I've read." --Dwight Garner, New York Times
"Warm, witty and laugh-out-loud funny..."—Daily Mail
The Diary of a Bookseller is Shaun Bythell's funny and fascinating memoir of a year in the life at the helm of The Bookshop, in the small village of Wigtown, Scotland—and of the delightfully odd locals, unusual staff, eccentric customers, and surreal buying trips that make up his life there as he struggles to build his business . . . and be polite . . .
When Bythell first thought of taking over the store, it seemed like a great idea: The Bookshop is Scotland's largest second-hand store, with over one hundred thousand books in a glorious old house with twisting corridors and roaring fireplaces, set in a tiny, beautiful town by the sea. It seemed like a book-lover's paradise . . .
Until Bythell did indeed buy the store.
In this wry and hilarious diary, he tells us what happened next—the trials and tribulations of being a small businessman; of learning that customers can be, um, eccentric; and of wrangling with his own staff of oddballs (such as ski-suit-wearing, dumpster-diving Nicky). And perhaps none are quirkier than the charmingly cantankerous bookseller Bythell himself turns out to be.
But then too there are the buying trips to old estates and auctions, with the thrill of discovery, as well as the satisfaction of pressing upon people the books that you love . . .
Slowly, with a mordant wit and keen eye, Bythell is seduced by the growing charm of small-town life, despite —or maybe because of—all the peculiar characters there.
With wit and humility, Bythell, owner of a used bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, chronicles a year 2014, specifically in the life of a bookseller. In addition to describing the routine of managing his books-and-mortar store, he examines the plusses of virtual selling through Amazon (a much wider audience) as well as the minuses (negative reviews from customers with unrealistic expectations). A typical entry annotating his days might read: "Online orders: 6... Books found: 5... Till total: 95.50... 6 customers." He shares amusing stories, such as how his staff creatively categorize books (such as placing a book called Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema in the shop's theology section), as well as bookstore lore (George Orwell once worked in a bookshop, and immediately knew he didn't want to be a bookseller). Tales of cheap customers abound, such as a couple in their 60s wearing "Lycra cycling gear" who walked out and "left a trail of resentment in their wake" when he wouldn't give them a 25% discount. But there are also anecdotes of the quirky folk who adore books, such as a roving band of musicians who perform in bookstores, singing about books they've read. Bythell's narrative is lively and intelligent, but readers may be disappointed that his book dispells any notions about the romance of owning a bookstore.