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.
This book has been recommended to me more than once by friends, because I’m a bookseller myself at a large UK based chain of bookshops, Waterstones. I decided to finally pick this one up on audio and I’m really glad I did – I’m not a big lover or reader of non-fiction so reading this memoir as an audiobook definitely helped it become more accessible for me. Even though Bythell doesn’t read this himself, the narrator suits the book really well in my opinion.
Shaun writes this in a day-to-day diary with some really insightful information about the online orders the shop sends out per day and the daily takings, which I found super fascinating as somebody who not only works for a chain but would love to own my own bookshop one day!
I am putting a mental jigsaw together of what a hobbit looks like,
Any booksellers out there will find this relatable, I can almost guarantee. Although some of the customers and situations Shaun finds himself in might seem funny or even far fetched to some, once you’ve worked in a bookshop for a while you quickly find yourself having these conversations. I honestly want to thrust this at people around me and say ‘this! This is what my job is like! This is what happens in a bookshop!’.
My only slight complaint is that this book can be a little repetitive, but it is the nature of the book and the way it’s been written as a day-to-day diary. The discussions about Amazon, online bookselling and chain bookshops such as the one I work for were all super interesting. There’s even a bit of history and reflection on the industry as at the point of Bythell writing this book, he has owned The Bookshop for around 15 years.
based on a composite of every customer I have ever sold a copy to.
Honestly, if you’re a bookseller this is a must read, and if you know someone who works in a bookshop or are a general book buyer yourself, I’d highly recommend it!
4.5 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽