Book review of “The Diary of a Bookseller” by Shaun Bythell
Shaun Bythell gives firsthand accounts of interactions between in-person and online customers that vacate his Wigtown, Scotland bookshop. After having entered the book business by purchasing the store from an old, retiring local, Bythell shares the dynamic, odd and unusual requests of customers and tales of the eccentric staff through this sarcastically humorous and loving memoir.
Reading the inner workings of running a bookshop in a Scotland town – which is known for book festivals – Bythell shares the profits and losses of being a business owner in an age where technology and companies like Amazon are giving mom-and-pop shops a run for their money. Traveling all over Scotland to inquire on the personal collections people hope to sell and rid themselves of, Bythell is fascinated by the mysterious and delightfully vintage books that come his way.
After years of bidding and buying, Bythell has a relatively keen interest in older books, particularly first editions. Commenting on the quirky acts of his tuxedo cat, Captain, Bythell notes the relationship between his customers and beloved coworker Nicky whose thick Scottish accent and sense of fashion often keeps Bythell on his toes.
The experiences of the business and town Bythell encounters make this book charming and sweet while showing the devastation of big corporations on indie owners. His reflections are amusing with a biting sense of waggishness. Invoking vivid imagery of Bythell’s daily routine, the struggles of being polite and making a dollar, Bythell leaves those dreaming of the industry. Overall, this is a playful read that builds a smile on the reader’s face and highlights a memorable mission worthy of taking on.