I was kindly sent an advanced copy of The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell recently by Profile Books, and was very eager to get stuck in straight away.
As an ex-bookseller and current small business owner I identified with so many things in this book.
“At 5 p.m a woman asked if her husband had left, so I told her that I had no idea who her husband was or what he looked like. She scowled and left”
The book takes us through a whole year in the life of The Bookshop, Wigtown, Scotland and is full of anecdotes about staff and customers, alongside insights into the day to day running of the shop. It even includes how many customers came in each day, the till totals and number of orders fulfilled, which was very interesting to me as I make the same notes in the gallery too.
“A customer came to the counter and said, ‘I’ve looked under the W section of the fiction and I can’t find anything by Rider Haggard.’ I suggested that he had a look under the H section.”
It’s laugh out loud on minute and a poignant look at the book industry the next, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.
“An old man with a walking stick accosted Nicky as she was riling through a box of books that was destined for Cash for Clothes – ‘I’m looking for a book, but I don’t know what it’s called. I know what it looks like, though. It’s a very old book.'”
How brilliant ( and frustrating) to be in a business that goes from one extreme (above), to the other;
“In the afternoon a customer asked where we keep the ‘illustrated poetry books’. I explained that we don’t have a specific section and that he would have to trawl through the whole poetry section. He emerged two hours later, looking delighted with a pile of £200 worth of books, explaining that he had just taken up book collecting and thought that illustrated poetry was an interesting subject on which to build up a collection. I genuinely thought that this type of person had ceased to exist. I could have hugged him.”
Just brilliant, I highly recommend to everyone – but a little bit more if you have some experience of the book industry, just so you can roll your eyes in full recognition of the cast of characters you come across in this book.