Book Review: Diary Of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

About the Book

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. 

My Thoughts

I found DIARY OF A BOOKSELLER to be an entertaining read. Written in diary form, makes it easy to pick up and read a few entries when time permits without losing track of a plot or the “characters”.

I found the writing style easy to read and there were many moments of humour peppered throughout. Even taking into consideration the number and range of issues associated in owning a second hand bookshop, I feel a touch of the romantic in the portrayal of owning a bookshop remains.

There is a repetitiveness to some of the entries, but that’s understandable given the setting. As an observer of the seasons, the town and the people, this book shows how very different personalities cross the path of one man in one particular shop. Relationships and acquaintances are formed as well as wishing to never again set eyes on some of the people that visit the store.

I did find the author’s final notes somewhat melancholy. Since writing the diary, it seems everyone bar his cat has moved on; only the bookseller remains, or has he been left behind?

In addition to cementing my view that I never want to own a bookshop, I’ve also finished with a nice list of books to add to the reading pile as well as some potential future travel adventures. 

About the Author

Shaun Bythell is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town, and also one of the organisers of the Wigtown Festival.