Book Review: “The Diary of a Bookseller” by Shaun Bythell

Rating: 5/5

This is one of those books-about-books books that I’m a sucker for. Honestly, I think it should be its own genre because I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who loves to read about reading.

I found this book on my last trip to the library when I almost walked out with nothing, which is rare. I always like to check out the non-fiction section because you never know what you’ll find — like this book. Even though this book is actually classified as non-fiction, it reads like fiction and I think a lot of fiction readers would be interested in it.

I’ve always had this dream of owning a bookshop where my actual job would be to be surrounded by books full-time. This book kind of brought that dream to life for me. Shaun Bythell, the owner of The Bookshop, Wigtown which is the largest second-hand bookstore in Scotland decides one day to keep a diary of his everyday life as a bookseller. I loved how he included the amount of customers he had each day and how much they made for the day, it almost makes you feel like you’re getting the inside scoop.

There were several instances where I actually laughed out loud, to the point where my husband would look over at me questionably. Bythell expresses his dry sense of humor in a way that’s both insulting but true.

“It is a strange phenomenon that, when customers visit the shop for the first time, they tend to walk very slowly through it, as though they are expecting someone to tell them they have entered a forbidden zone, and when they decide to stop, it is invariably in a doorway. This, of course, is incredibly frustrating for anyone behind them, and since that person is usually me, I exist in a state of perpetual frustration. Anthropologists insist that it is an instinctive human response on entering a new space to stop and look around for potential danger, although quite what sort of danger might be lurking in a bookshop — other than a frustrated bookseller whose temper has been frayed to the point of violence by the fact that somebody is blocking the doorway — is a mystery.”

— Shaun Bythell

There were times, however, when his days were written in a very mundane way. But I think that it really kept the experience as a bookseller real. There won’t always be days where your customers are your form of entertainment or days where you get lots of sales or good finds. Sometimes running your own business can be uninspiring and just boring. It kept his diary real instead of forced.

You will fall in love with the characters and grow attached to them. I love how Bythell kept you close to his customers and employees to the point where you wonder how they’re doing right at this instant. 

“Nicky arrived at the shop dressed in her medieval tabard and a pair of trousers so yellow that they had the appearance of the yolk of an egg that has been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.”

— Shaun Bythell

This year-long diary makes you want to support bookshops even more and actually join Bythell in his quest to destroy every existing Kindle that’s out there. If I ever get to visit Scotland, I will definitely visit his shop. But for now, I will wait patiently for the release of his next book, “Confessions of a Bookseller,” which apparently is going t be made into a TV show.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Diary of a Bookseller” by Shaun Bythell

  1. This sounds right up my ally! I’m going to the library and see if I can check it out today since I will be traveling over the weekend and this will be a good leisure read. I read your other review and I saw the trailer for the movie they came out with. How sad that the world is filled with such things. 😦 But I look forward to reading this! Thanks for these posts, because I’m always looking for good recommendations. Hope you visit Scotland soon! Take care… ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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