Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell {Goodreads}
Published by Profile Books in 2017
Hardback edition; 320 pages {BookDepository}

The Diary of a Bookseller came out last September and I just had to have a copy. And so I bought one. The title is pretty much self-explanatory: a diary written by Shaun Bythell, who owns The Bookshop - Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop; and who decided to narrate what it is like to work in his bookshop during a whole year. 

Spoiler alert: it isn't easy. From February to February we get to see how he acquires the titles in the bookshop, what kind of customers they have to put up with everyday and how the people who work in the bookshop are. It is also about what they have to do to survive in the Amazon-era among many other things. 

I was fascinated by all of it. It was great, and sad sometimes, to hear about Bythell's experiences in the book trade, his struggles, travels, personal relationships and everyday life in general. I laughed quite a lot with some of the interactions they have with customers and the constant banter between Nicky (who also works in the bookshop) and Shaun was also pretty hilarious - he tells her to do something, she will do as she pleases. At the same time it made me angry to discover how much damage Amazon does to the book industry, especially to second-hand bookshops. I was aware of some of it but not all and it made me feel bad because I use the platform to buy books. I wish I didn't have to though but I still haven't found a physical bookshop in Madrid that stocks all the titles I'm interested in.

The whole diary made me feel more appreciative of second-hand books which aren't something I tend to buy and they kinda have some sort of charm when you think about it. Where did the books in the shop came from? Who read them before you? What kind of reader was their previous owner? Are the books there because the owner passed away or because they didn't enjoy the books? And, more often that not, I found myself wondering: where would my books go when I'm gone? What kind of reader will take them home?

All in all, The Diary of a Bookseller is a very interesting, easy and funny read; and if you like books and/or are interested in the book trade, pick this up. You won't be disappointed. And you might find a few recommendations along the way. I visited Urueña, a book town in Spain, a few years ago and I wouldn't mind visiting Wigtown, where The Bookshop is, in the future.

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