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The Diary of a Bookseller #1

The Diary of a Bookseller

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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.

310 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2017

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About the author

Shaun Bythell

6 books1,085 followers
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.

When not working amongst The Bookshop’s mile of shelving, Shaun’s hobbies include eavesdropping on customers, uploading book-themed re-workings of Sugarhill Gang songs to YouTube and shooting Amazon Kindles in the wild.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,142 reviews
Profile Image for Vanessa.
462 reviews289 followers
August 16, 2017
Call me crazy but I've always wondered when I die what will happen to all my books. My house is overflowing with them. Nobody else reads them but me. The Diary of a bookseller made me think I'm not so crazy after all. It appears there are way more crazier people in the world. It also appears most of them frequent this book shop.

The funny stories abound with a daily summary of a day in the life of a bookseller in Scotland's largest 2nd hand book shop in the charming little village of Wigtown where not much else happens there except it's like a little Mecca for book lovers, a place where all manner of people come and go. Some buyers but mostly browsers which irritates Shaun the owner of the book shop to no end. He doesn't hold back on the snide commentary which makes for a lot of laughs! The customers are an odd assortment of characters, most are misers or non buyers, a few regulars and a smattering of real serious book buyers and collectors. Also some of the interactions with his regular staff are hilarious, some are clearly purposely intentionally incompetent much to Shaun's bemusement, he's a very tolerant man but secretly I think he enjoys every bit of their open contempt. I loved the outings where he goes to source books, most coming from deceased estates never knowing what kind of treasure or in most cases useless rubbish he will find. I found this book such a gem. My dream has always been to work in a bookshop and although my views are slightly tainted with the realities depicted here I am still utterly envious of the part time staffers that get to have the best job in the world in my opinion.

Too bad the book industry is a dying commodity. I feel bad as I'm one of those people who do buy online (reading this from my kindle I'm sensing the irony) but I also regularly buy 2nd hand books whenever possible and it always gives me an absolute thrill surrounding myself in a world of books and I for one cannot leave without buying a book! I perish the thought of walking out without at least an armful of books. I think that makes me a true bookish person unlike those book poser imposters! *shudders*

This book won't please everyone it could prove tedious for some but for me I sure am going to be sad to leave this book, the people, the town and this bookshop. I've never wanted to visit Scotland before but now I feel almost compelled to, I feel such an affinity for this book loving town and I'm so glad places like this still exist!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for my early review copy!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
January 1, 2022
I am always a sucker for books about books so I knew I had to read this as soon as I saw the title and the cover. So glad I did!

The bookseller of the title is the author himself, Shaun Bythell. He lives in Wigtown, Scotland where this beautiful bookshop actually exists. How I would love to go and see it! Shaun has a rather snarky sense of humour which had me laughing out loud. I also found myself doing that totally annoying thing of reading bits out loud to anyone who happened to be nearby at the time. They usually laughed too so I think we can accept it is a funny book.

I enjoyed the diary format with sometimes less than half a page for a day. It made it very hard to stop at any point with a constant mental urge to read "just one more." Of course, being set in a village in Scotland, there had to be quirky characters and there are indeed plenty. Nicky was particularly entertaining although probably more so on paper than if you had to actually live with her.

Oh and there is a cat too. All good bookshops should have a resident cat. And comfy armchairs in front of a roaring log fire. Bliss.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,641 followers
August 25, 2022
One of the best books I’ve read so far this year! This is a book for all book lovers or people who secretly wish to work in a bookstore.
Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, and with this book he shares his diary from 2014 in which he writes about everything going on in the store as well as in Wigtown. I had to get used to his tone of voice which is very pessimistic and abrupt - but in a funny way I grew to find this tone of voice hilarious and endearing, and after all, Shaun Bythell is not wrong in a lot of the things he says.
I loved this book! It’s as simple as that. It made me feel cozy, it enlightened me on the hardships of owning a bookstore, and it desperately made me want to go to Wigtown and visit The Bookshop.
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,719 followers
March 1, 2022
There are a few professions that you know going in are never going to lead to you having eff you money. Teacher, public defender, librarian, fashion designer for one-legged armadillos…all of these are things you have to absolutely love if you’re going to make them your life’s work. You can add secondhand bookseller to that list.

Enter Shaun Bythell, owner and proprietor of The Bookshop in Wigtown (Scotland’s largest secondhand bookstore), who willingly accepts the economic challenges of owning a used bookshop, a challenge exacerbated by the shop’s location in a relatively unknown region of Scotland, in exchange for the freedom to be his own boss and respond to the occasionally stupid customer with just the right level of subtle snark.

Presented in the form of daily entries over the course of a year, Bythell’s diary details the humdrum minutiae of life in his shop (which doubles as his home)—the challenge of finding and fulfilling online orders in a store that features more than 100,000 books, some of which are categorized using no logic whatsoever by one of the shop assistants; the daily flow of sales and foot traffic, which can sometimes be depressingly small; the year-round activities of the sleepy town of Wigtown, which rouses itself mightily for an annual book festival; social media efforts to promote the store, including some fairly comical video endeavors; the thrill—and frequent disappointment—of acquiring books; passing details of Bythell’s romantic relationship with a writer; and a breakdown of the quirky characters, both shop helpers and regular clients and friends, who populate Bythell’s life. At the beginning of each month, he makes some broader observations about the business, literature, and life in general.

The entries can become repetitive, but book lovers will eat it up, and the shop’s eccentric (and sometimes epically stupid) customers, in combination with Bythell’s drier-than-wine-squeezed-from-the-President’s-grapes* sense of humor, give it a broader appeal.

As a former register jockey in an (long since closed) independent bookstore, I’ve had a tiny taste of the very weird fruits of Bythell’s world, and it was both comforting and depressing to spend a year looking over his shoulder. Comforting to know that somewhere out there, someone is still fighting the good fight to make beautiful physical books available (even going so far as to literally shoot and mount Kindles in his store as a warning to would-be partakers** of digital literature), and doing it with a sense of humor; depressing to contemplate, as Bythell himself does, that he’s a member of a dying breed, and that it’s not unlikely that there will eventually come a day when a place like the Bookshop simply ceases to exist.

If I can get annoyingly contemplative for a moment, it is, on the whole, probably a good thing that, at some point (albeit a more distant point in the future than we all originally thought), physical books will be relics of the past—why destroy trees and create more and more environmental pollutants to create and ship books around the world when the same content can be delivered to you instantly on a slick device that enables you to read one-handed in the dark (such as, for example, when you’re soothing colicky infants, and you’re able to increase your reading threefold as a result because THEY NEVER EVER SLEEP (though I’m over that, I promise))? Still, like all of you other bibliophiles, I love the feel of a book in my hand, and the wonder and magic of walking into a bookstore—a place filled with seemingly infinite information and adventures—has never diminished.

Then again, I get nostalgic for Meat Loaf albums, Saved by the Bell, and Trapper Keepers, so what do I know?

*I’m sorry; that’s not an image that should live in anyone’s head. But, it’s living in mine, so you WILL SHARE MY MISERY AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!

**Shame-faced confession: I read this on a Kindle. Because I often read it at night while putting kids to bed. But after I finished, I ordered a hard copy! And from The Bookshop, no less. And Bythell signed it, too. So suck on that.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,603 reviews2,575 followers
September 17, 2018
A reread. In April I finally made it to Wigtown, the Book Town of Scotland, and The Bookshop [for the life of me I cannot determine whether it should be The Bookshop or The Book Shop; the name on the website/Facebook page is different from the storefront!], a wonderfully rambling place with lots of nooks and crannies housing all sorts of categories. (Look out for the shot and mounted Kindle, the Festival bed, the stuffed badger, and the scroll of bookseller’s rules.) Luckily, on our visit we found £35 worth of books we wanted to buy, and had a nice chat with Bythell himself at the till. He signed my book, commiserated with us about the rainy weather and our flat tire, and gave us tips for what to see locally. You’d hardly believe that he’s the same curmudgeon who wrote the book – which makes one wonder to what extent the narrative voice is a put-on persona. I can believe that Bythell gets irate and sarcastic about bad customer behavior, but in person he struck me as easygoing and happy in his work.

I started rereading the book soon after we got back (you can read my full trip write-up on my blog), and kept it as a bedside tome for months, finally finishing it about a year after its initial release. It’s now out in the USA and Australia, too, and it’s been great to see it getting more widespread attention. Alas, on a second read the everyday life of the shop felt more tedious to me, and though I could now picture the locales and some of the people described (which is why I thought a reread would be rewarding), that somehow wasn’t enough to counteract the monotony. This time around it was a 3-star read, so it averages out to a 3.5-star book for me. I’d recommend that those picking this up for the first time keep it around as a bedside/coffee table book and only read an entry or two at a time, or skim it for entries that interest them.

Original review:

So you think you’d like to run a bookshop? Here’s a book to tempt and deter you in equal measure. In 2001 Shaun Bythell acquired The Bookshop, the flagship bookstore in Wigtown, the Book Town in Galloway in the southwest of Scotland. Here he gives a one-year snapshot of life at the shop, from February 2014 to February 2015. At the start you can feel the winter chill in the old granite building, and as months pass you sense mounting excitement at preparations for the annual Book Festival (going on now) and the Scottish referendum. It’s a pleasure to spend a vicarious year at the shop. This would make a great bedside book for a bookish type to parcel out 5–10 pages at a time (another Christmas gift idea?).

Bythell frequently ventures out to buy book collections in auctions and from estates, and occasionally goes fishing with his father or friends. But mostly we see what daily life is like for a bookshop owner. He can’t afford full-time staff, so gets sporadic help from university-age gals; his most “reliable” part-timer is Nicky, a ski suit-wearing, Dumpster-diving Jehovah’s Witness who blithely ignores much of what he asks her to do.

Every entry opens and closes with statistics on the day’s takings and online orders. Profits range from £5 to £500 a day, rising in the summer and peaking around £1200 during the festival. Also listed is the number of customers who make purchases, which represents only one-fifth of daily footfall. Nowadays most bookstores sell online too, and The Bookshop reluctantly partners with Amazon as a marketplace seller. There’s also ABE and eBay; as a last-ditch option, some outfits take books in bulk, even if just to recycle them. Alongside online sales, it’s essential for bookstores to have sidelines. Bythell does video production and sells furniture, antiques and walking sticks carved by “Sandy, the tattooed pagan.”

As with Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, I enjoyed the nitty-gritty details about acquiring and pricing books, especially the serendipitous moments of coming across real treasures, like a book signed by Sir Walter Scott and a 1679 edition of the Decameron with an interesting provenance. The book is also full of quirky customer behavior, the kind of stuff that fills The Bookshop’s Facebook feed. Bythell cultivates a curmudgeonly persona – he once shot a broken Kindle and mounted it on the bookshop wall – and maintains a tone that’s somewhere between George Orwell (excerpts from whose “Bookshop Memories” serve as monthly epigraphs) and Jen Campbell (Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops et al.). Here’s a few of the best encounters:
a whistling customer with a ponytail and what I can only assume was a hat he’d borrowed from a clown bought a copy of Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, I suspect deliberately to undermine my faith in humanity and dampen my spirits further.

A man smelling of TCP [antiseptic] was the only customer in the shop for the first hour of opening, during which time I attempted to put out fresh stock. He had an uncanny ability to be standing in front of every shelf to which I needed access, regardless of the subject or where in the shop the relevant shelves were.

While I was repairing a broken shelf in the crime section, I overheard an elderly customer confusing E. L. James and M. R. James while discussing horror fiction with her friend. She is either going to be pleasantly surprised or deeply shocked when she gets home with the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey she bought.

I’ve been to Hay-on-Wye six times now but haven’t made it to Wigtown yet. It’s high on my bookish wish list. I had two additional reasons for wanting to read this particular book: I’d read Three Things You Need to Know about Rockets, a memoir by Bythell’s former partner, the American Jessica Fox (here known as “Anna”; in her book he’s “Ewan”), about coming to Scotland on a whim and falling in love with a bookshop owner; and I’m awfully fond of The Bookshop Band, a folky husband–wife musical duo who this year relocated from Bath to Wigtown. It was such fun to read about their first time playing in Wigtown and their stay as the inaugural guests/temporary store managers via The Open Book Airbnb project.

I’ve written that the bookseller’s life is both appealing and daunting. When Bythell is lugging heavy boxes from a house clearance into his van and sorting through them only to find he’s acquired mostly rubbish, or when he comes across a browser who’s brazenly looking up books on Amazon on her laptop to see if she can get them cheaper, you wonder who’d do this for a living. But then there are times when he’s sitting by the fire with an excellent book recommended by a customer, or the town is bustling with festival events, or he’s watching spring come to rural Scotland, and you think: what could be better? In one of his last entries Bythell writes, “whatever is required to keep the ship afloat will be done. This life is infinitely preferable to working for someone else.” I wish him well, and hope to visit soon.

The Bookshop trivia:
December is by far the quietest month. (“The few people who give second-hand books as gifts for Christmas are usually eccentric” – count me as one of them!)

Railway books sell best.

Terry Pratchett, John Buchan, P.G. Wodehouse and E.F. Benson books are also perennial best sellers.

You’ll be amazed at how many customers try to haggle over prices. It’s a shop, not a rummage sale, for goodness’ sake! I can’t imagine ever having the cheek to offer less than the advertised price.

Originally published, with images and links, on my blog, Bookish Beck.
Profile Image for Heba.
1,034 reviews1,983 followers
January 30, 2023
ما ان دفعتُ باب متجر الكتب ، حتى وجدت صاحبه بإنتظاري معتذراً بأن هنالك خطأ ما ولن يمكن توفير جميع الكتب التي طلبتها ..تذمرت قليلاً ولكن هل تظن بأنني قد فقدت حماستي؟؟....أبداً
سرعان ما ألتفت يميناً فإذا بالأرفف المقابلة لي متراصة بها عدد من الكتب التي لم يسبق لي رؤيتها من قبل ، مررت أصابعي حذرة صعوداً وهبوطاً على عناوينها فاقتنصت منها كتابين ، تصادمت بعدها بكومة من الكتب المكدسة ويبدو أنها مخزوناً جديداً قدم للتو...عندئذٍ لم أملك مقاومة ذاك التسارع الطفيف للنبض الذي يصاحب التوقع بوجود شيء مميز بإنتظارك...أعتقد بأن دفقة الأدرينالين التي تداهمني في مثل تلك اللحظات ليست عادية أبداً...هذا مع تردد نداء العقل الذي يتوسل لي بأن يتسلم سلطة التحكم ولكن يبدو إن الصوت مكتومٌ ويأت من مكان بعيد لا يسعني التعرف عليه ، فأنا أسيرة لتعويذة سحرية لا أستطيع الفكاك منها....
جاءني صوت صاحب متجر الكتب: مهلاً هذه الكتب...قاطعت الجملة وكتاب "يوميات بائع كتب" في يدي ..يبدو إنني فزت يا سيدي..
حسناً ولكن ثمن الكتاب.....
لابأس هو تعويضاً عن الكتب غير المتوفرة ، وقبل أن يصاب بسكتة قلبية سارعت بالدفع ودونما تفاوض...
أما عن هذا الكتاب فهو يوميات السيد "شون بيثل" صاحب مكتبة "The book shop" في مقاطعة "ويغتاون" باسكتلندا، جاءت اليوميات عفوية ..دافئة وساخرة لم اتمالك نفسي من الضحك أمام الكثير من المواقف التى جمعته وزبائن غريبي الاطوار ومساعدين في العمل يدفعونه لحافة الجنون ...
حياة حافلة بالعديد من المهام الشاقة والمرهقة ، ما بين عقد مساومات على مكتبات خاصة ، شراء كتب مستعملة من أصحابها، حزم الكتب وشحنها في صناديق من وإلى المكتبة ، الإلتزام بتلبية طلبات الزبائن في مواعيدها ، تحمل تعليقاتهم السخيفة وأسئلتهم البلهاء ، خيبة التوقعات وعن الإخفاقات ما بين الصعود والهبوط في الوضع المالي دونما أي مؤشر للإستقرار..
التخلي عن محاولة فهم كيف يعمل عقل مساعدته والتي كانت فكاهية جداً..فوضوية ومزاجية ولكنها تضفي رونقاً خاصاً على اليوميات...
تساءلت بشأن تلك الكتب المستعملة كم من الأيدي تناقلتها؟..
كم روحاً علقت بين دفتيها ؟!
ما الذي كان يدور بأذهان أصحابها بينما تخربش أقلامهم الملاحظات الهامشية ؟...
هل تلك الكتب هى الدليل الوحيد على وجود أحدهم في الحياة يوماً ما ؟...
وأخيراً سأدعكم مع موقفين من أكثر المواقف مدعاة للضحك والبؤس معاً....
سأل رجل : أنتم بالتأكيد لا تبيعون كتباً ..أليس كذلك ؟
ثم ضحك بصخب..!!
دخل زبون عبر الباب : أنا لست مهتماً حقاً بالكتب ، دعني اخبرك ما هو رأيي بالقوة النووية ..!!
بائع الكتب بعد هذا الموقف يقول : بحلول الساعة العاشرة والنصف صباحاً لم تكن الارادة في الحياة سوى محض ذكرى....😄
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,466 reviews564 followers
December 6, 2018
What a depressing book! Bythell manages to make one of my favorite destinations, a used bookstore, feel like an unwelcoming hellhole. The book is a gloomy, lazily written diary of his daily transactions peppered with snarky, mean-spirited comments about his customers. There is very little in this book about reading or even books - except as crumbling objects to buy and sell.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,295 followers
May 7, 2023
Shaun Bythell e un tînăr domn din orășelul scoțian Wigtown. A cumpărat o clădire friguroasă și ține un anticariat cu cîteva mii de volume. Bythell cumpără și vinde cărți de tot felul. Cele mai căutate sînt cărțile despre căile ferate britanice. Meseria de librar-anticar nu-l îmbogățește, n-a îmbogățit deocamdată pe nimeni. Dacă ar avea mulți bani, ar călători la Paris, ar vizita muzeul Louvre, ar privi chipul Giocondei sau ar merge în Grecia și ar urca pe Akropolis. Nu are bani și, în lipsă de altceva, se apucă să scrie un jurnal meschin. Un jurnal valorează exact atît cît valorează autorul lui.

Ce notează scrupulos „diaristul”? În primul rînd, că vizitatorii anticariatului sînt niște caraghioși (ca doamna îmbibată în parfum înțepător), ajung acolo din întîmplare (fiindcă plouă sau așteaptă pe cineva), nu știu ce să ceară, vorbesc urît și nu sînt deloc dispuși să cumpere vreo carte. Încurcă locul degeaba. Sînt impertinenți, habar nu au cum să se poarte, își „latră întrebările” (p.27), sînt aroganți (p.38), prost crescuți, inculți, bădărani, sadici. Și, în plus, au „mustăți slinoase” (p.347).

Shaun Bythell consideră, pe bună dreptate, că un „client ideal” nu caută prin rafturi la întîmplare, ci „știe exact ce vrea”: numește fără să clipească titlul, autorul și editura, fiindcă a citit o recenzie luminoasă în The Times și se încrede în părerea gazetarului (p.10). Un singur musafir îndeplinește toate condițiile cerute, domnul Deacon, un bătrîn ce va muri de Alzheimer (aflăm dintr-o notă strecurată în finalul cărții, la p.351). În absența domnului Deacon, anticarul nostru va rămîne doar cu clienți reali, adică prost crescuți, bădărani și ignoranți...

Din lipsă de timp liber, Bythell citește rar și ne spune sibilinic că o carte anume e „adorabilă” (p.39), iar alta „extraordinar de modernă” (p.51). Pentru un om înconjurat de cărți, observațiile „critice” sînt inepte. Neîndoios, autorul e un bibliofil rafinat: știe totul despre o carte cu excepția conținutului. Privește cartea ca un obiect de negociat, aspectul ei spiritual pare să-i rămînă străin.

Din păcate, nu poți muri de plăcere în fața unor pasaje care nu spun aproape nimic. Un exemplu: „La prînz am făcut un sandviș, apoi am plecat cu Anna, în camionetă, cu vreo cincizeci de cutii de carton, la vechea fermă de lîngă Stranraer” (p.37); și încă unul: „Cred că m-am procopsit cu un virus, în mod sigur luat de la vreun client [ironie?, n. m.], și toată ziua am tușit, am strănutat, am îmbrățișat radiatorul și am tremurat” (p.335).

Jurnalul lui Shaun Bythell începe în 5 februarie 2014, o miercuri, și sfîrșește în 4 februarie 2015, tot o miercuri. Umorul autorului e tipic scoțian, scrîșnit, întunecat, avar. Singura însușire a acestui ilustru umor e absența lui...
Profile Image for Debbie W..
724 reviews487 followers
January 30, 2022
Why I chose to read this book:
A book about a bookseller (Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, Scotland's largest secondhand bookshop) which declared to be supposedly hilarious, I thought this would be a perfect addition to my Humor Month reads!

1. I would occasionally LOL at some of the comments made by customers and/or Bythell. Once in a while, he would show some compassion and empathy towards others;
2. I got a new appreciation for how Amazon undercuts independent booksellers. Because of this, my local community of 10,000+ residents cannot keep a bookstore open (yet ten liquor stores are heartily thriving!) To purchase latest publications, I must drive 1 1/2 hours to the nearest Coles (a division of Chapters/Indigo) because the "local" Walmart (45 min. away) has a poor selection. We have a handful of thrift shops nearby, and if I'm lucky, I may find one or two books on my WTR list. Thank goodness for the local library belonging to the TRAC system which can acquire books I'm seeking 99.9% of the time, including audiobooks through Hoopla and Overdrive;
3. it was interesting how some of The Bookshop's most profitable days were when Bythell wasn't present;
4. Bythell would share some interesting titles of books he was reading. Contrary to popular belief, that although surrounded by books, librarians and booksellers do not have as much time to read as they would like; and,
5. his book buying trips to local estate sales and such were quite interesting!

1. despite sharing some of his coworkers' antics (sometimes to the detriment of the business), I am amazed that he didn't fire them (although they seemed to share his personality);
Which brings me to my biggest niggle...
2.although I could highly understand and empathize with his irritations toward some customers' requests and behaviors, sometimes Bythell comes off sounding like a real ass! These anecdotes really turned me off! I felt even more vindicated when he shares some Facebook posts about him that confirmed my thoughts! With his consistent snarky and mocking attitude, I'm surprised that his business makes any money!

Although there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, overall, I wouldn't say this was a "hilarious" read. Instead, I would often cringe at some of his derisive comments toward others.
3 stars
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,175 reviews615 followers
April 4, 2018
This book is going straight onto my shelf of all time favourites. I really enjoyed reading Shaun Bythell's diary of the trials, tribulations and occasional triumphs of being a bookseller.

In 2001, after having difficulty settling on a career he enjoyed, Shaun bought The Book Shop in his home town of Wigtown, in the Galloway region of Scotland. Some years later he started a diary and a facebook site to record the interactions with his customers, but over the months it developed into so much more - a record of the changing seasons and the happenings in the town, as well as a record of the selling and buying of books, dealing with Amazon and his quirky part time employee Nicky.

Following closure of its main industries, a distillery and a creamery, Wigtown launched a plan in 1998 to rejuvenate itself as a Book Town like the well known popular Welsh village Hay-on-Wye and is now a popular tourist destination with a successful annual Book Festival. The Book Shop is now the second largest second hand book store in Scotland with over 100,000 books. It sounds wonderful with rooms and rooms full of books, an open fire and comfortable armchairs, and odd antiques that Shaun picks up at auctions. There is even a 'festival bed' on a mezzanine that can be booked for the festival and often used by overnight guests who stay too late or drink too much to go home.

This is a fascinating book to read if you're interested in becoming a bookseller. There are all sorts of customers, the regulars, the hagglers, the ones who spend hours in the shop pulling books off the shelf and not buying. Then there is the business of buying books from auctions and deceased estates, having to get rid of the unselleable portions but also occassionally finding a gem like a rare first edition or a book signed by Florence Nightingale. There are also the trials of on-line selling and dealing with Amazon (who now seem to own everything).

The compensations for Shaun are living in a beautiful part of the world, enjoying the fishing, boating and rock climbing in the quiet times with someone else minding the shop. Shaun also knows many interesting people and his involvement in organising the annual festival allows him to meet many authors and writers so there are many evenings of social company and entertainment.

Shaun's one time employee Nicky also provided him with hours of amusement (as well as annoyance because she had her own ideas of how to run the shop). There are some priceless videos on youtube of Nicky (in the black ski-suit that she wore to work all winter) showing the results of her bin foraging outside the supermarket, judging the anonymous postcard competition, explaining to Shaun what happened to his creme eggs and also of Shaun and Nicky in a Book Shop rap. Shaun's video series of Kindle Tutorials on how to deal with broken kindles is also hilarious and sums up his thoughts on Amazon (there's a great photo in the book of the 'fixed kindle' from one of his tutorials). I also enjoyed Shaun discussing the books he's reading and the George Orwell quotes at the start of each month of the diary.

Recommended for all those who think it would be cool to have a bookshop and for the rest of us who enjoy reading and reading about what other people are reading.


The passages I'd love to quote here are too numerous, so here is just one from the start of Shaun's diary:

"There is a stereotype of the impatient, intolerant, antisocial proprietor - played so perfectly by Dylan Moran in Black Books - and it seems (on the whole) to be true. There are exceptions of course, and many booksellers do not conform to this type. Sadly I do."
Profile Image for Sujoya (theoverbookedbibliophile).
428 reviews949 followers
April 15, 2022
In The Diary of a Bookseller, author Shaun Bythell shares a year in his life as a bookseller through a series of journal entries written between 2014-15. Since 2001, Shaun Bythell owns and operates 'The Bookshop' in Wigtown , the Book Town of Galloway. His store is the largest second-hand bookstore in Scotland. His daily life consists of time in his shop with his part-time employees including students from nearby universities, the eccentric Nicky whose antics will have you in splits and, of course, the shop cat, Captain. He shares his experiences in estate sales and valuations and organizing local book festivals and also shares anecdotes from his experiences with the variety of customers who visit his shop both his regulars and tourists- browsers, buyers and sellers. He posts some of the more entertaining interactions on his Facebook page along with pictures and videos of his store. Some of the encounters are laugh-out-loud funny. He is not too fond of ebooks and once he expressed his distaste towards Kindles by shooting through a damaged Kindle and mounting it on a wall in his shop- which he claims is one of the most popular displays in his shop (the video of which I promptly looked up!)

The author sheds a light on both the appealing and the mundane aspects of the profession of bookselling. He charts his sales, acquisitions and even mentions how much money is left in the till at the close of that particular day. Besides direct sales, the shop also sells through Amazon and AbeBooks. The author also discusses the challenges faced in selling books from brick-and-mortar stores in the era of Amazon, Waterstones and the popularity of ebooks over physical books.

I enjoy fictional stories set in bookstores and libraries. Therefore when I found out about this memoir that gives us a true picture of life as a bookseller and the different aspects of the business, I was genuinely interested. I enjoyed the extracts from George Orwell’s “Bookshop Memories” at the beginning of each chapter and the ensuing discussion on Orwell’s experiences working part-time in a bookstore (1934-36) and the author’s perspective on the profession in the modern-day. I found myself looking up the shop’s Facebook page and enjoyed the pictures of the shop and Captain. Overall, this is a slow-paced, light and entertaining memoir that I thoroughly enjoyed and I look forward to reading the follow-up books in his series.
Profile Image for Brandice.
857 reviews
April 22, 2019
The Diary of a Bookseller is the first person account of Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop, a large second hand bookstore in Scotland. Over the course of the year 2014, Bythell keeps a diary of daily encounters from the shop.

Some days are better than others. Irritating customers are a given. Bythell has a consistent dry sarcasm, and the details of the shop’s daily happenings are amusing.

“Any bookseller will tell you that, even with 100,000 books neatly sorted and shelved in a well-lit, warm shop, if you put an unopened box of books in a dark, cold, dimly lit corner, customers will be rifling through it in a matter of moments. The appeal of a box of unsorted, unpriced stock is extraordinary. Obviously the idea of finding a bargain is part of it, but I suspect it goes well beyond that and has parallels with opening gifts. The excitement of the unknown is what it’s all about, and it’s something to which I can relate–buying books is exactly that...”

The Diary of a Bookseller was an entertaining, light and enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Constantine.
834 reviews135 followers
February 21, 2022

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Nonfiction + Memoir

Shaun Bythell tells us about his experience after buying this big second-hand bookshop in Wigtown which is considered the second-largest bookshop there, the challenges he faced to keep it up and running in our era in which technology has advanced a lot where there are other forms of reading other than buying physical books.

The book is written as the title suggests, in a diary format. The diary has daily entries for about a year. It tells the reader what is in and what is out. Many times it showed how challenging it becomes to satisfy customers and meet their expectations especially when it comes to dealing with shipping the books in time to the customers or else one has to deal with the annoying back and forth emails and calls to track the shipment. Another thing is the owner's encounters with some interesting customers.

This was a satisfying read to me. I can't say that it was too enjoyable though. The diary entries after some time have become repetitive to me. They sounded more like bookkeeping of what is in and what is out. Honestly, I can't say what I was expecting from this book because the premise interested me, but I have picked it up without any expectations. So my advice to you is to keep your expectations low too so you would not be disappointed.

Overall, this was an interesting read for me. Not a perfect one but definitely do not regret that I have read it. I give The Diary of a Bookseller a good 3.5 stars out of 5.0.
Profile Image for Nat K.
415 reviews155 followers
February 16, 2018
”Of course, one person’s good book is another person’s bad book; the matter is entirely subjective.”

For me, this book is quirky (with a capital “Q”).

The story meanders along, a bit like life really. Mostly routine and humdrum, with little flecks of highlights and happiness. A journal of sorts, of the trials and tribulations of a bookseller, and in a second hand bookstore at that.

Not a lot happens, but there are little gems that had me laughing out loud such as…

”An elderly customer told me that her book club’s next book was Dracula, but she couldn’t remember what he’d written."

I enjoyed the quirky characters. Shaun, the owner of the bookstore. A bit prickly, posting barbed comments on Facebook about his customers (too funny), but who deep down seems quite sensitive, behind the detached exterior. Nicky (who works in the bookstore); a free spirit who drives an old combi van and loves hunting for food via what’s been thrown out from the local supermarket’s skip (“Foodie Fridays”, what delights will be brought in…). Sandy (the pagan), who brings in hand carved walking sticks, in exchange for books on Celtic mythology. The regular customers such a retired solicitor Mr Deacon (never shall we find out his first name), who orders books on a weekly basis, when he can quite easily buy them online, to the browsers who spend hours reading in front of the fireplace, only to leave without buying a single item.

I can well imagine the kaleidoscope of personalities meeting in the melting pot of this bookstore.

There were also many very sad and poignant parts of the story where Shaun goes to purchase books (sometimes entire collections) from estates. I find it bittersweet where he described that books that are left behind often capture that essence of a person. That left a lump in my throat.

This is definitely a place that I would love to visit if I was ever to visit Wigtown, Scotland. It would be an absolute treat.
Profile Image for Squeak2017.
159 reviews
October 21, 2017

It it not easy to write a book in the diary format without falling into the trap of repeating yourself. I got up, opened the shop, Nicky was late. How very often did those words recur. It takes a writer of considerably more skill and imagination to make a diary interesting. One who can offer nuggets of insight (perhaps in response to the books he was reading above the bald comment "I enjoyed it") or the odd piece of imagery. This book failed on those counts. It had the stock in trade ornery employee, the obligatory grumpy bookseller (towards the end of the book, perhaps alerted by a reader or editor, there was a defensive paragraph about how he was only rude to customers and never to waitresses or shop assistants, but waitresses and shop assistants are not as downtrodden and unable to answer back as you may think - viz his own staff! - and some of the customers seemed tactless or inept rather than deliberately offensive. Mr. Deacon's dementia was there for all to see).

The only entertaining elements were the Orwell quotes, the Facebook entries written by the maverick Nicky and a letter quoted from another bookseller. The sarcasm levelled at customers was not as hilarious as the publishers or the author seemed to think.
Profile Image for Sophie Crane.
3,730 reviews120 followers
April 27, 2021
I SO enjoyed this book! It's well written, funny and the diary format is great for those who love books and reading but lead busy lives. I'm very envious of Shaun Bythells idyllic life in his wonderful bookish world in the wilds of Scotland.
Is this a 'one off' or will there be more installments, I suspect there's plenty of material to fill a few more if Shaun has the time and inclination?
January 15, 2019
Books excite me, but reading a book about a bookshop, excites me just that little bit more. I haven't came across many books in this kind of genre, so I really made the most of this one. The book shop, is ran by Shaun Bythell, and is located in Wigtown, Scotland. It is a seemingly successful second-hand book shop, and this book contains the diary of Bythell, which he kept for a year, and has all the events of each day recorded in it.
Now, I use Amazon for books very often, and it is due to Amazon, that unfortunately, many second-hand bookstores either struggle, or have gone out of business completely. I for one love mooching around a bookshop, I find it so enthralling but also comforting at the same time. It is a great shame that we don't have as many bookshops around like we used to. We obviously can thank the Internet for this!
This is clearly an individual who holds a genuine passion and appreciation for books, and seemingly puts up with a great amount of rudeness from his customers. What astounded me, is the way customers come in the shop, and attempt to haggle the price of the book! It's not a car boot sale, it is a successful business that Bythell has been running efficiently for over fifteen years!

Being about to jump into thousands of books each day, rummage through them, and then actually make a living off that, is truly a piece of heaven, and for that, I'm quite envious of Bythell. I'm also happy that he took the time to give us an insight into his incredibly bookish life. Oh, and Mr Bythell? I'll be visiting later on this year!
Profile Image for . . . _ _ _ . . ..
284 reviews146 followers
August 2, 2019
-Excelent, marvelous, absolutely fabulous ! Μπορώ να προσθέσω και superb?

-Ω, το λατρεύω το superb !

Στα μέρη-που-θα-ήθελα-να-επισκεφτώ-αλλά-δεν-θα-το-κάνω-δεν-πάω-ούτε-στην-διπλανή-πόλη μπήκε και αυτή η μικρή πόλη στην Σκωτία, δηλαδή μια πόλη με ούτε χίλιους κατοίκους και με ένα σωρό βιβλιοπωλεία και ξενοδοχεία;
Το χωριό μου έχει καμιά διακοσιαριά λιγότερους κατοίκους από το Wigtown και αφού έφυγα μετά από χρόνια έγινε ένα αξιοπρεπές μπακάλικο. Που πήγαινα μικρός να πάρω φέτα και έλεγε "Δεν έχομε" (σικ)
Τι έλεγα ; Ναι .. υπέροχο βιβλίο, χάνει το 5αρι γιατί κάπου είναι επαναλαμβανόμενο
Ορίστε και η ιστοσελίδα του υπαρκτού βιβλιοπωλείου :
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,019 reviews458 followers
June 26, 2020
This was a very good read. Shaun Bythell did a nice job of writing this book. It’s a year in the life of him running his second-hand bookstore in a small Scottish village called Wigtown. He buys books at estate sales or in people’s houses or in the store, and he sells books in the store and online (Amazon, Abebooks).

Each chapter is a month of the year (starting on February 1, 2014 and ending on January 30, 2015) and within each month are diary entries with sundry facts such as what’s in the till at the end of the day and how many customers were in the store, and what books were sold, or what books he bought. And within each entry are the events that took place in his life for each day of the month. Sound boring? It’s not. This guy has a wry if not at times sardonic sense of humor…made me laugh out loud more than once. It was a very pleasant read where I got to know him, and his employees (Nicky is a real hoot), and learned about the customers who entered the store. I love used bookstores and so I would heartily recommend this book for those of you who also have such a love. For those of you who have not in the past or present frequented shops that sell used books, then this may not be all that interesting to you.

There is also a recurring thread in the memoir about how Amazon has really hurt second-hand bookstores…and that’s shame because a number of quaint and charming stores with character and personality have vanished or will be vanishing. What price progress? 🙁

At the start of each chapter (month) is a series of sentences from George Orwell who wrote an essay in 1936 called “Bookshop Memories” in 1936. Selections he picked were humorous and/or witty .

Such as: “In a town like London there are always plenty of not quite certifiable lunatics walking the streets, and they tend to gravitate towards bookshops, because a bookshop is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.” Here is a link to the whole essay: https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-...

Here are several passages that I bookmarked….hope you enjoy like I did! And these are not uncommon but rather the tip of the iceberg…he has many funny things to say as well as interesting things. I almost felt like I was in the bookstore (actually he had pictures of the bookstore and it was a prototypic charming second-hand bookstore with books and bookcases galore and the cat (every used bookstore worth its salt must have a cat! 😊 ).
• …the immersive capacity of a good novel to transport you into a different world is unique to the written word.” (Jim: I love that observation because it is true…to be oblivious to the present situation and to be in the lives of the characters of a novel…it’s truly something, isn’t it?)
• In November 2001, the month I bought the shop, an old man was browsing in the maritime history section of the shop. He came to the counter and asked, “When are you having the bonfire?” Puzzled, I asked him what he meant. He replied, “For your books. I have never seen such rubbish. All they’re good for is the bonfire.” This was my first encounter with a genuinely rude customer, and back then I was still racked with insecurities about the shop, the stock and what I was doing. Fortunately, another customer witnessed the incident and, sensing my discomfort, stepped in and said, “Actually, this is the best maritime history section I have ever seen in any bookshop. If you don’t like it you should probably leave.” He left.
• In the afternoon, a customer spent about an hour wandering around the shop. He finally came to the counter and said “I never buy second-hand books. You don’t know who else has touched them, or where they’ve been.” Apart from being an irritating thing to say to a second-hand bookseller, who knows whose hands have touched the books in the shop? Doubtless everyone from ministers to murderers. For many that secret history of provenance is a source of excitement which fires their imagination. A friend and I once discussed annotations and marginalia in books. Again, they are a divisive issue. We occasionally have Amazon orders returned because the recipient has discovered notes in a book, scribbled by previous readers, which we had not spotted. To me these things do not detract but are captivating additions — a glimpse into the mind of another person who has read the same book.
• 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 have a look under the H section.
• An elderly customer told me that her book clubs next book was Dracula, but she couldn’t remember what he’d written.

Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,210 reviews50 followers
December 18, 2021
This was an enjoyable read which made me laugh out loud now and again. I learned about managing a bookshop and from now on I will see them with different eyes. I might as well go on with his next book, Confessions.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
September 25, 2018
Shaun Blythell would be sore that I read his book on a Kindle but it was an eARC of the US edition, what could I do. I enjoyed his diary of a year of bookselling - the customers, the small book town in Scotland, little hints into what he is reading and thinking, and the looming enemy of Amazon. His sense of humor is part curmudgeon... hmm, no, it's all curmudgeon. It makes him read as much older than he is, but that could just be the Scottish-American disconnect. I love that Scotland has a town that has been deemed a book town! We need those.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
643 reviews4,263 followers
June 1, 2020
“An elderly customer told me that her book club’s next book was Dracula, but she couldn’t remember what he’d written.”

Imagine reading the work diary of someone whose job follows a regular pattern each day, doing the same general activities, and that’s basically what reading this book was like - with some humorous anecdotes thrown in!

The Diary of a Bookseller is comprised of a year of diary entries from secondhand book shop owner, Shaun Bythell. And I have to admit, learning about how a secondhand book shop is actually run was very eye-opening to me, as it’s not really something I had considered before!

Each day the amount of money made through sales is recorded and it was so interesting to see this change from day to day, season to season. Takings were abysmal for quite a few of the winter months, whereas foot traffic and sales would go way up in the summer and tourist months. Bythell does have a lot of hatred for amazon, which is understandable, but at times it just wore me down. Although I will say that I am now making even more of a conscious effort to not just buy my books there!

Speaking of the bookseller himself, he was a large part of the reason why I didn’t enjoy this as much as I expected to. He just wasn’t very likeable to me. I have quite a dry wit myself, but often times I just found him to be kinda rude. Did not like.

However, I gotta say that the short diary entries were a heaven-send as my focus was absolutely terrible the week I was reading this, so a diary format that I could I dip in and out of suited my attention span.

It was an okay read, some of the anecdotes were funny as you see what an eclectic mix of customers he has, but I was ultimately a little disappointed! 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,080 reviews359 followers
December 12, 2020
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

One of my favourite comedies from the early '00's was Black Books, a comedy set in a second hand book shop and starring Dylan Moran as a misanthropic book seller who hates people and drinks copious amounts of wine. This is the book equivalent to that comedy, and I absolutely loved it.

The book outlines a year in the life of Shaun Bythell, owner of The Book Shop, and his daily interactions with customers and excursions to source books. It's never pretentious, and often very, very funny. I particularly warmed to shop assistant Nicky, who is basically described as a wombling Jehovah's Witness, who often turns up to her shifts in the book shop in an all in one black ski suit with an accompanying assortment of food found in the skip behind Morrisons. The daily struggle with customers was also very funny and informative - I gained a particular fondness for regular customer Mr Deacon, but ultimately reminded me that I never want another career in retail!

The book serves as a great insight into the dying breed of booksellers, and provided a lot of information about books that I didn't know, such as books published before 1501 known as 'incunabula'. I liked the little excerpts from George Orwell which proceeded every month too, as they provided some cohesiveness to the structure of the book and made it feel less like a traditional diary.

I think the only section I didn't enjoy was where the author got sidetracked talking about fishing for a few pages in August. Again, they only lasted a few pages, but they felt a little bit out of place.

In all honesty, I think this is one of the best books I've read this year, and has had me heartily reminiscing about the old book shop that I use to frequent as a youngster. Now, unfortunately, it's been turned into a pub (!) but this book proves just how vulnerable and invaluable book shops are in our country since the rise of the ebook and major retailers. My only regret is that I read this on my kindle, but make no mistake, I'll be buying the hardback.
Profile Image for Maria Bikaki.
793 reviews385 followers
July 13, 2020
Νομίζω ότι όνειρο κάθε βιβλιόφιλου είναι να τα παρατήσει όλα και ν’ ανοίξει το δικό του βιβλιοπωλείο . Αυτό ήταν και δικό μου όνειρο παιδικό. Να δουλεύω σε βιβλιοπωλείο για να ταξιδεύω σε κόσμους μαγικούς και για να μυρίζω τη μυρωδιά από το φρεσκοτυπωμένο χαρτί. Δεν τα κατάφερα και επισκέπτομαι τα βιβλιοπωλεία ως πελάτης αλλά ακόμα και έτσι η μαγεία της παρουσίας σε ένα βιβλιοπωλείο παραμένει το ίδιο ζωντανή και ζεστή. Δε θα μπορούσα λοιπόν ως βιβλιόφιλη να μην διαβάσω το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο που ουσιαστικά αφηγείται τα έργα και ημέρες ενός βιβλιοπωλείου και όχι ενός οποιουδήποτε βιβλιοπωλείου αλλά του μεγαλύτερου παλαιοβιβλιοπωλείου της Σκωτίας.
Είμαι πάρα πολύ σίγουρη ότι το βιβλίο αυτό θα απογοητεύσει πολλούς αναγνώστες που θα το διαβάσουν περιμένοντας ένα κόσμο λίγο πιο ονειρικά πλασμένο από τη στιγμή που έχει να κάνει με βιβλία. Μην ξεχνάτε όμως φίλοι μου ότι είναι ένα μαγαζί όπως όλα τ’ άλλα όπου θα μπουν πολλοί και διαφορετικοί πελάτες εκ των οποίων μια μεγάλη μερίδα θα ναι ιδιαίτερα δύσκολοι , ιδιότροποι και απαιτητικοί . Διαβάζοντας αυτό το βιβλίο θα διαπιστώσεις ότι τελικά δεν είναι τόσο ρόδινα όλα και η δουλειά του βιβλιοπώλη δεν είναι πάντα μαγική και ταξιδιάρικη. Αντίθετα κρύβει ακόμα και αυτή δεδομένου ότι το προϊόν προς πώληση είναι ιστορίες διαφορετικές η μία από την άλλη, την δική του ρουτίνα και βαρεμάρα όπως όλες οι δουλειές. Κατεβείτε αγαπητοί βιβλιόφιλοι από το ροζ συννεφάκι εχουν και οι βιβλιοπώλες θέματα και αναδουλειές και χρέη και κακές ημέρες. Προσωπικά ψιλοταυτίστηκα με τον κεντρικό ήρωα. Πολλοί θα τον χαρακτηρίσουν μίζερο και αχώνευτο. Εγώ σαν άνθρωπος που το επάγγελμα μου εχει να κάνει με κόσμο και έρχομαι σε επαφή με πολλές και διαφορετικές προσωπικότητες καθημερινά αλλά κατά βάση επαναλαμβάνω την ίδια και την ίδια ρουτίνα τον συμπονώ και συμπάσχω μαζί του. Δεν είναι όλες οι μέρες ίδιες. Εξού και παραλείπω στην τελική μου βαθμολογία που υπό άλλες συνθήκες θα του στερούσε ένα αστεράκι την επανάληψη πολλών σκηνικών. Αν το βιβλίο δεν ήταν γραμμένο με τη μορφή ημερολογίου που εκ των πραγμάτων θα επαναλάβεις τον εαυτό σου τότε ενδεχομένως να με ενοχλούσε.
Το διάβασα πολύ ευχάριστα και κατά κάποιο τρόπο ένιωσα σαν να βρίσκομαι σε μία από τις γωνίες του και παράλληλα μοιράστηκα τόσο τον ενθουσιασμό του ήρωα κάθε φορά που ερχόταν στα χέρια του ένα σπάνιο βιβλίο, όσο και την αγωνία του για το γεγονός ότι ίσως κάποια στιγμή με την είσοδο του Αμαζον στην αγορά τα παλαιοβιβλιοπωλεία θα εξαφανιστούν. Αξιόλογο.

Profile Image for George K..
2,366 reviews292 followers
July 1, 2019
Σαν μανιακός βιβλιοφάγος που είμαι, θα ήταν μάλλον απίθανο να μην αγοράσω και να μην διαβάσω ένα βιβλίο με τον τίτλο "Το ημερολόγιο ενός βιβλιοπώλη", ειδικά όταν ο συγγραφέας είναι ο ιδιοκτήτης ενός από τα γνωστότερα παλαιοβιβλιοπωλεία στην Ευρώπη, αυτό του The Bookshop του Ουίγκταουν της Σκωτίας (μιλάμε για ένα χωριό χιλίων κατοίκων!). Το θέμα είναι ότι μετά την ανάγνωση του βιβλίου, διέγραψα από τη λίστα μου με τα επαγγέλματα που θα με ευχαριστούσαν περισ��ότερο, αυτό του ιδιοκτήτη παλαιοβιβλιοπωλείου.

Έναν μονάχα λόγο θα αναφέρω, αν και υπάρχουν πολλοί οικονομικής και γραφειοκρατικής φύσεως (ειδικά όταν μιλάμε για Ελλάδα): Οι πελάτες. Ναι, οι πελάτες των παλαιοβιβλιοπωλείων μπορεί να είναι πολύ, μα πολύ παράξενοι και αγενείς, ενίοτε αφόρητα κουραστικοί και φορτικοί, μερικές φορές απίστευτα άσχετοι. Και δεν φημίζομαι για την στωικότητά μου ή την υπομονή μου απέναντι σε εκνευριστικούς ανθρώπους. Επίσης, από ένα σημείο και μετά, χάνεται λιγάκι η μαγεία γύρω από τα βιβλία, μιας και πλέον είναι προϊόντα προς πώληση, όπως οι αποχυμωτές ή τα κλιματιστικά. Όμως, είναι ένα πολύ ενδιαφέρον και ιδιαίτερο επάγγελμα, με το οποίο μπορείς να μάθεις πολλά πράγματα, καθώς επίσης και να γνωρίσεις ενδιαφέροντες και απίστευτους ανθρώπους, ενώ πάντα υπάρχει η πιθανότητα να ανακαλύψεις έναν θησαυρό -όπως για παράδειγμα ένα σπάνιο βιβλίο-, κάτι που πάντα ενθουσιάζει τους λάτρεις των βιβλίων.

Το βιβλίο αποτελεί καθημερινή ημερολογιακή καταγραφή, από τις αρχές Φεβρουαρίου του 2014 μέχρι τις αρχές Φεβρουαρίου του 2015. Οπότε, όπως καταλαβαίνετε, μπορεί να υπάρχουν αρκετές αδιάφορες ή βαρετές καταγραφές, φαινομενικά χωρίς ουσία. Αλλά συνήθως αυτό συμβαίνει με τα ημερολόγια, ακόμα και αν μιλάμε για το ημερολόγιο ενός προέδρου των ΗΠΑ ή ενός στρατηγού σε περίοδο πολέμου. Με το ημερολό��ιο αυτό, όμως, δίνεται η ευκαιρία στους αναγνώστες να δουν πώς λειτουργεί ένα παλαιοβιβλιοπωλείο, πού βρίσκει τα βιβλία ο παλαιοβιβλιοπώλης και πώς τα κοστολογεί, τι προβλήματα μπορεί να ανακύψουν ανά πάσα στιγμή. Επίσης η γραφή είναι χαλαρή και ευκολοδιάβαστη, ενώ η ατμόσφαιρα πολύ ευχάριστη.

Υ.Γ. Στο τέλος κάθε ημέρας ο Μπάιτελ κατέγραφε τις ηλεκτρονικές παραγγελίες, τους πελάτες που αγόρασαν έστω και ένα βιβλίο, καθώς επίσης και τις εισπράξεις. Εννοείται ότι μετά μπήκα στη διαδικασία να υπολογίσω τα νούμερα, για να δω τα σύνολα!
Profile Image for Martin.
327 reviews136 followers
June 2, 2019
Book Readers are intelligent, knowledgeable, appreciate and support their local bookshop. And as you are reading this right now you would agree.
But the people in this true tale are the exact opposite.

As the title states this is a diary of each day in a bookseller's life.

Combat trousers
At noon a woman in combat trousers and a beret came to the counter with six books, including two nearly new, expensive art books in pristine condition. The total for the books came to £38; she asked for a discount, and when I told her that she could have them for £35, she replied, ‘Can’t you do them for £30?’ It weighs heavily upon my faith in human decency when customers – offered a discount on products that are already a fraction of their original cover price – feel entitled to demand almost 30 per cent further off, so I refused to discount them any further.
She paid the £35. Janet Street-Porter’s suggestion that anyone wearing combat trousers should be forcibly parachuted into a demilitarised zone now has my full support.

A well known singer
Once, not long after I had bought the shop, a young man who was emigrating to Canada brought in several boxes of books to sell. When I asked him to sign the cashbook, he wrote ‘Tom Jones’. I laughed and pointed out a few other names that were clearly made up but that he was the first to use Tom Jones, to which he replied ‘It’s not unusual’ and left.

One of the shop’s Facebook followers came in to buy books today. She and her boyfriend want to move here and I overheard her whispering ‘Don’t say anything stupid or he’ll post it on Facebook.’ I will write something mean about her later. When I set up the Facebook account for the shop four years ago, I had a look at other bookshops that had done the same. The content seemed almost universally bland and didn’t really convey the full horror or the exquisite joy of working in a bookshop, so I took a calculated risk and decided to focus on customer behaviour, particularly the stupid questions and the rude comments. It appears to have paid off, and those who follow the shop seem to become more delighted the more offensive I am about customers. I recently checked to see who is following me, and a significant number of bookshops are on the list.

On my sister’s advice, I checked TripAdvisor to see whether anyone had reviewed the shop. There were nine reviews, two of which made references to the quality of the food. We do not serve food. We have never served food. Two more complained that the shop ‘wasn’t as big’ as they had expected it to be.
Inspired, I wrote a ridiculous review praising the owner’s magnificent good looks, convivial charm, captivatingly beautiful scent, the wonderful stock, the electric atmosphere and a litany of other unlikely superlatives. In no time at all it had been removed and TripAdvisor had sent a threatening email warning me not to do it again. I went straight back onto their site and wrote another one, and encouraged the shop’s Facebook followers to do the same.

Florence Nightingale and a bottle of wine
I bought ten boxes of books unseen from another dealer, a man called David McNaughton, who had been in the trade for nearly forty years. He wanted I bought ten boxes of books unseen from another dealer, a man called David McNaughton, who had been in the trade for nearly forty years. He wanted £10 a box and assured me that it was reasonable stock. From previous dealings with him I had no reason to doubt this. What I didn’t expect, though, was to find a book signed by Florence Nightingale, dedicated to one of her nurses. It was a Charles Kingsley title – I forget which. Florence Nightingale was fond of inscribing books and giving them to her friends, and consequently there are quite a few of these about, but it still made £300 on eBay. A nurse in Missouri bought it. I sent David a case of wine and told him what had happened.

Book Lovers?
Really bookish people are a rarity, although there are vast numbers of those who consider themselves to be such. The latter are particularly easy to identify – often they will introduce themselves when they enter the shop as ‘book people’ and insist on telling you that ‘we love books’. They’ll wear T-shirts or carry bags with slogans explaining exactly how much they think they adore books, but the surest means of identifying them is that they never, ever buy books.

Australians and coins
An Australian customer paid for a £1.50 book in small change but clearly had no idea what each coin was and took about five minutes to work it out. At one point he asked, ‘What do you use these 1p and 2p coins for?’

Good help is hard to find
Nicky didn’t manage to list a single book over the weekend because, as her note says: ‘The printer wilnae work.’ I checked: she hadn’t switched it on.

Death Wish
Just as I was returning from the kitchen with my cup of tea, a customer with polyester trousers about six inches too short and a donkey jacket almost knocked it out of my hand and asked, ‘Have you ever had a death in here? Has anyone ever died falling off a stepladder in the shop?’ I told him, ‘Not yet, but I was hoping today might be my lucky day.’

These good people brightened up his day
For the last hour of the day the shop was occupied by a family of six – mum, dad and four girls aged between six and sixteen. When the time came to pay for their books, the mother told me that they had all been out for a walk in the morning and the girls had been miserable, despite the sunny weather. She had asked why they were so unhappy and they replied in unison that all they wanted to do was visit The Book Shop as they hadn’t been here for two years and were really excited about returning. They spent £175 and left with six bags of books. These things happen far too rarely, but when they do they serve as a welcome reminder of why I chose to enter the world of bookselling, and of how important bookshops are to many people.

A book with bite
An elderly customer told me that her book club’s next book was Dracula, but she couldn’t remember what he’d written.

The Odyssey and fishing
As I was tidying the shelves in the garden room, I found a copy of The Odyssey in the fishing section. I have yet to question Nicky about this, but the answer will almost certainly be, ‘Aye, but they were on a boat for some of it. What do you think they ate? Aye. Fish. See?’

Appreciate the gentle humor as the Bookseller interacts with customers in search of a good book


Profile Image for Neale .
292 reviews132 followers
January 18, 2019
Being a true bibliophile, I have always loved books about bookshops and the book industry. Also, Black Books, the old tv series about a bookshop and it’s cantankerous alcoholic owner, is one of my favourite shows as well. As a result this book is a match made in Heaven for me. While not as rude, belligerent, or gross as the owner of the shop in Black Books, the author, and owner of the shop in the book, Shaun Bythell, does have a similarity when it comes to customer relations. The book is basically a collection of anecdotes and stories of his daily life, concentrating on the customers, in the bookshop. The bookshop is the second largest second hand bookshop in Scotland and provides the scene for some hilarious, eccentric customers. I think I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading this book. The book also provides a look into the world of a second hand bookshop and the troubles these shops are facing from the internet. Sites such as Amazon (whoops there goes my goodread account) are gobbling up these shops at an alarming rate. This book is a delightful, enjoyable read which I’m sure most bibliophiles (and lovers of Black Books) will enjoy. 4 Stars.

Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,255 reviews451 followers
April 23, 2018
A fun book to read for anyone who has been a bookseller, or anyone in a retail environment really. Sometimes customers defy description.
I chose to read this a few entries at a time, as diaries can be tedious when read straight through. Perfect bedtime reading.
Profile Image for Paul Secor.
548 reviews48 followers
January 12, 2019
Shaun Bythell kept a one year diary covering his book shop - and also his life and the lives of some of those around him. It's a very entertaining read, though I wish that he had given more ink to some of the more pleasant experiences that probably occurred in his shop. (I'm sure that there must have been more than he related.) The more bizarre or annoying experiences made good reading, but more positive experiences would have made for a better balanced book. Mr. Bythell seems to be a bit of a curmudgeon, so perhaps that accounts for many of the episodes he included.

I knew before I read this that I wouldn't want to own a bookstore - especially a used bookstore - but reading this book settled any notion of ever doing that completely.
And if any potential bookstore owner reads this, they'll learn a quick lesson on hiring employees - don't follow Shaun Bythell's example. I believe that the only worthwhile employee he had during the year of the diary was a young woman who was foisted upon him by a friend, and who worked there for a very short time.
His fulltime employee, Nicky, had one positive trait. She was pretty dependable about showing up for work. Beyond that, the best that could be said is that sometimes she was charmingly weird, but oftentimes just plain weird - no charm included. As far as being an employee or a co-worker, I wouldn't want her for either.

Shaun Bythell:


Unless you're Scottish, you might want to use close captioning while watching the Nicky episodes.
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