Book review: ‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell

A year in the life of a Scottish bookseller.

The Diary of a Bookseller

This is an extremely entertaining account of running a bookshop in Wigtown on the south-west coast of Scotland. As the title implies, it’s written in the form of daily diary entries, and we soon get to know its small cast of main characters, not least the author himself, and his Jehovah’s Witness shop assistant (and skip scavenger), Nicky.

There’s lots of gentle humour in this book. Bythell paints himself as something of a rude and opinionated curmudgeon—a persona he seems to take genuine pride in maintaining. Well, why wouldn’t he?

I was bought this book by my mate Stense, who has visited Bythell's sensibly named The Bookshop on several occasions, and who once bought me a year’s subscription to their Random Book Club. My favourite anecdote from my year as a member was receiving an entirely useless book two in a trilogy of novels, whose part 3 was yet to be published. It was was described as ‘Dark and super sexy’ by no less an authority than Cosmopolitan, and was absolutely filthy if the page I opened it to at random was anything to go by. Reading The Diary of a Bookseller made me appreciate how I managed to end up with such an unsuitable book, which is now, no doubt, still available at a very reasonable price in the Hebden Bridge branch of Shelter charity shops.

Highly recommended.

(Or, as I’m sure Bythell would demand I point out, better still, buy it from your local bookshop.)


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