cover image The Diary of a Bookseller

The Diary of a Bookseller

Shaun Bythell. Melville House, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61219-724-1

With wit and humility, Bythell, owner of a used bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, chronicles a year—2014, specifically—in the life of a bookseller. In addition to describing the routine of managing his books-and-mortar store, he examines the plusses of virtual selling through Amazon (a much wider audience) as well as the minuses (negative reviews from customers with unrealistic expectations). A typical entry annotating his days might read: “Online orders: 6... Books found: 5... Till total: £95.50... 6 customers.” He shares amusing stories, such as how his staff creatively categorize books (such as placing a book called Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema in the shop’s theology section), as well as bookstore lore (George Orwell once worked in a bookshop, and immediately knew he didn’t want to be a bookseller). Tales of cheap customers abound, such as a couple in their 60s wearing “Lycra cycling gear” who walked out and “left a trail of resentment in their wake” when he wouldn’t give them a 25% discount. But there are also anecdotes of the quirky folk who adore books, such as a roving band of musicians who perform in bookstores, singing about books they’ve read. Bythell’s narrative is lively and intelligent, but readers may be disappointed that his book dispells any notions about the romance of owning a bookstore. (Sept.)