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Summary

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown - Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop. 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.

He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

©2017 Shaun Bythell (P)2017 W. F. Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

"Funny, sharp, observant and warm - the perfect introduction to the joys and horrors of running a bookshop." ( The Bookseller)
"Funny and fascinating in equal measure." (Anthony McGowan)

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What members say

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A gentle pleasure

I listened to this at a difficult and chaotic time in my life and I found it very enjoyable. A gentle book, which has a magic that is hard to explain. It really is a diary with no particular plot, but the little glimpses of daily life and pen pictures of staff and customers make this book memorable. I really enjoyed it.

36 of 36 people found this review helpful

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Don't miss this one-off treasure!


I loved this book. Shaun Bethyll has owned and run Scotland’s largest second hand book shop in Wigtown on the coast of Galloway for 14 years. He’s wildly and wonderfully idiosyncratic, driven by passion and prodigious energy as he travels all over buying up books (some harrowing visits looking through the treasured collections of those forced by age or bereavement to downsize when he feels he’s ‘erasing all they were’); organising the essential online sales, the Random Book Club as well as the now very successful Wigtown Book Festival – and dealing with the daily flow (frequently only the slightest trickle) of customers whose eccentricities and downright rudeness Bethyll makes hugely entertaining.

“When are ye having the bonfire?” asks one offensively; others constantly haggle over the price, stalk off angrily when refused a huge discount; are convinced that their bag of old books fit only for re-cycling are worth good money; only want something if it’s free, whilst some even pencil in a low price whilst amongst the stacks and then present it for payment. They spend hours reading a heap of books from the shelves by the fire, only to leave at closing time having bought nothing and leaving the books to be re-shelved. One man left his false teeth balanced on Tommy Blair’s Autobiography.(Was he making some kind of statement?)

I’m going to miss Bythell’s eccentric right-hand woman Nicky who is usually late (on occasion delayed by dropping an éclair on herself whilst driving) and rarely does what is asked of her. Every ‘Foodie Friday’ she comes with a bag of ‘delicacies’ from the supermarket skip, warning Bythell off one particular nauseating lump of cinnamon swirl because she’d already licked the icing off it

Bythell’s caustic wit (never cruel or judgemental, just sharply observant) is an absolute joy, but there’s a very serious and sometimes angry side to it all in the sheer grind of keeping a bookshop as splendid as this one going in this age of online sales. (His framed smashed Kindle on the wall is much admired by customers). It’s seen in his daily modest totals of ‘online sales’; ‘books found’; ‘till takings’ recorded throughout the year of this diary, and in the necessity for selling the odd no-longer needed local disability scooter or commode alongside the books; and no less in his painful back which is the result of lugging 1000s of books around. The experience of the customer from Kent’s joy at finding an old Latin Primer with his father’s schoolboy’s name in it was uplifting (Bythell gave it him free).

I loved the Scottishness of it, the Scots cadences and language so well created by Robin Laing; the isolated position of Wigtown, Bythell’s inclusion of the weather (significant when the cold whistles through the book stacks); his appreciation of his salmon fishing and October sea-swimming. Pure pleasure – get listening!

64 of 68 people found this review helpful

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Laugh-out-loud account of being an independent bookseller in the age of Amazon

Bookseller Shaun Bythell’s account of owning a bookshop in a ‘forgotten’ part of rural Scotland is funny, sarcastic and endearing. He’s rude about his customers, his staff, kindles and Amazon. It made me immediately want to go to Wigtown to experience his bookshop in person, stop buying books from behemoths, and read every single one of the recommended titles he intersperses throughout the narrative. Long live independent booksellers.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Laugh out loud funny

We have a local bookshop in East Grinstead just like this one - a really good bookshop with a passionate owner - I keep wanting to go in and ask if the owner John has read this book - better not let on I listened to it though. I now have a new respect for the trade. The characters are superbly drawn and the place comes alive, especially on 'Foody Fridays' however, I felt rather guilty listening on a device, and I own a kindle - sorry - the framed shotgun-pellet riddled kindle in the shop is the most photographed item! In my defence I do buy reference and local history books though. Well worth listening to, the narrator was superb which makes a huge difference.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Excellent and Funny!

I bought this on a two-for-one offer from Audible knowing nothing about the book.

What an excellent serendipitous choice! It is laugh-out-loud funny and also charming in it's description of a small business. So different from the buzzword and BS-filled world of the corporate monsters many of us are forced to inhabit.

Heartwarming and very well written.

Recommended.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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First time I've reviewed a title before it's ended

What did you like most about The Diary of a Bookseller?

The wonderfully honest approach is constantly witty. It does help that I run a bookshop though.

What other book might you compare The Diary of a Bookseller to, and why?

I've not heard another book like this.

Which character – as performed by Robin Laing – was your favourite?

His voice comes over wonderfully well.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

It might be of limited interest but anyone who has had to deal with those of "the dark side" (Amazon Sellers) will enjoy this tremendously!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Slightly unpleasant.

The most disappointing thing about this book is the mean-spiritedness of the author. He is carping, snobbish, disparaging, judgmental and ungracious about the people who keep him in his business. If he doesn't like rubbing shoulders with people less intellectual, less educated or less well-dressed than himself or with different perspectives from his own then I think he should give up his shop and employ himself somewhere well away from his fellow man. He can't bear people who stand in his door ways, he laughs at someone whose trousers are made out of inferior material, he makes offensive comments about the way someone smells, he parodies the voice of an elderly lady who appears to be good enough to place regular orders with him, he takes care not to pay more than he must for a consignment of second hand books yet rants incessantly about people who ask for a discount when they buy several books from him - does it ever occur to him that some people are harder up than he is? I get the stuff about Amazon depressing the business of the local bookseller and sympathise but the upside is that people can buy a book without getting laughed at, made to feel stupid or made to feel in the way. Great reading by Robin Laing, but that was the only good thing about this audiobook.

46 of 56 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark H
  • Kilwinning, United Kingdom
  • 22-01-18

A lifestyle choice shared by a witty author

I was unsure what to expect from this book, but the reviews were good so I took a chance. I am pleased that I did. The book is a day-by-day account of one year in the life of book shop owner Shaun Bythell, who lives and works in the Scottish ‘book town’ of Wigtown. It sounds as if it could be bookish or boring, but it is neither. Whist the backdrop is the second hand book business, it is really an account of the characters that Shaun interacts with, which includes customers, colleagues, friends, family and those from whom he buys his stock of books. The book captures life in a similar way to Alan Bennet, but perhaps with a rather more judgemental and droll description of some characters. This is especially true of his assistant Nicky, whose unconventional lifestyle, behaviours, values and quick wit significantly enrich the book. Shaun’s generosity of spirit, his socially inclusive perspective and his outgoing nature that has cultivated many friendships also means that he has a lot going on with which to fill a diary.

Several times, Shaun rails against Amazon.com and the negative impact it has had on the book trade (from a sellers perspective), which I am sure is true. However, it is a little ironic to be listening to his views on an audible book, sold by Audible ( an Amazon company).

Finally, I want to highly commend the narrator, Robin Laing, whose interpretation and delivery were outstanding. His Fife accent for Nicky was ideal.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ann D
  • Newcastle, England
  • 16-12-17

Okay!

If I had paid for this book, I would have returned it a few chapters in. However, it was my second choice in a two for one offer. It’s essentially a monthly diary. Each chapter begins with the name of the month, and takings, book sold and bought are including. Otherwise, it is the soporific musings of an intolerant little man, who doesn’t like, or respect people very much. There are some insights into the workings of the Amazon corporation and it’s effects upon bookshops. It proved fine to fall asleep too, but I couldn’t have listened to it during the day.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Rude Rantings of a Small Minded Man

I found this book to be utterly rude and disrespectful of the customers that keep this man in business.
I kept listening hoping for a story or something interesting to happen, it was wholly disappointing.
For someone that dislikes Amazon & Kindles so much, I find it ironic that his book is for sale on Amazon, Kindle and Audible.
He’s put me off going into a book shop, apparently customers are there to be mocked and abused rather than keep him in business.
This book is a very sorry excuse of a book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful