It’s a weekly struggle explaining to non-book-industry folk exactly what I do for a living. In publishing circles, bookselling is a fine, respected career. It’s a fundamental part of the cycle, after all: we put books in the hands of readers. But there’s more to it than that; a workload people not “in the know” don’t understand.
When I explain I spent the day shelving books, these outsiders picture me lackadaisically wandering the shop, humming a tune, easing books into their rightful slots, not cringing at how tightly packed everything is. When I say the shop was busy, they imagine my reading behind the counter being interrupted by an enquiring customer, when in fact, I don’t know a bookseller who has time to read a single sentence during trading hours. Never mind the need to chase customer orders, dealing with short-supplied deliveries, arranging displays, meeting reps and authors, finding books for the eleven members of a customer’s family, each with a specific interest, all of which need to be gift-wrapped in a specific kind of wrapping paper, with a specific colour of ribbon, with knots that’re bulky, but not obtrusive, and oh, they needed to be wrapped ten minutes ago, because they’re parked illegally, and oh shit, is that the parking inspector?!
Suffice to say, I love my job. But explaining its intricacies and exasperations isn’t easy. Which is why Shaun Bythell’s book is so delightful. It encapsulates many of the daily episodes that make up the sum total of my life, and the challenges faced by booksellers across the world by multinational corporations. But more than that, it’s a portrait of the author’s small town of Wigtown, and its quirky community. The way he describes it, it’s a place I very much want to visit.
The Diary of a Bookseller details a year in the life of Bythell, who is the owner of Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop. His sharp-tongued, frequently hilarious analysis of his customers had me guffawing on the train, stifling the laugh of a madman. He explains the delights and hardships faced by booksellers, and reminded me why I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, and steeled me for the fight ahead, as the big boys move in and try and take over. Funny, endearing, inspiring; for any book lovers out there, this is is a must.
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Imprint: Profile Books Ltd
Publication date: June 2017
Dimensions: 216mm X 135mm
Produced in: United Kingdom
Availability date: October 2017