Whitley Bay Book Group – October 2021
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
In our second meeting back we are up to seven attendees, and discussed another book which split the group. Shaun Bythell owns and runs The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop in Wigtown, and this book details his experiences.
Fans of the book found it witty and entertaining, providing insights into the life of a second-hand bookseller, and the changes brought to the trade by online book retailers such as Amazon. One of the group grew up in Wigtownshire and is a regular at the Wigtown Book Festival so appreciated the local colour, and another was inspired by the book to spend a short break in Dumfries and Galloway so that she could visit Wigtown and The Bookshop, where she bought a beautiful edition of Don Quixote.
Others found it slight, with insufficient depth for a book group choice. They disliked the author and the way he seemed to treat his employees and customers with contempt, unlike the way he talked about his partner, family, and clever friends. (However, one of the employees in particular did seem to be particularly annoying.)
We did agree that we liked the use as chapter headings of quotations from George Orwell who worked in a second-hand bookshop for a time, and may consider reading Keep the Aspidistra Flying in future. We also agreed that the author was at his most sensitive/likeable when he visited bereaved customers to value the deceased relative’s book collection, and usually ended up offering rather more than they were worth.
Shaun Bythell has written two further books – Confessions of a Bookseller, and Seven Types of People you find in Bookshops – and his former partner Jessica Fox (Anna) has written her own version Three Things you need to Know about Rockets.
In summary the book attracted mostly a mixture of four stars and two stars, averaging at around three.
We agreed not to have a Christmas meal this year, although may have a social event later in the New Year. And we agreed to reschedule the books we selected before the first lockdown, which means that at the next four meetings we will discuss:
10 Nov 2021 The Son-in-Law by Charity Norman
8 Dec 2021 The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
12 Jan 2022 The Caller by Karin Fossum
9 Feb 2022 The Burnt-out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen