Even though I was supposed to read books from Africa this month, I also read The Diary of a Bookseller. I caught a cold (tested negative, no worries), and even though I would love to be the kind of person who still reads Senegalese poetry while feeling ill, I needed some comfort literature. I just couldn’t focus on anything too intense.
So this book was ideal. I got this free review copy of the translation a few your ago from the Dutch publisher, but I hadn’t yet come around to it (woops!). It’s a lot lighter than the literature I normally read. But it’s also loads of fun and ideal if you’re looking for something not too heavy.
The book is written by Shaun Bythell, the real life owner of The Bookshop, a secondhand bookshop in Wigtown, a place in Scotland that kind of lives of its literary reputation. They have some bookshops, literary festivals, etc. Shaun starts off by saying that people always have this kind of romantic idea of what it is to own a bookshop and says he will show that it is quite the contrary – and then continues to absolutely prove he completely lives up the romantic ideal of the life of a bookstore owner. He spends his days in his store or cruising through the country looking for book collections to buy and sell, hosts a literary festival where all kinds of big names drunkenly end up sleeping on his couch and still has time to go fishing. Oh, I’m sure he works hard, but no-one ever said bookshop owners don’t work hard.
So we mostly read about his dealings with weird costumers, his even weirder employees and the fight against Amazon. The stories lean a lot on a sort of Scottish/British kind of humor, and I’m not sure the Dutch translation really captures that. Sometimes you can just feel the English beneath the text – in the case of this book, I feel like recommending to read the original.
The book does really inspire to go to Wigtown, or even Scotland in general, and makes you awkwardly conscious of your own behaviour in bookstores. And if you are still buying from webgiants like Amazon or Bol, it will really shame you out of that. So please, just buy your books at local independent bookstores, or through their own websites or (for the Dutchies) through websites like boekwinkeltjes.nl.