Shaun Bythell continues to recount his adventures as the proprietor of the Bookshop, in Wigtown, Scotland, in Confessions of a Bookseller. Earlier this year, I listened to the audiobook of The Diary of a Bookseller and loved it. I jumped at the chance to hear more weird tales of life in a secondhand bookstore when I saw this available on NetGalley. This new entry did not disappoint.
Covering 2015, Confessions of a Bookseller is just as chaotic as Bythell’s first memoir. The Bookshop sees multiple construction projects, surly staff, bizarre and belligerent customers, a wormy cat, bad house guests, and ongoing battles with online bookselling software. But The Bookshop, in spite of a crumbling chimney and customers who argue for deep discounts, seems to be on better footing in 2015 thanks to all of Shaun’s side hustles like working on the Wigtown Book Festival, interviews, meme-making, anti-Kindle merchandise, and the Random Book Club. Whenever Bythell mentions this club—in which subscribers pay to receive a random book each month—I’m tempted to sign up just to see what I would receive…But I have too much to read as it is.
As before, I was struck by the parade of customers who seemingly refuse to pay books what they’re worth when they’re at the Bookshop. This parade alternates with a bunch of people looking to sell books that they no longer have room for or that they inherited. These people always overvalue books rather than undervalue them, leaving Bythell caught in the middle. Once a book is purchased the first time, pricing becomes hugely subjective. We can say that a book is worth what the market will bear. Bythell mentions that a page from a Gutenberg Bible was once auctions for £74,000. It’s a crap shoot that Bythell can’t seem to win because taste in books changes over time, book condition raises or lowers prices, and there’s the ever present undercutting of Amazon. Small wonder that Bythell is tap-dancing as fast as he can.
I would recommend Confessions of a Bookseller (and The Diary of a Bookseller) to all my librarian friends. (A lot of the customers that turn up in the Bookshop sound like patrons who turn up in public libraries.) I would also recommend Bythell’s books to anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to run a bookstore—not necessarily to disillusion them, but to give them a humorous reality check about life in the book trade.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.