Book Review: Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell


Reader, let's peek inside the mind of Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop located in Wigtown, Scotland in his follow-up book to The Diary of a Bookseller.

Confessions of a Bookseller chronicles a year in the life of Bythell beginning in January 2015 and ending on December 31st of that year. The story focuses on his personal thoughts and reflections throughout the year sometimes elaborating on specific moments and other times only saying what is needed without explanation. Each clip of the day features the thoughts, accounts, and happenings, of which, I felt would be a bit boring about fifteen pages into the book. However, as I kept reading, I noticed that the format of the entries, starting with the online orders and ending with the amount sold in the day, kept a pace and routine for reading.

Likewise, Bythell's sarcasm is infectious as it should be with a book labelled as "Confessions." While some readers may find it off-putting that Bythell comments on the stupidity of some customers in his retail life, I would gently offer them a stint in working retail so they can see why these situations would be nothing less of an eye roll. However, Bythell comes from a unique point of view wherein he has to elate customers by purchasing as well as selling in that he runs a used bookshop of antiquities (a word that has multiple meanings ranging from mundane to high-brow rationality). I especially enjoyed the way Bythell infused his trouble with online platforms and technology as a vein for readers to follow as they experience a year in his life.

One of the most exceptional parts of the story comes in Bythell's journals as a reader. I found myself taking note of the various titles he mentions and searching for copies for myself. Bythell stops periodically to reflect on his own personal readings as he continues the narrative of his life as a bookshop owner often times finding a pathway that connects the two experiences making real-world lasting evaluations.

Along with his main bookshop, Bythell manages The Open Book which he describes "is run as an Airbnb which anyone can rent in order to experience running a bookshop for a week" (loc 101). Many interesting relationships are afforded through this unique opportunity.

Perhaps one of the best relationships (not exactly a part of The Open Book) is that of an Italian woman dubbed "Granny" who is nothing less of entertaining as her neurotic tendencies and infectious demeanor lead her to a longer stint at The Bookshop. There were laugh-out-loud moments with Granny as she becomes better acclimated to the English language and finds an outlet in verbose obscenities.

I found Bythell's account to be real without applying a thick guard against saying what is on the mind perhaps because of my own desire to own a bookstore or the basic nature of living vicariously through the life of someone living in a much different setting than myself. Either way, I would recommend the book for readers who need a reminder that there are other lives out there existing beyond our small bubbles. Additionally, I would throw this book in the hands of anyone who has ever worked or owned retail as a therapy in itself.

Readers, you can pick up your copy of Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell on August 29, 2019.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐3/4

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an advanced reader's copy of this book. Shaun Bythell would probably be disgusted that I had to read it on a Kindle. :-) Can we make a mug for that?

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