In a world where businesses are being decimated by a crashing economy, “Scotland’s grumpiest bookseller”, Shaun Bythell, admits that it is perhaps not the wisest idea to “undoubtedly offend the very people on whom (he) depend(s) for a living”, but write it he does and readers will be delighted he has. Bythell’s trademark wry wit is at the top of its game in his latest book about bookselling – Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops.
Shaun Bythell bought The Bookshop in Wigtown in 2001 and has documented the trials and tribulations of running a bookshop and the various customers and staff he has dealt with along the way in his two previous international bestsellers, The Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller. In his latest publication he focusses particularly on the people that come into the bookshop – “those wretched creatures with whom we’re forced to interact on a daily basis” – and who Bythell begrudgingly admits he has missed greatly during the lockdown of 2020.
He splits his customers into seven categories and within each category by type. The reader will laugh their way through each ‘genus’ because they will recognise them all. There is the ‘bore’ in the Expert genre, the ‘pantalons rouge’ in the Bearded Pensioner genre and of course ‘the American’ in the Family Historian category. All of them are pulled apart by Bythell but in such a humorous way as to be almost friendly. Some individual customers are called out for special attention and it has become a mark of the author’s success that it is no doubt something of a badge of honour for his ‘regulars’ to be mentioned by name.
A bonus final chapter focusses on the staff he has worked with and even Bythell himself is put under the critical microscope: “Nobody in their right mind would ever give a job to someone so completely devoid of the most rudimentary social skills that even a Neanderthal outcast would look like Jay Gatsby in their company.” He is being incredibly unfair on himself as when you finish the book you will want nothing more than to wander the shelves of the very Bookshop he discusses and meet the man himself.