Culture

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell review – service with a scowl

The owner of Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop has an entertainingly low opinion of customers

It is a wonder, reading some of Shaun Bythell’s descriptions of the customers in his bookshop, that anyone dares cross its threshold at all. Here we are introduced, for example, to one of the shop’s valued regulars, Mr Deacon: “His dark, thinning hair is combed over his pate in the unconvincing way that some balding men try to persuade others that they still retain a luxuriant mane… it appears as though someone has loaded his clothes into a cannon and fired them at him.”

Those who spend nothing – and they are legion – are particularly unflatteringly depicted, but even those who cough up are far from safe: “The wife mauled her way through the antiquarian shelves, coughing and moaning… Despite being remarkably annoying, [the couple] spent £250 on an 18th-century Scottish botanical book.”

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