Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (Profile Books paperback, £8.99)

Wigtown in Scotland has become very well known for its bookshops. They host a huge annual book festival and at the heart of this are Shaun Bythell and his bookshop called….The Bookshop.

Well, everything else about it is original, and Shaun himself is quite a character. In this diary of a year in second-hand bookselling, he offers an honest and often hilarious insight into his life and world. There are quiet days in January when his takings are frankly frightening. There are days when he leaves the shop with summer staff and goes fishing. There are many trips around the country to buy people’s life collections of books, which often turn out to be worth next to nothing. There is a lot of time spent in vans and lifting boxes, unpacking and pricing stock and subsequently not being able to find where he put any of it.

He has a constant hate/hate relationship the ultra-demanding but necessary Abe Books (owned by Amazon), through whom he sells books online. A Kindle blasted by a shotgun takes pride of place on display in the shop. Shaun is not the only star of this book. A motley assortment of staff are involved in some of its most memorable passages, particularly Nicky who every Friday, brings in treats fished out of a skip behind Morrisons (note: none of the Little Apple staff do this) and who has very clear and unique views on most things. It is a book littered with Scottish characters like William and Wilma at the local Post Office and Sandy the Tattooed Pagan, and a feeling of small town life, where everyone knows everyone and most people were born a stone’s throw away.

It is also interspersed with extracts from George Orwell’s Bookshop Memories which add an extra dimension to all the experiences.

This book made me giggle so much. It is a true tonic. I have to say that I would never dare write something quite this honest and the world of new books is very different to the second-hand experience, thank goodness!

Review by Philippa Morris, Little Apple bookshop