Shaun Bythell has been running a Wigtown bookshop for twenty years now, and Remainders Of The Day is the third installment of his diary series about day-to-day life as a bookseller. Having worked in a quaint and quirky secondhand bookstore myself, I fully expected Remainders Of The Day to be a fun and relatable read, so I was delighted to receive a copy from Profile Books (via Allen & Unwin) for review.
Remainders Of The Day was more understated than I expected, quite a cozy read – with brilliant moments of sensational snark. “Spotted Bum-Bag Dave shuffling onto the bus to Newtown Stewart as I was closing up,” Bythell writes of a local ‘colourful character’ at one point. “He hasn’t set foot in the shop for quite a while. I think I may have offended him. I certainly hope so.”
What I think Bythell conveys really well is how variable the number of customers are (and the resultant takings) day-to-day. Some days, customers flow and the till tinkles often to the tune of hundreds of pounds. On other days, Bythell is lucky if he sees a single soul.
I think readers of Remainders Of The Day will be shocked to discover the hold that Amazon and other online retailers have over the book trade, even for traditional bricks-and-mortar store. Bythell’s bungles of online orders and frustrations with bureaucracy are a recurring motif.
The story did get a bit bogged down in the very detailed descriptions of the ins-and-outs of the Wigtown Festival (towards the end of September). Personally, I also reeled at the mention of some very tragic dog deaths mentioned (towards the end of May) – though I can hardly fault Bythell for that.
All told, Remainders Of The Day is a remarkably accurate insight into the life of a used bookseller, and a delightful easy read for this time of year.
Buy Remainders Of The Day on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)