Shaun Bythell: Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops

Shaun Bythell Photo: supplied

Shaun Bythell has run Wigtown’s The Bookshop since 2001. It’s the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland with shelves spanning nearly two kilometres and containing more than 100,000 books.

His trademark sardonic humour has landed him the unofficial title of “Scotland’s grumpiest bookseller”. It has also produced two bestselling books; The Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller both of which focus on his shop and its clientele.

His latest release Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops, introduces us to “the Person Who Doesn’t Know What They Want (But Thinks It Might Have a Blue Cover)”, “the harried Parents Secretly After Free Childcare” and over in the erotica section, “The Person Who Is Up to No Good”.

The store reopened about two weeks ago, and customers have begun trickling back, Bythell says.

“On the whole I try to think of myself more as an observer than a critic of people’s behaviour. I’m rarely actually rude to people face to face, I try and just reflect people’s behaviour back to them, so if they’re rude to me I’ll be rude to them. But most customers aren’t rude, most of them are fine.

“So, I think I actually quite like it when people are rude or say annoying things, because it gives me something to write about. And that’s been one of the problems of lockdown, because no customers means no material.

“The whole human interaction thing has ground to a halt more or less in the UK, for pretty much a year, and even if you think you don’t like it, when it’s taken away from you, you do miss it.

“Even rude strangers, it’s just something different and new. If all you have is the same few faces every day then it does get a bit boring.”

Bythell says he’s been the recipient of several acts of Covid-19 kindness that have been heartening.

“I’ve had a lady from Monaco, who’d read an article by Margaret Atwood saying the people who’re going to suffer are small businesses, and if you feel you can do anything to support them, then I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

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