In this brilliant sequel to The Diary of a Bookseller, Bythell plays the misanthrope to perfection. For fans of his first book there are many familiar faces ... wonderfully droll and often hilarious. It’s the kind of authentic humour that has been honed by years of infuriatingly close contact with the great book-buying general public ... But despite the gloomy picture he paints of bookselling, this is a delightfully heart-warming love letter to bookshops, one that celebrates their serendipity: the unexpected joy of coming across books you didn’t know existed.
... excels at the same kind of acid comedy that made Diary such a guilty treat. Those who can’t peruse the shelves of their local second-hand bookstore during this lockdown season will find Mr. Bythell’s diaries a sharp reminder of what they’re missing. But it’s probably better to shop at a bookstore than to own one, or so readers gather from Mr. Bythell’s wryly observed accounts of his tribulations in the trade ... Online giant Amazon figures into both of Mr. Bythell’s books as a killer of independent bookstores. But the chance to shop anonymously, without fear of judgment from the man behind the counter, can seem not such a bad thing after reading Mr. Bythell’s barbs. Even his most obliging patrons aren’t immune from his unflattering assessments.
This second volume, Confessions of a Bookseller, is more of the same, but in between the comic tales of eccentric staff and maddening customers there is a more reflective, melancholy undertone to the book ... For all Bythell’s self-flagellation, he comes across as a generous, largely genial figure. It is hard to go for more than a few pages without finding him cooking for staying guests or drinking with friends until the small hours ... Reading Confessions of a Bookseller, it is natural to feel some sympathy for Bythell on those winter days when the town is buffeted by Atlantic storms and the day’s takings drop below £20. But then we find him sloping off to go salmon fishing with his father, hosting a packed author event or spending a long drunken evening reading out favourite poems with friends, and it is hard not to conclude that he has found his idyll after all.