Diary of a Bookseller (Bythell) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Diary of a Bookseller … then take off on your own:

1. How would you describe Shaun Bythell? Does "grumpy old man" hit the mark? Is he truly a curmudgeon? Or, given the customers he deals with on a daily basis, does he have reason to be a tad acerbic?

2. Talk about Bythell's customers. What about those who seemingly spend hours among the shelves but never purchase a book? Or the ones who threaten to go home and buy a title online? Do you see yourself in some of those people? Given Bythell's less-than-flattering descriptions, would you have the courage to walk through his door?

3. Speaking of buying books online, discuss the economics of the bookselling trade — especially the power that Amazon and other large chain stores have vis-a-vis smaller, independent brick & mortar shops.

4. Given the seemingly never ending challenges his bookstore faces (i.e., difficult customers and difficult economics), why does Bythell continue? He says he loves his work? What specifically does he love?

5. What is Bythell's case for books, the paper and ink kind, over digital readers?

6. What curious fact about the book trade surprises you most: that first editions are not usually all that valuable, for instance, or that people who ask about Bibles, never buy them? What about men and railway books?

7. "On the whole (in my shop at least) the majority of fiction is still bought by women, while men rarely buy anything other than nonfiction." Care to make a comment? Perhaps things are different in the US than the UK? What about spy thrillers: do men read them more frequently than women do?

8. What does Bythell have to say about the long-term survival of books and bookshops? What does he see as the future of the book trade? What do you see?

9. What do you think of Bythell's staff? Who do you find more endearing … or amusing?

10.  Talk about how Bythell sources his bookstore — about the auctions and estate sales he attends.

11. What incidents or passages or quips do you find especially funny in The Diary of a Bookseller?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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