A while ago, I put a little posting up on here about Wigtown – Scotland’s national book town which is only a mere 30-odd miles or so from my home. I mentioned that it is a wonderful, bookish sort of place and that it has a rather fine book festival each year.
Although I only touched upon the subject briefly in my previous ramblings, it should also be mentioned that Wigtown, as well as being the home of numerous book sellers and other bookish types, is also inhabited by some rather good authors. Two who are worthy of particular note are Shaun Bythell (proprietor of “The Book Shop”) and Jessica Fox. Between them, they have written a set of three books that, while not a trilogy as such, work rather well if you think of them like that and read them together. All three books are based upon real people and events in Wigtown, they cover some of the same period of time and they are all an easy and entertaining read.
So, without further ado, I give you today’s recommendations from Adrian’s bookshelves:
- The Diary of a Bookseller (Shaun Bythell). Written in the form of a diary (of course) covering a period of about a year, I suppose you might call this the first volume of Shaun’s memoirs. Or, at least, his memoirs as they pertain to running a bookshop in our current times. Funny, witty, sometimes a little sad, occasionally heartwarming (he may never forgive me for saying that) and, all in all, a fantastic read for anyone who has the least interest in books and the book trade.
- Confessions of a Bookseller (Shaun Bythell). The second volume of the bookselling memoirs. Following on from the previous volume and covering another year (or thereabouts) this continues in the same vein, showing the funny, sometimes frustrating, but always delightful side of running a bookshop in a place like Wigtown. (Well, delightful for us readers anyway – some events might be less delightful if you actually had to live through them yourself.)
- Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets (Jessica A Fox). Not a diary this time, but still autobiographical and covering some of the same time period (and involving some of the same characters) as you will encounter in Shaun’s books. If you’ve ever had the urge to give up on whatever you’re doing and follow a sudden, crazy urge to travel a few thousand miles around the world and do something totally different, you should read this book. Jessica did exactly that when she upped sticks from the west coast of the USA, stopped working for NASA and travelled to the west coast of Scotland to work in a bookshop. In fact, to work in The Book Shop (see above). The day-to-day adventures of adjusting to rural life in south-west Scotland, dealing with the lunatic schedule of the Wigtown Book Festival, learning to drive on the wrong side of the road in an exploding car and a little romance all followed. And other stuff that I won’t mention so that I don’t spoil the book for you, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone.
Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that – living here and frequenting Wigtown on occasions – I do know both Shaun and Jessica. So it is possible that my enjoyment of all three books was slightly enhanced by my familiarity with some of the people and places involved. However, I’m certain that I would still have enjoyed them even if I’d never seen or heard of Wigtown before in my life. They’re just good books that are well worth a read.