If you happen to harbour a vague romantic notion of some day opening your own second-hand bookshop where the artistic intelligentsia would congregate to discuss highbrow matters and engage in witty badinage, then perhaps you would do well to read “What’s the best you can do?” first. It may not necessarily put you off the idea altogether, but it will certainly provide you with a sharp reality check. The book is an autobiographical account of a second-hand bookshop owner in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 90s and is a combination of straight prose mixed with numerous anecdotes of a mainly humorous, but sometimes rather poignantly sad nature. Although set against the backdrop of ‘The Troubles’, it shows how life generally went on pretty much as normal in those times, and that the experience of the second-hand bookseller is essentially universal, irrespective of circumstances or location. These recollections provide an insight into the world of used bookselling whilst simultaneously entertaining with descriptions of the often inexplicable behaviour of various characters who came through the door. The rude, the mean, and the downright stupid all make an appearance, and the eccentric is never too far away either. Bizarre situations, silly questions, and the author’s reaction to them, seriously threaten to have you chuckle out loud at times. A ‘must’ for lovers of the world of used books.
This is an autobiographical collection of anecdotes about the life of a bookseller that provides the reader with many unexpected insights into the book-dealing world. Some of the author’s reminiscences will have you laughing out loud and some will bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes. Some of his descriptions of his customers are so entertaining, the rude, the thoughtless, the eccentrics and the tightwads all get a mention, as do the kind and considerate. His bookshop was in Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, and it was a bomb that bought to an end Rowlinson’s bookstore enterprise. He explains how this event led to him becoming an online dealer and his thoughts on this manner of selling books. This little book is a must for lovers of ‘books about books’ and for those interested in the world of second-hand book selling. It will always have a home on my bookshelves.