Wednesday 6 September 2023

Rowlinson, Derek "What's the best you can do?"

Rowlinson, Derek "What's the best you can do?: First-hand Recollections of a Second-hand Bookseller" - 2009

After reading Shaun Bythell's books about his life as a second hand bookseller, this one was recommended to me on one of the sites. Since I still wait for Shaun's next book to be published in paperback, I thought I might read this one in between.

This is another book about customers of a book shop where one can only shake your head. I'm surprised people still do this because the way they get treated is unbelievable.

Derek Rowlinson's book is not as funny as that of his Scottish counterpart but also highly entertaining. His description of some of his nice customers and their little quirks is great. But the others! My goodness. How can you treat books and booksellers that way?! He sorts the different characters into plenty self-explaining categories: time-wasters, thieves, meanness, asking silly questions, … I hope no bookseller has ever added me to one of their negative lists, second or first hand sellers.

And the beauty about any book like this: you feel the whole time as if you are in a bookshop. And that's paradise!

The illustrations by Graham Kennedy add to the pleasure of reading the book.

From the back cover:

"An autobiographical glimpse into the world of second-hand bookselling, where teh funny and the sad coexist like a microcosm of life itself. Here is a book that starts with a smile and ends with a wink."

The author has also written "Truelove's Journal: A Bookshop Novella" (Goodreads) under the pseudonym Ralph St. John Featherstonehaugh. That book deserves to be read for the funny and inventive name alone.


  1. Replies
    1. It definitely was very informative and I also had some good laughs. Thanks, Emma.

  2. Not at my library yet - will look out for it

    1. Thanks, Anon. I doubt that they will get it if they don't have it, yet. It's not in print anymore. I got a used copy.

  3. I love reading about bookshops...real or fictional. :D