Of course I couldn’t resist the title of this one when it came up in a NetGalley email. And the cover image is most enticing, too, isn’t it. This was a lovely book although I found it a bit confusing. I downloaded it at the end of October but had to avoid reading it during my Spanish holiday because it’s set in Italy (in fact there isn’t much Italian in it, but it still felt weird to mix the countries. So I read it after we got back and by then was in the whirl of book challenges that made up November, so didn’t have room to review it!

Alba Donati – “Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop”

(25 October 2022)

Donati appears to have opened her bookshop in a tiny Italian hill town just before the Covid lockdowns. She was told it was a ridiculous thing to do, to open a shop in a town of about 800 people, but she did it, through a crowdfunder. Then, when there was a fire, the community helped her again, and there was another crowdfunder. She has people work for her, I think as volunteers, and visitors somehow from all over Italy, as well as a thriving online ordering regime. In addition, an English expat helps her after Brexit when she can’t get certain things in from the UK.

The books she mentoins being ordered and being her favourites fall into a small group of mainly women writers, lots English, some continental, and she certainly seems to stock what she fancies stocking, not what might sell. She also stocks book-related items (tea bags, stockings …) and much of her energy seems to go into sourcing those. As well as all this, she has old friends and family members, a failing mum and a distant dad, a daughter who comes and goes and, somewhere, a husband, as well as various houses and buildings in the village.

The houses are what got me confused, as she talks about different ones and it’s not clear where she’s living, storing books, etc. She flits back to her childhood memories, as you would, setting up a bookshop in the town you grew up in. There are echoes of Shaun Bythell’s memoirs, not least in including a list of all the orders that day, and she does mention him several times. I’d still recommend his, but this is a nice meditation on life, authors, bookselling and community.

Thank you to Orion for allowing me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop” was published on 3 November 2022.

This was Book 13 for NonFiction November.