5 Easy Things You Can Do On World Book Day

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Here are five things you can do on World Book Day today, wherever you live. Literacy is priceless and self-perpetuating, and a skill that costs nothing to keep. Your discernment and taste in reading gets richer and deepens with every year of your life, except in the case of my father, who was stayed with the Daily Mail. I didn’t say it was foolproof.

Give a book

Because reading matters. Go to GiveABook here to help, or simply get a book you’ve finished with and pass it on to someone who you think might like it. Failing that, hand it to a stranger. They’ll probably think you’re mad so if that unnerves you, give one to a secondhand bookshop or charity shop. I know people complain that Oxfam is damaging book sales, so if you feel that way pick a different shop.

Visit a library

Even if you’ve never checked out your local library before, Google one and give it a quick whirl in your lunch-break. Talk to a librarian. Many are actually very nice and will make time for you. If you’re researching you’ll know that the British Library has zillions of catalogues online to pique your interest, here.

Read a book

Reading is habit-forming. I have friends who cite time-poverty when it comes to reading, but the truth is we get out of the habit. But habits can be fixed really easily, and your reading speed picks up fast. Pick a book on a subject you’d never normally choose. I just read ‘Larchfield’ by Polly Clark, about a young mother trying to write poetry, and was enthralled by it. Who knew?

Leave a book

It’s the simplest thing of all to do. Leave a book somewhere it will be found and enjoyed. Try this system, book crossing, here. Today I’ll be leaving around 30 books all over London, signed and dated. Book crossing is the act of releasing your books into the wild for a stranger to find, or via controlled release to another BookCrossing member, and tracking where they go via journal entries from around the world.

Buy a book

This is one of my bookshelves, at the top there. See that space, bottom left? It’ll be filled today. I know that for some people a bookshop is where you go to make phonecalls (Waterstones Piccadilly is the epicentre for people bellowing into their phones while they pace the shelves) but try one you haven’t visited before. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by dozens of bookshops (ruinous on the wallet but hey, obsessions need to be fed). Find your nearest one and buy something, anything. Buy a book. Most of you don’t need encouragement, I know. Feed your desire. Buy a book. You know you want to. It’s World Book Day, clue’s in the name!

12 comments on “5 Easy Things You Can Do On World Book Day”

  1. Stephen says:

    Hi Chris,I’m in a book club at the local library,and the next book we’re reading is The Burning Man. They haven’t read you before.

  2. Margaret says:

    Chris, I’ve never commented before – been a lurker for some time as both your B & M books and this blog enhance my quiet country life; retired library assistant with a house over-filled with words waiting to be read or re-read. Will be doing all five of these today – including new to me BookCrossing and a small donation to GiveABook. Thank you for all your words, and being a sane voice in an increasingly unfathomable world.

  3. Chris Webb says:

    I hope you’re going to post another photo when you have filled up that gap.

    For a long time I’ve been trying to pluck up enough courage to go into one of those second hand / antiquarian bookshops in Charing Cross Road. Bit scary though – aside from looking like something from an M R James story are the shopkeepers going to peer disapprovingly over their spectacles at anybody who looks like an outsider? Are they rubbing their hands with glee at the opportunity to humiliate anybody who is not an expert on early 19th century literature? Will any attempt to actually buy one of their precious books be met with stony silence?

  4. admin says:

    Chris you have to try them, I use them all the time and the staff are generally fantastic. The only bad one is the miserable old sod in Judd St Books. Those Charing X bookshops tend now to be full of Chinese guys buying job-lots of books to resell to their Ye Olde Englande obsessives!

  5. Roger says:

    Someone said the remainder and second-hand sections in the Gower Street University Bookshop had closed. They’re mistaken. Both are in the basement and much smaller and second-hand is now “Rare and Antiquarian” with range and prices to match.

  6. davem says:

    I have a surprising number of the books in the above picture.

    However, I saw an excellent one that I do not possess and ordered it immediately.

    Thanks Chris.

    Incidentally, in respect of 2nd hand books, I purchased a copy of ‘London 1945: Life in the debris of war”, in very good condition, for the princely sum of one penny last week! Incredible.

  7. Brian Evans says:

    Does the second hand book fair still operate in Bloomsbury on the 2nd Sun of each month? Usually around the Imperial Hotel. I used to go a lot when I lived round that area and it was excellent.

  8. David says:

    In the days when Swiss Cottage library was in the beautiful old red brick building on the corner of Arkwright Road, that is now the arts centre, there was a secondhand bookshop in the arcade of the old Swiss Cottage tube station. It was a treasure trove to a schoolboy, I bought a hardback copy of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom that I was sure had to be worth a fortune and numerous Pan paperbacks about WWII frogmen and Commander Crabb who had disappeared only a few years year earlier. The shop, which was run by an elderly brother and sister I think, later moved and became the Flask Walk bookshop, which may well still be there in some form or another. There was an even more ramshackle bookshop in Oriel Place off Fitzjohns Avenue run by an old gentleman who liked to stack his books vertically to get more in. He sticks in my mind because he refused to sell me a paperback copy of a Jean Genet novel as he thought I was too young to be reading such stuff. Another goldmine later on was the basement of the Record Exchange by the 52 bus stop at Notting Hill Gate, a cellar full of thousands of books originally priced at 10p for run of the mill editions and 50p for exotica. At one point they went through a phase of sorting the shelves by the colour of the binding, red, blue, black, yellow, a dazzling array of books most charity shops would reject. I it was a sad day when they finally closed it down.

  9. Jo W says:

    My name is Jo and I’m a book addict! Recently ‘im indoors suggested that some judicious pruning of the bookshelves was needed to avoid avalanches. I think it was because he doesn’t trust the fixings any more!
    Well,I bit the bullet and our local charity shops had the benefit of several boxes of books. (Wipes away a tear.)
    This,of course,has resulted in large spaces on those shelves,but,following your instructions for World Book Day,there is now one book bought and three more on order. Still space for Wild Chamber at the end of the month. Soon fill up those aching voids. 😉

  10. Helen Martin says:

    I have been a BookCrosser for about 12 years. The original idea was that it would be a way to thin out our shelves. The unfortunate result, however, is that I have been introduced to a number of strange books – and some strange people – and the books are now piled on the floor as well as on shelves. I took a half dozen to Britain when we went, gave one to a girl without any reading matter at Covent Garden and left the others in various places. I knew they’d all been picked up – saw them missing – but never heard anything from the system. If you pick up a BookCrossing book do sign in anonymously and say you found it. We really like to know.

  11. Tony Walker says:

    My name’s Tony, and I’m a ….. biblioholic. In my 73 years, I guess there are only a few days during which I haven’t read a book, or part of a book. I find it impossible to enter a book shop without buying something. Having said that, I don’t recognise W H Smith as a book shop any more, although it used to be, back in the day when their shop fronts, with the Arts and Crafts signage, indicated a source of good reading material.

    What I have been doing lately, is spreading the word that it’s extremely unlucky to go into any (preferably an independent) bookshop, and not buying anything. Pass the word around about this, it may gain some momentum.

  12. Antonia Dailly says:

    I’m a bit bamboozled by the idea that being time poor means not reading. What do other insomniacs do, or anyone who uses public transport or once in bed but not asleep yet people do if not read?

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