Bibliophiles in Britain curl up with 25 books | india | Hindustan Times
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Bibliophiles in Britain curl up with 25 books

india Updated: Mar 08, 2011 01:44 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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David Cameron's still-mysterious Big Society cure appears to be working. As treasured but bankrupt British public libraries prepared to close down, tens of thousands of ordinary men and women gathered at bookshops and squares across Britain last week, discussing, donating, receiving, exchanging and reading books.

The resident, Twentysomething briefly considered walking through central London dressed as her favourite fictional character - whom did she have in mind? Elizabeth Bennet? Gandalf? Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz? -before settling for a less spectacular appearance among bibliophiles at a bookstore.

Britons came up with the funky idea to celebrate World Book Night on March 3, during the course of which a millions books were donated.

An army of 20,000 'givers' each handed out 48 copies of one of the 25 titles. Another 40,000 books were distributed in places that might otherwise miss out the grand occasion, including hospitals and prisons.

I knew a street seller of second-hand books in Islington, north London, who would periodically be picked up or moved by the police. But after missing out on just one of his weekly appearances, he would be right back the next week with his priceless yellowed fare.

He ran after me once with a book, promising I wouldn't regret buying it as he thrust a copy of The Narrative of Caba de Vaca into my hands while unmindfully accepting whatever it was that I offered in return.

The best part of the World Book Night, of course, was that it involved ordinary people. Nearly 5,000 turned up at London's Trafalgar Square for the inauguration on Friday. Most of the 25 books chosen for giving away were by contemporary authors. Representing 'our' part of the world were expats Rohinton Mistry and Mohsin Hamid. There are growing fears that one of the first casualties of the public sector spending cuts will be libraries. With 4,517 taxpayer-funded libraries, 523 have either closed or are under threat of closure.