Saturday, February 4 is National Libraries Day and to celebrate and raise support for our libraries, 23 top writers have combined their considerable literary talents to create The Library Book.
This anthology is really a love letter to libraries, with essays, memoirs and short stories from the likes of Stephen Fry, Caitlin Moran, Zadie Smith, Lionel Shriver and Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan. They describe libraries real and imagined, past, present and future and why they matter. All 23 authors are donating their royalties to The Reading Agency, the independent charity that works towards inspiring people to read more.
Perhaps our favourite piece in the book is Library Life by Zadie Smith, which is a powerful, poignant tribute to Willesden Green Library in which she describes her family as “chronic library users”. From being a place where she would hang out with her friends, Zadie describes how the library became somewhere where they were “reading for our lives.” Among the many reasons that libraries are wonderful, precious institutions that must be protected and defended, she includes this one: “Despite the many wonders of the internet, you might suddenly long for the smell of old books.”
Whatever your literary tastes, you're sure to find something in The Library Book to inspire or move you, whether it's the fantastical extract from China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, or Caitlin Moran's moving tribue to her alma mater, Warstones Library in Wolverhampton. For Caitlin, libraries are "cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul, theme parks of the imagination... the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead."