Hands up if you still have books on your shelf that people gave you last Christmas – unread? Quite a few of us, I’d imagine.
I probably spend far too much money on books. It’s so easy – just point and click. And I love to give them, too. I had a great evening last week working as a volunteer wrapping people’s Christmas gifts in Waterstone’s for Booktrust. But the real joy was helping customers to find exactly the right book for a special person on their list.
The right book at the right time can transform a life. As writer Jackie Kay says, “A good book nourishes the soul and gladdens the heart. It lifts you and makes things seem possible that didn’t seem possible before.”
One book that has the potential to do this for many desperate people next year is Jack Monroe’s cookery book, “A Girl Called Jack”, which will be released in February. In a market dominated by celebrity chefs and must-have foodie ingredients, Jack’s realism and compassion, not to mention her personal experience of cooking for herself and her little boy on £10.00 a week are a breath of fresh air.
But there’s a problem. No matter how competitively priced it is, the people who really need Jack’s help won’t be able to afford it.
I’ve been thinking about a way around this for a while now, and I’ve come up with one. Yes, it will cost me some money, but if I can resist impulse buys from Amazon for the next four months, that should not be a problem.
A wonderful scheme called World Book Night has been around for a few years now. The idea is very simple – that on April 23rd every year people give away copies of a book that has touched their life to other people who wouldn’t normally read it. You can find out more about it on their website.
This year WBN are doing something new. Up to now, they have supplied the books for people to give. This year, you can apply to be a Community Book Giver. That means you choose a book, you pay for it, and you choose who receives it.
What a great opportunity to get Jack’s book to the people who really need it. I’m going to make a commitment that from now until April 23rd, every penny I spend on books for myself will be matched by an equal donation to my Jack Pot. That means at least one copy of her book, because I’ve already ordered it! But knowing my complete lack of willpower where books are concerned, I expect to be able to pay for quite a few more copies.
And I’ll be contacting food banks in my area and offering them those copies of A Girl Called Jack, so they don’t just give short-term help to people in crisis, but they can offer some hope of better times and a way out. What they do with those books is up to them, but I’m sure they will reach people who can make very good use of them.
So, anybody else willing to come in on this plan? If you’re up for it, you can register as a Community Book Giver here.
It’s better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness. Happy Christmas.