Free books. Isn’t that every reader’s dream? Well, here in Nottingham it’s about to become a reality with City of Literature’s Big City Reads campaign – the project aims to give away four free titles to anyone interested.
Chosen by a selection of City of Literature Youth Ambassadors, the books include those by Lize Meddings The sad ghost clubthat of Joya Goffney Excuse me while I cry uglyIbi Zoboi hit the air and Darren Simpson Further awayall of which will be available around Nottingham this summer.
Billing itself as a kind of literary scavenger hunt, City of Literature will leave clues on its social media about the whereabouts of the books, which are expected to be scattered around schools, libraries and cafes. “These won’t be crazy puzzles or anything,” Matt Turpin tells me, “rather a fun set of instructions that we’ll post on our social media.”
Hoping to create a sense of community, Matt comments that “I hope we can also use social media to foster conversation among readers, especially since they will be reading the same books.” Colleague Eleanor Flowerday adds in agreement: “We would like people to send reviews to post on our website, or doodles like in sad ghost club. We can’t wait to see how people interact with the books.
We really try to push the idea that reading can be a kind of self-care
United by the theme of “mood-boosting books,” Eleanor and Matt explain that all of the titles deal with mental well-being in one way or another. But also, “We’re really trying to push the idea that reading can be a kind of self-care and a way to take care of your well-being,” says Eleanor. “This is something that is particularly important after a difficult few years with the pandemic.”
Reflecting further on the impact of COVID, Matt adds that “I think during the pandemic we’ve all had deeply virtual lives, and in the same way that vinyl has made a comeback, books give you that wonderful time out. screen. Whether it’s reading, crafting, or something like that, people are interested in the magic of being tactile. I have books at home where the affection isn’t just for what’s inside, it’s the tattered cover, it’s the annotations, it’s all the markers of your relationship to the book.
In another attempt to nurture new relationships between young people, Big City Reads will host a series of meet-and-greet events in the form of writers’ conferences, where attendees can meet the authors themselves. Previously successful, Matt tells me that “in 2019, one of the books we gave away for free was (now the Netflix sensation) Heart stroke and we succeeded in bringing Alice Oseman to the Council Chamber. The buzz in the room was incredible and it felt like we had created this amazing book club for the people of Nottingham, which was really special.
Overall, this project to get young people excited about reading comes at just the right time – with the growing popularity of online reading cultures like booktok and bookstagram. An exciting feat for connecting young readers in Nottingham at a community level, Big City Reads is ideal for our UNESCO City of Literature.