Let The Right Book In
This morning I sat on the Jubilee line and was suddenly overcome with a slight twang of ‘What have I done?’ I had chosen my commute as the place I would give out copies of Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist for World Book Night. Looking around at the people avoiding eye contact, claiming kingdom over armrests and smacking of misery. The thought crossed my mind for a fleeting moment that this was going to be a tough crowd to crack.
Then I remembered that the one common thread that has led me to conversations with commuting strangers has been books. Whether it’s a small knowing smile I’ve shared with the dozens upon dozens of people I’ve seen reading Cloud Atlas over the years. The time someone tapped me on the knee when they spotted I was reading American Gods on the Piccadilly Line and we ended up chatting about Neil Gaiman’s books all the way from Kings Cross to Osterley. Or the time I looked over to the person sat next to me on the Metropolitan Line to see we were both reading Mrs Dalloway and we shared a surprised laugh (what are the chances). I’m yet to witness this with Kindles, book covers are so much more easier to spot. One more reason why print wins for me every time.
It’s been fascinating seeing the range of facial expressions people go through when you approach them, strike up conversation and offer them a free book. Heavy browed suspicion, bemusement, eventually a genuine smile. Someone literally gave me a pat on the back and said thank you for being a volunteer, another lady said I had made her day. A man screamed “Mr Crawley, you have broken my feathers” at me (that’s Kilburn for you) and declined the book. At one point I found myself in competition with someone else offering eternal life (I am pleased to say I think I won that round). Mainly, I was surprised how many people just wanted to chat once they got over the initial scepticism. Even those that declined the book had a natter about what they’re reading, asked how many books I’d shifted.
I’m back home now, with a cup of hot ribena and an empty bag. Ready to pick up my own book for the evening, Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop. Thanks for picking me World Book Night. It was a page turning experience. ♥
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