I love books. And I love bookshops. When I’m stressed, when I’m sad, when I’ve got writers’ block, I head to a bookshop and I breathe. Then I buy as many tomes as I can carry. But it seems I’m a dying breed. Books, and the shops selling them, are under threat. Hence I found myself at the star-studded launch of the nationwide movement to champion bookstores – Books Are My Bag – masterminded by Maurice Saatchi.
Showing their support were, among others, Rachel Johnson, Sebastian Faulks and Kathy Lette – who I threw myself at in a wine fuelled fangirl move. It was a perfect meet your heros moment: Lette was warm and friendly, her razor sharp wit matched only by her razor sharp style. Megaswoons.
Then things got serious with the speeches. Stepping up to the podium to speak in favour of the written word were Patrick Neale, President of The Booksellers Association and bookshop owner, Gail Rebuck, Chair of Penguin Random House, and Lord Maurice Saatchi, of the M&C Saatchi.
Neale opened by telling the audience that, in the last ten years bookshops have been closing in the UK at the rate of one a week. Rebuck asserted bookshops are of great social importance and the lifeblood of our culture. Saatchi explained the iconic Books Are My Bag bags are to be human shields against the destruction of the bookshops. A bag carrying army of 100,000 book lovers will become walking adverts to the joy of books. I hope, down to my bones, it works.
Much as this was a joyous and entertaining event to attend, it had an important message at its heart. Saatchi put it best when he quoted his late wife, author Josephine Hart, “Reading was a route map through life.” We all need a little guidance now and then. Books offer us so much more than simply paper and ink. Let’s not let them disappear from our nation’s landscape. Get yourself down a bookshop – it’ll change your life (and theirs).
Further details about the Books Are My Bag campaign, including how you can get involved, can be found here.