I’m going to be upfront. This week’s Random Act of Joy involves books. Again.
I know; I know. We had two literary acts in January and a third so soon is bordering on bookish excess but hopefully you’ll forgive me when I tell you that Saturday is National Libraries Day in the UK.
Like most people, I feel the squeeze of nostalgia when I think of my childhood visits to the library. The musty, wet wool smell, the delight at discovering a new favourite and the pleasure of being able to borrow anything I wanted for free, well, except for the odd 20p late fine. With membership of all of the local libraries, not to mention the travelling van, I had safe havens across the county and a wealth of literary talent at my disposal. Even if I did favour The Babysitter Club series and Usborne’s Jobs People Do above the classics. I was clearly unsure about my career path from an early age.
My library attendance has been less consistent over the years. Other than flirting with my friend Jake in the school library (much to Mrs Bowman’s annoyance) and panicked stints at my college library before exams, I preferred to buy my own unstained and sweet-smelling copies of books. If I wanted a reading refuge I would head to Borders, gather an assortment from the
personal development poetry section and sit there for hours with a hot chocolate instead. It’s quite possibly people like me who caused the retailer to go bust. Sorry.
These days I’ll borrow a book the odd book from the Barbican library or I’ll spend the afternoon at the British Library in an attempt to feel academic* but I no longer have the same connection with my local libraries that I once did. Perhaps, therefore, it’s hypocritical of me to be so upset at the thought of them closing. But upset, I am. So today’s Random Act of Joy is in honour of the library.
I’ve started a Make Me Joyful library with a catalogue of one: Pride and Prejudice. It may not be the most original choice, but it’s a good way to celebrate its 200th anniversary and, let’s be frank, who can resist Mr. Darcy?
There is something soul-warming about reading a book that someone has read before you. You’re connected by the same pages, the same scribbles in the margins, the same dog-eared creases where a place has been marked. You can look at the names on the inner cover and wonder whether they pictured Colin Firth when Darcy speaks or whether they hoped for their own happy ending just like Lizzie. There’s no neat isolation of your own copy. It’s messier, but it’s intimate.
The Make Me Joyful library is mobile and there are no risks of fines. All you need to do is leave a comment below and the first borrower will be picked at random. Once you’ve finished you can give the book to whoever you like and so it goes. It’s like a chain letter for books. But I’m not going to put a curse on you don’t pass it on. I’ll even include the date stamp so that you can play librarian too. For the rest of us, let’s borrow books and visit our libraries more. We will miss them if they go.
So, leave a comment below and I’ll pick the recipient (from anywhere in the world) on Tuesday 12th February.
* In reality I spent the afternoon moving desks to avoid the slightly too intense man who kept sending me notes across the table.
Library card template courtesy of the wonderful Love vs Design