World Book Day is celebrated throughout the world on April 23rd. Everywhere except in the UK, it seems, where 'World Book Day' is being celebrated today instead. Don't ask me why. One of the reasons that UNESCO selected April 23rd in the first place is that it's Shakespeare's birthday, and also the date in 1616 on which Shakespeare, Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. But this cuts no ice in the UK where we appear to be celebrating DrSeuss's birthday instead. No doubt it all made perfect marketing sense to the publishing people who switched the date.
In London we're being invited to Get London Reading, with a special emphasis on books written in or about the capital. Here are three ways to get involved:
Get London Reading (website): This is a really well researched and link-friendly site, packed with hundreds of eclectic book choices. Pick a London borough and this site'll offer up a selection of literary gems and accompanying anecdotes. Boroughs like Westminster and Tower Hamlets are dripping with booky goodness, whereas the poor researcher has clearly struggled in less inspirational boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham. Well worth a look.
London by The Book (booklet): Here's a very special (and very detailed) 64-page Rough Guide, featuring literature inspired by various different parts of the capital. Highgate, for example, boasts JB Priestley, Coleridge and Betjeman, as well as the more recent memoirs of illiterate nonagerian SidneyDay. You can pick the booklet up for free in various London book stores (I found mine in Waterstones, and it's lovely), or you can download a complete pdf here. Recommended.
London Reading Map (map): Booksellers Waterstones are giving away a free fold-up map on which they've pinpointed key locations from 100 different London books. Featured writing ranges from Zadie Smith's WhiteTeeth (west) to Monica Ali's Brick Lane (east), with a fair sprinkling of classics and lesser known novels inbetween. It's very nicely done, even if some of the locations are a bit tenuous and the cartographer can't spell 'Marylebone' properly. The map tempted me to splash out on The London Pigeon Wars (by Patrick Neate) and Foxy-T (by Tony White), and if they turn out to be any good I'll review them later. You still have a month to get hold of a copy.
What's your favourite 'London' book? So far you've suggested... London Fields (Martin Amis); London: The Biography (Peter Ackroyd); London: The Moving Metropolis (Sheila Taylor); Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K Jerome); News from Nowhere (William Morris); Roofworld (Christopher Fowler); Spanky (Christopher Fowler); Deluxe London A-Z; Little Dorrit (Charles Dickens); Confusion trilogy (Neal Stephenson); Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman); Mother London (Michael Moorcock); Borribles trilogy (Michael de Larabeiti); Hangover Square (Patrick Hamilton); 253 (Geoff Ryman); Day Of The Triffids (John Wyndham); The End of the Affair (Graham Greene); Armadillo (William Boyd); Absolute Beginners (Colin MacInnes); A Vicious Circle (Amanda Craig); The Buddha of Suburbia (Hanif Kureishi); From Here to Here; From Hell (Alan Moore); The Lonely Londoners (Sam Sevlon); City Of Spades (Colin MacInnes); Bleeding London (Geoff Nicholson); The London Nobody Knows (Geoffrey Fletcher); Di and I (Peter Lefcourt); Murphy (Samuel Beckett)