LBC Loves: Books on the Underground
by Jamie Klingler
At London Book Club, we’re enormous fans of anything and anyone who brings more and previously undiscovered books into our lives. So it stands to reason that we were absolutely thrilled to discover the genius little project that is Books on the Underground.
The idea is simple: you finish reading a book that you enjoyed, then you let it loose on the London Underground for other people to pick up and enjoy, who then do the same, resulting in a network of free, travelling books for you to happen upon by chance.
How awesome is that?
Books on the Underground is the brainchild of Hollie Belton, who set it up last November, when she finished a book she was reading on the tube.
“I have about an hour commute to work everyday, from Dalston to West Kensington, so reading is a nice escape for me. One day I finished the book I was reading on the tube and just thought what a lovely surprise it would be for the next person to find, ” Hollie explains. “That day I didn’t leave my book, because I realised there were a lot of hurdles to overcome and also I didn’t want it to be just a book out in the world alone, I wanted it to be part of something bigger. So I designed and printed the Books on the Underground stickers and that’s how it started.”
Since last winter, Hollie estimates that she’s released thousands of books onto London’s tube network: “I have had authors send me batches of hundreds so I know I’m somewhere in the thousands by now.”
Those who worry they might not share Hollie’s taste in books needn’t worry: “Who am I to judge what the public want to read? I will leave anything. It’s normally fiction, or aims to be an entertaining read, because at the end of the day Books on the Underground is all about making your journey a bit more interesting than normal.”
And just in case you’re hoping to come across a Book on the Underground yourself, Hollie has a sneaky tip for any eagle-eyed LBC members who fancy grabbing a book on their way home: “I try to take a different route to and from work so that I can spread the books all over the network. But if I’m very honest the Victoria Line (especially Victoria station) and the District Line get a lot of love. So definitely watch out for those hotspots.”
But the really excellent bit about the whole undertaking is that anyone can get involved. If you send an email to the project at firstname.lastname@example.org, you’ll receive a set of stickers that you can pop onto the covers of books that you want to send into the wild, which explain the project to London’s underground commuters. We’ll be getting hold of ours, pronto. The only thing to decide is: which of our favourite books to set free first…?