Quiiick! You're running out of time to join the ultimate book club! This year’s World Book Night sees 25 of the coolest and most timeless reads shortlisted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Maggie O'Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. Celebrated on April 23, WBN will see thousands of people gifting books within their communities (for free!) to bestow their friends with classic tales. Do you want to be part of it? Well you've got until 31 January 2012 to sign up to be a giver so what are you waiting for? Sign up now - and if you need inspiration as to which book you want to give away here's retail guru Mary Portas on the book she's chosen and why...
Grazia Daily: What is it about Notes from a Small Island that you love so much?
Mary Portas: I love the way that Bill Bryson creates very funny, very hard hitting messages without offending anyone. I think he’s brilliant and wanted to meet him for such a long time that I eventually persuaded him to give a talk on travel at a client’s event. I think I had expected VIP behaviour, but he was so self-effacing he arrived on foot.
Grazia Daily: Who will you be recommending it to?
MP: I already recommended it, to my daughter when she was 11. She disappeared with it, and all I could hear were gales of laughter!
Grazia Daily: What does it mean to you?
MP: I love Bill Bryson’s passion for Britain, which is on every page of this book, and which he has demonstrated in the way he has taken charge of the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign. It is absolutely in keeping with my own view that you need to get involved and make things better.
Grazia Daily: How important was reading for you when you were growing up?
MP: Incredibly important. With five kids, my mother couldn’t read us all bedtime stories individually, so every evening she would sit on the landing that all of our bedrooms led off, and read aloud while we all listened. It was magical, and instilled a love of books that I have never lost. Powerful writing stays with you forever. When I was young, and sure I was in trouble for something, I’d ‘run away’ to the library, and stay away until I worried I had upset my mother. Of course she always knew where to find me!
Grazia Daily: Why do you think reading is so important for society?
MP: I’ve always found reading frees my mind, and unlocks ideas and ways of thinking I hadn’t suspected were there. That, combined with the respite that immersion in a great book provides from the frenetic pace of modern life, are to me essential for the creation of a healthy, creative society.
Grazia Daily: What were your second and third choice books and why?
MP: A Tale of Two Cities, because Dickens is the storyteller of a lifetime. Everyone should read him as much as Shakespeare. I would also choose I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, which is simply a great story.