Public library and other stories

We live in times (2008-2015 >) of swingeing public sector cuts. Town hall chiefs are forced by central government to bring the hatchet down on local government spending. Public libraries have taken a hammering the length and breadth of Britain, a trend carefully documented in a blog by Ian Anstice available here The nostalgic whimpering of politicians, writers, academics and the successful who all benefitted from their own local public library as children seems to make no difference. We all must get used to the reality of private affluence and public squalor. This directive is combined with the glib and ill-informed assertion (from people who are not readers) that ‘it’s all on the internet anyway’.

Ali Smith ( has written this richly inventive new collection of stories. In them she rightly wants to know why books are so very powerful. What do the books we’ve read over our lives – our own personal libraries – make of us? And what does the unravelling of our tradition of public libraries, so hard-won but now in jeopardy, say about us?

The stories in Smith’s new collection are about what we do with books and what they do with us: how they travel with us; how they shock us, change us, challenge us, banish time while making us older, wiser and ageless all at once; how they remind us to pay attention to the world we make. Public libraries are places of joy, freedom, community and discovery – and right now they are under serious threat. We are almost sleepwalking towards their disappearance. With this brilliantly inventive collection, Smith joins the campaign to save our public libraries and celebrate their true place in our culture and history. You would hardly expect me to do anything other than wholeheartedly recommend this book. I do.


Enquire at your local public library (if by the time you read this there is one). Otherwise consult  for full bibliographic detail.


240 pages in Hamish Hamilton

First published 2015

ISBN 978-0241237465


Image result for ali smith

Ali Smith


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