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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Hooray! The book fairies have landed in India

Hooray! The book fairies have landed in India

Last updated on: August 07, 2017 10:53 IST

An army of 'book fairies' are anonymously dropping off some delightful books in public places across the world.

Book fairies

Simran and Mehal found a Stephen Hawking book at Mount Mary Church, Bandra north west Mumbai.
Photograph: Kind courtesy The Book Fairies Mumbai/Instagram

Many people love books.

Few manage to make a career of it.

And then you have a couple of people, who are not satisfied just reading a book.

So they drop off books at secret locations across the country for others to read.

The idea is to make people love reading again.

After all, having just one person read one book is quite boring, isn't it!

Cordelia Oxley is one such voracious reader. The one-time marathon runner and marketer is the founder of The Book Fairies who have been hiding books around the world for people to find, read and then leave for the next person.

Cordelia tells Rediff.com's Anita Aikara about her love for books, founding The Book Fairies and why she chose to spread her wings in India.

Emma Watson

IMAGE: Remember seeing Emma Watson drop off books across London this year?
Emma launched The Book Fairies project that saw more than 1,000 titles left at public places for people to enjoy, along with a handwritten note from the Harry Potter star.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Emma Watson/Instagram

Based in London, Cordelia grew up in Hampshire, southern England.

She loved reading and sharing books -- a quality she developed at an early age.

Her inherent passion for books can be attributed to the bookshop run by her family.

After her grandfather, her father owned the Laurence Oxley Bookshop in Hampshire, which stocks a variety of new and second-hand books and art supplies.

"It is beautiful and people go out of their way to visit it (the book store)," says Cordelia.

The bookshop has a children's corner with a rocking horse and it is Cordelia's favourite place.

During her growing up years she spent a lot of time in that corner devouring books by Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson -- and later all of R L Stine's Goosebumps books.

When the last Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, came out, Cordelia organised an event to celebrate the launch.

"I opened the shop at midnight and there was a queue outside. They were the first people in the area to get their hands on the book," she recalls.

In 2012, she started helping out with a book-sharing project in London. "I managed the project alone for the last two years."

The experience and her love for reading inspired her to go worldwide.

So, she started The Book Fairies.

Since its inception, it has generated an army of over 5,000 book fairies across the world.

These fairies leave behind paperbacks, adult colouring books, hardcovers, etc in public spaces across cities.

"The joy of it is that book fairies can be anywhere -- in all corners of the globe."

On March 8, 2017, The Book Fairies officially launched in India, in Delhi.

There are six official book fairies in India.

You never know when you may stumble on a book left behind by them in your city.

"We have one at Delhi -- this book fairy was with us from our launch, and looks after everyone -- Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa and Hyderabad. I haven't had a chance to meet them in person but I speak to them every day (yes, every day) and they each approached me because they wanted to spread the joy of the book fairies around India."

It wasn't long before more people in the country got to know of the book fairies and what they do.

Wanting to become book fairies themselves, these people started ordering stickers, and soon wanted to represent their areas officially.

*To become a book fairy and drop off books, one needs to order The Book Fairies stickers, which are available in different languages.

Book fairies

IMAGE: Another book drop at the Ambedkar University, Delhi, this time Narendar Pani's The Last Post.
Photograph: Kind courtesy The Book Fairies Delhi/Instagram

Official book fairies look after the social media accounts for their areas as well as supporting the development of the project in general.

They are of all different ages. "Most book fairies are in their 20s, as they are looking for new projects and also have some money to spend on books to share," says Cordelia.

"But really we are open to everyone," she adds.

"We love to learn at every step. So I do ask that people include some information about the book and the location when they hide their books and post a picture (on Instagram). With this in mind, book fairies look for interesting and picturesque places to leave a book."

"The best thing for book fairies to keep in mind is to find somewhere that is busy -- so that the book is more likely to be found. It should also be at least partially visible too."

The books that are distributed around the city come from the book fairies' personal collections.

The idea is that after reading a book, if you feel like giving it away, you can always become a book fairy and hide the books across the city.

Currently, there are over 100 countries involved in the Book Fairies project, from the UAE to New Zealand.

Book fairies

IMAGE: Ever imagined that you'd find a book in a hospital?
One book fairy in the Philippines went out of her way to bring a smile to a sick person's face.
Photograph: Kind courtesy The Book Fairies Worldwide/Instagram

Spotting a book fairy...

It is not as easy as you think.

"One big giveaway for book fairies is that their eyes are constantly darting around the place," Cordelia says, "looking for great spots to put their books."

The spots are carefully chosen so that the book fairies can leave the book without being seen.

But the book also needs to be visible enough for the next person to spot it.

"The book fairies are often carrying large bags full of books, with the telltale green and white sticker," she adds.

Eighteen people so far have become book fairies in Mumbai.

"Mumbai is a city which has always been open to new things," says Cordelia.

"A lot of people in the city love art, music and creative projects. They look for something to get involved with. This is what I hear from people in Mumbai," she adds.

Since the launch in March, The Book Fairies have sent around 200 stickers to Mumbai. "I expect at least 100 of these have been used on books so far," surmises Cordelia.

People across the city have discovered books at the David Sassoon Library, Mani Bhavan, restaurants, coffee shops, malls, etc.

Book Fairies

IMAGE: Oscar Wilde's The Importance of being Earnest at the statue of Edward VII at Cubbon Park, Bengaluru.
Photograph: Kind courtesy The Book Fairies Worldwide/Instagram

Choice of booksBook Fairies

Emma Watson was spotted distributing copies of Maya Angelou's Mom & Me & Mom across the London Underground.

When the Mumbai book fairies helped to celebrate Penguin India's 30th birthday, they hid copies of Penguin published books by Arundhati Roy.

"With thousands of book fairies around the world, we also have a vast amount of great pictures and titles to choose from to post on the main accounts (on Instagram)," says Cordelia.

"Every book fairy has their own tastes, and we find that it's only the books that they have read and really loved that they want to share. So, we are also discovering new reads every day."

"It is an unexpected bonus that people are now following us simply to get ideas on what to read -- that is just so amazing to me. I have added to my 'to read' pile so much since starting the book fairies," she adds.

"I love seeing the trends around the world. I think Life of Pi has genuinely been the most popular book to be hidden, followed by A Thousand Splendid Suns -- and I'm talking worldwide."

What if a book fairy decides to keep the book and not share it?

According to Cordelia, "That's ok too!"

"Obviously we would love to see them share it again, but even just the idea of one person reading that book is great!" she adds.

"Some people keep them for weeks or even months before reading the books. I know that personally I have books on my pile that have been there for years."

Quiz her on whether someone has to be a book fairy the minute find a book and she says, "What often happens when someone finds a book is that they become a book fairy themselves and order stickers. So one book found turns into another 10 books hidden."

If you find a book from the Book Fairies, feel free to pick it up and take it home with you.

When you're done, be sure to leave it for someone else to enjoy.

Anita Aikara / Rediff.com