Books to sit on

Books to sit on

This week we look at an event that helped people in London enjoy two of summer's favourite pastimes - reading and sitting in the sunshine


Photo: National Literacy Trust


Photo: National Literacy Trust


Photo: National Literacy Trust


Photo: National Literacy Trust

Sit down and read

Do you fancy sitting on a book? No, you haven't misread the question: not with a book, but on a book. In fact, why not do both at the same time? Sit on a book with a book?

Books, of course, are not meant to be sat upon, but that's what happened in London during the summer. From July to September this year, Londoners and visitors to the city were able to indulge themselves in two of summer's favourite pastimes - reading and sitting in the sunshine.

Very special seats

On July 2, a series of benches popped up out of nowhere in parks, on street corners and outside famous buildings in the British capital. But these were not ordinary benches. They were the centrepiece of "Books About Town", a unique project started by Britain's National Literacy Trust (NLT).

Fifty benches shaped like open books were arranged around the city, with each one decorated by an amateur or professional artist to represent a classic book. Some, like the Sherlock Holmes bench, were instantly recognisable. Others needed a closer look.

Street furniture

The initiative helped kill two birds with one stone. It showcased the work of a named artist and also reminded people that the book they were sitting on might just be worth discovering again or reading for the first time. London had never seen such street furniture before.

A trail of books

The book benches were divided into four trails, with each one running through a specific area of the city. People could download a map of the benches, and then tick each one off after they found it, sat on it and admired the artwork. Others simply came across a bench by chance outside a cafe or in a public square.

Within a few days, the benches had become so popular that anyone wanting to take a photograph of the artwork had to wait patiently until groups of tourists or office-workers moved away.

And the favourite bench was …

Of the 50 on display, which bench was the favourite? It is impossible to say. The Peter Pan bench in a quiet corner provided an ideal spot for children to eat ice cream. Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice dared afternoon coffee drinkers to sit with her. Paddington Bear had his own bench, as did Phileas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days. Mary Poppins actually "appeared" one morning at her bench near St Paul's Cathedral, and gave away free copies of her books.

But amid all the fun and surprises, there were people who just sat on a decorated bench and quietly read a book.

The last page

And what happened to all these beautiful benches when Books About Town was over? They were auctioned off, with all proceeds going to NLT's important work in raising Britain's literacy levels.

For more information on Books About Town, visit

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Books to sit on


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