Fairy tale ending
Ahead of her Mumbai visit, Cordelia Oxley of The Book Fairies shares her journey of helming a global movement
If you happen to be a voracious reader, the idea of finding a book in the most unexpected place can be magical. And perhaps, even better if you were actually meant to receive it. Meet Cordelia Oxley, who first thought of creating some magic through "book fairies". The concept was simple: one needs to buy stickers from the official website, stick them onto a book, write a note, and then hide it in a public place for a stranger to discover it. And voila! You have a worldwide movement with 9,000 fairies in over 100 countries — Emma Watson's one, too.
Currently, in the city for a panel discussion hosted by The Curious Reader, an online literary magazine, and CoWrks, with author Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal and Kadambari Rushin Mehta, Mumbai's official book fairy, she shares how it all came to be.
Kadambari Rushin Mehta, Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal
Has The Book Fairies changed in any way since inception?
The Book Fairies is still very young; we launched in March 2017. Starting with just 26 book fairies, including one in Delhi, the community has grown into a worldwide group of friends. My goal from the start was to spread the love of reading in a fun way, and that hasn't changed, however the way we do it is constantly evolving.
What are the many joys of being a book fairy?
The joy of giving is often underrated. When I launched the initiative, I did it too. I believed that people would be excited to find a book that it would make their day. While that is true, what took me by surprise was that hundreds fell in love with the act of giving, preparing gifts for strangers and finding fun places to hide them, and feeling like they're making a little difference to the world. The joy for me is seeing this community grow and find new ways to keep the magic alive.
What made it a global phenomenon? Do you see young readers and writers playing a role?
Before our launch date, we built up a relatively decent following of book lovers who were curious about the project. The biggest boost to our following was clear — it was Emma Watson's involvement. Our audiences grew quickly, both with the launch and with our joint book drop in Paris with copies of The Handmaid's Tale. While I thought that some people may only be joining us for the novelty of celebrity, we are lucky to have a strong and loyal following.
With young readers, especially children, there is so much fun to be had with book fairying. We often hide children's books and involve them that way, but we also love to see "mini book fairies" joining in and hiding books. We have a children's week that encourages young readers and writers to get involved. We learn a lot from them about seeing things in a different way.
Does the rise of digital publishing platforms herald a challenge? Are you looking for more collaborators?
While the rise of digital publishing could be a problem, with fewer people buying physical books, it hasn't been a challenge. People still enjoy the act of buying books, and there are so many places to reclaim them, too. Even if one day, e-readers overtook book sales, we are still promoting the love of reading and will encourage that in whichever format people choose — we will simply change the way we approach it!
In terms of collaboration, we love partnering with authors and publishers and other companies, too, and will continue to do so. One example is in Mumbai when we partnered with the food delivery company Scootsy and Bloomsbury to hide books inside food orders! The group of people behind The Curious Reader, whom we work with a lot, spread the magic at the Jaipur Lit Fest, hiding a total of 30 titles around the event! We are also lucky to work with many different organisations around India, many of which, like Penguin Books and HarperCollins India, have been with us since the beginning.
Favourite Indian authors
- Ruskin Bond was my grandfather's penpal for a while as they lived in the same area in Mussourie.
- Rupi Kaur's poetry has an incredible ability to say exactly how you feel when you cannot find the words.
- When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy moved me. I believe everyone should read this book. It's extraordinary.
ON Today, 6.30 pm
AT CoWrks, Birla Centurion Century Mills Compound, Worli.
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