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10 reasons why Oxford should be a UNESCO Book Capital

OxfordI’m thrilled to hear that Oxford is bidding to become UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014. I lived in the town from 1990 to 1996 and again from 1999 until I came to Canada in 2004. It truly is a bookish place.

Yes, it’s a world famous university town but it’s also packed full of bibliophiles and has been so for centuries. The bid is being led by Philip Pullman, Oxford’s most famous author of the current generation, and Inspector Morse writer Colin Dexter, who is perhaps the author most dedicated to the town.

Here are my reasons why Oxford should be a UNESCO World Book Capital.

1 The Bodleian Library – this library is one of the world’s finest libraries and contains rare books we can only dream about. Walking into the place, like any university student can, is like stepping back in time. Who else has the Radcliffe Camera?

2 Blackwell’s – founded in 1879, this most bookish of bookselling companies was born in Oxford and headquartered there. It’s being broken up now, but that’s another story.

3 The Eagle and Child – this is the pub where the Inklings met. You can sit where Tolkien and Lewis supped pints of bitter and joked about orcs and wardrobes that led to magical kingdoms. I always loved that pub.

4 Legendary authors of the past – Tolkien, Lewis, Lewis Carroll, John Buchan, Graham Greene and Iris Murdoch were residents and then there are all the authors (Wilde, Houseman, Shelley for starters) who attended the university.

brideshead-revisited5 Setting for fiction – There’d be no Brideshead Revisited without Oxford. No grumpy old Inspector Morse.

6 The current authors – Pullman, Dexter, Susan Cooper and there is bound to be more I’m not familiar with.

7 Readers – You see people reading books everywhere. On the bus, walking down the street, in the pub, in Christchurch meadows, in the Parks while the cricket is going on, alongside the river, on the river.

8 Shops – There are some wonderful used bookshops in the town such as The Inner Bookshop, which serves the city’s . Also one of Oxfam’s best secondhand bookshops is located in on St Giles.

9 Oxford University Press – it’s the world’s largest university press and has been in business since around the 1630s (it’s so old, people seem to be unsure of the exact date). Wikipedia says the first book to be printed in Oxford was in 1478 and I can believe it.

10 It currently has a vibrant literary festival.

I’ll be staggered if Oxford does not succeed in this bid.

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