Battle with adversity leads to book gifting scheme

Date 16.10.2017

The strength a simple gift provided during a difficult time has inspired one former graduate to set up a scheme encouraging others to be similarly generous.

Lydia Collins, now an Associate Lecturer in Acting and Drama, was given Matt Haig’s book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by a concerned friend.

“About a year ago I was struggling with my mental health, particularly around my relationship with food. I’d never been so low as to need to find reasons to stay alive, but it was such a beautiful thing to read this book and the strength it gave to me.

“I started to think about other people seeing this book and it helping them too, and that is where I got the idea of people sharing books with great personal significance.”

She added that like many people, she was more likely to read a book if someone had given it to her.

After struggling to find funding to set up an anonymous book drop scheme, Lydia posted on social media for recommendations – with Black History month approaching – of well-loved books by black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) authors.

“I got such a great response from everyone, it was overwhelming.”

One of those who saw it was Senior Law Lecturer, and University and College Union Branch Secretary, Nick Cartwright, who suggested the pair meet.

“You could say a book ‘literally’ changed Lydia’s life, and in turn, she was inspired to help change the lives of others,” said Nick.

“After meeting, we decided that we would suggest to staff that they gift a book to a student. We thought it would be great if staff chose their favourite book by a BAME author and gift a copy to a student.”

Staff are being asked to write in the book as to why it’s their favourite, and to invite the recipients to pass it on when they’ve read it.

“It’s a great opportunity to give underappreciated authors a spotlight too,” added Lydia.

Readers can chart the book’s progress and comment on it on social media using #UoNGiftABook.

Lydia said they would ultimately like to run the scheme about three times a year, for “all the initiatives that deserve more of a spotlight from a personal standpoint” such as LGBTQ+ or mental health.

“Anyone who has battled with dark times will have a book, a poem – a song even – that helped them through.

“If they share it, it might just help someone else through too.”


Photo: Lydia Collins (copyright Leah Hodgkin)