Arifa Akbar: Swapping books can be a complex, ego-bound business

The Week in Books

Remember the survey that exposed the lie behind our bookshelves? The shame of how we display the books that we'd like to be known for reading rather than the books we've actually read, which lie under our beds or on our eReaders like miniature, fetid, Dorian Gray portraits. So Ulysses on the bookshelf to Harry Potter on the gizmo.

I was reminded of it this week when talking to Scott Pack, publisher of The Friday Project who is, quite separately from his day-job, bringing a new event to Foyles bookshop, in London. It will be a quarterly residency called the Fire Station Book Swap, beginning on 25 March, and it does what it says on the tin (minus the "fire station" bit) – it invites authors and audiences to bring one book that they'd like to swap. They must, over the course of the evening, punt that book and go home with another that they've perhaps been meaning to read for years, or alternately, a hitherto unknown title that they have been beguiled by over the course of the evening.

Little did Mr Pack know what hairy territory he was stepping into when he set up the event a few years ago, which has since become a regular – and apparently over-subscribed – night out for book-lovers in Windsor. He couldn't, when I spoke to him, vouch for how many copies of Ulysses had successfully been swapped, but what he did say was fascinating. There may be an element of disingenuity in what people bring with them, he thought, which corresponds with the bookshelf/eReader equation – so what they'd read versus what they'd like to be seen reading versus what they wouldn't be caught dead reading.

But it is often more complicated, and interesting, than that. The exchange is not equivalent to dumping books you no longer want down the local charity shop. You are there to talk a title up, get its future owner excited about reading. The book is as interesting as its owner, in this respect.The most fought-over book in one of Mr Pack's events was – surprisingly – a collection of Latin poetry with no English translation. "I thought it would be impossible to swap, and then had to fend off offers for it."

The result of a silver-tongued swapper? No-one, he continued, had ever brought 50 Shades along, which is perplexing, given the sales figures, while David Nicholls's bestseller, One Day, has been brought countless times but has never been successfully swapped. There are those who specifically purchase an extra copy of a much-loved book and rave about it all night. Does this defeat the object of the game (to spring clean your bookshelf)? No matter, if these people fall in the "any-chance-to- proselytise" category, then I would probably be among them. But then in swapping a book thus, you are endorsing the worth of a story that has marked you. For this reason, the bookshelf self-consciousness, perhaps.

Others haven't wanted to part with books they love, Mr Pack said, so they have clearly brought along "a book they don't like so much, and it is fun to see them try to pitch it to the audience without letting on that they don't like it". It takes all sorts, I suppose, even those who come with their own two-for-one offers! The best kind, to my mind, have come with personal stories, which both proves the worth of a book as a physical object, and also confirms it is much more than this; its physicality is saturated with other less tangible but meaningful attachments. What would I take? Perhaps a book that would at once massage my ego and undercut it – so my university copy of Ulysses, filled with a storm of bewildered comments and question marks along the margins. It would, I hope, offer both comfort and entertainment to its new owner.

The mystery of the disappearing scrolls at the folio prize party

Each shortlistee at this week's Folio Prize was given a letterpress certificate or "scroll", its design inspired by books produced by The Folio Society. George Saunders received his winners scroll with clear delight. Until he realised that he had lost it. Not just Saunders either.

Another shortlistee, Rachel Kushner, searching for her scroll, realised it had gone missing too. Who had them? Were they already snapped up on eBay? No. When they sat down for dinner later that night, Kushner's missing scroll turned up in Saunders's bag, while his own scroll was handed in to the press office the next day. "To lose one scroll may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness," as Lady Bracknell might have said to them.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable