Books About Town is a public art project being held this summer in London. 50 benches, each shaped like an open book and decorated to represent a popular book or author, are on display throughout the city now through September 15. In October, the benches will be sold at auction, with proceeds benefiting the National Literacy Trust.
Some of the benches use parts of the original illustrations for the books, while others come more from the artists’ imaginations. I think Books About Town has done a great job at choosing a variety of genres and choosing appropriate styles of illustration for each piece.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (by Ivan Liotchev) is represented by a dark, impressionist night scene with gaslight street lamps. The bench for Virgina Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (by Fiona and Neil Osborne of One Red Shoe) shows an art nouveau influence, which I find particularly beautiful. The artists who made benches for these classic works take into account the historical art movements from the time the books were written, but do so with their own personality.
A cheerful, minimal style is used for the Mary Poppins bench (by Darel Seow), while the Dr. Seuss bench (designed by Jane Headford) closely recreates the iconic Theodor Geisel illustrations and features many of his most popular characters.
I wish I was in London so I could visit each piece of Books About Town in person, but even then I suspect I’d have trouble deciding which are my favourites. I am a passionate advocate for reading and literacy, so I’m glad to see any project that supports the cause in such a stunning and creative way.
You can read more about all the books, authors, and artists featured in the project on the Books About Town website, as well as see maps so you can tour all the benches in person.