There were five-and-a-half months between my first and second Firestation Book Swaps; but only two weeks between my second and third. Well, I reasoned, they don’t come to London very often, so I’ll go whenever I can. Back I went, then, to the London Review Bookshop (which, let me tell you, is a dangerous place to go browsing when you don’t really want to buy anything – so many interesting books!), where hosts Marie Phillips and Robbie Hudson (Scott Pack not being available for this one) welcomed William Fiennes (whom I remember from Picador Day at Foyles last year) and Nikesh Shukla (whose Coconut Unlimited was one of my favourite reads of 2010).
Marie began by distributing pens and paper to the audience for them to write their questions (mine was ‘Is February a better month than January?’ – alas, it wasn’t used), and explained how the swapping process worked – using One Day by David Nicholls as one of the hypothetical books, because, she said, someone always brings a copy of that to the Book Swap.
At this point, Marie paused and asked who had brought One Day with them this time.
But no one had.
And the logical impossibility of this caused the universe to spontaneously self-destruct.
Not really; I’m joking – but it is true that no one had brought a copy of One Day. I have to say, there were some epic swaps tonight: Will Fiennes had something like six offers of swaps for his copy of The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (in the end, he chose a book of Frank O’Connor short stories); and I got three offers for my copy of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair – The Great Gatsby (which I already have); Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd (which I don’t); and the one I went for, The Cat in the Coffin by Mariko Koike. I’d never heard of the book, or its author; but, for me, part of the point of going to Book Swap is the chance to be introduced to unfamiliar books and writers.
The conversation was the usual eclectic mix, with questions ranging from ‘What would your hip-hop name be?’ to ‘Which is your favourite foot?’ And it was great to meet Nikesh in person, along with his felliow Quartet author Gavin James Bower, who introduced me to another writer, Niven Govinden, whose work I shall now also be investigating. A great evening, as always.