Literature isn’t a luxury but a life-changer

A long time ago, I sat at a junction in one of Merseyside’s – and Europe’s – most impoverished areas, waiting for the lights, on my way to teach Wordsworth at the university. I noticed a woman waiting at the door of an ex-council house, like one of the houses I’d lived in as a kid – cheaply built, side window covered with plywood, overgrown front garden.


The door was opened by a young woman with a baby in her arms. The baby laughed joyfully at what I took to be the sight of his nan. The phrase “the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm” came to my mind. And at that same moment I thought: “That baby, growing up here, will never read Wordsworth.” That is when I decided to try to get great books out of the university and into the hands of people who need them, by creating The Reader. I wanted a reading revolution.