Blackwell’s has launched a collection of 70 books to feature on its Five Foot Bookshelf — reviving a tradition of celebrating a selection of titles that provoke both thought and joy.
The original Five Foot Bookshelf was compiled in 1909 by Harvard University president Charles W Eliot. Conceived of as a ‘portable university’, the 50-volume collection consisted of a series of classic works from world literature, important speeches and historical documents.
The new selection has been put together by a panel of booksellers and writers after a voting process which took place throughout 2020. The list includes titles such as Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and To The Lighthouse by Virgina Woolf.
Zool Verjee, head of marketing and publicity at Blackwell's, said: “With The Five Foot Bookshelf, we present to the world 70 books which make us think and bring us joy, as we ‘wander restlessly through time, place and imagination’ (to borrow a phrase from Lyndsey Stonebridge). We are aiming to capture book-lovers’ attentions and put something in front of them which they won’t see anywhere else. We want to create intriguing talking points which will spark a thousand conversations."
Euan Hirst, online bookseller and panel member, said: “I loved, and agonised over making my selections for consideration, even though it was inevitably sometimes a case of ‘choosing your favourite child’. My selections were based on those books that have been enjoyable, interesting, perspective-altering. But more than anything they have changed me and have remained with me since the day I first read them. Recommending books to people, regardless of the gender, age or even if they are a complete stranger is the most exciting part of being a bookseller."
Zoe Chatfield, another bookseller on the panel, said: "In making my choices, I thought about books that had really impacted me and my world view, books that I wanted to shout about from the rooftops and make sure everyone knew about, and books that for me, represented the Blackwellian attitude that is passionate, inquisitive, and excited by excellence.”