As the saying goes, books can change lives, but thanks to a group of British authors and publishers, they can also save lives.
A group of UK authors, along with their publishers, are donating some of their bestselling titles and forgoing the profits to raise one million pounds for Syrian refugees.
As part of the #BuyBooksForSyria campaign, some of the book industry's top authors – Neil Gaiman, Hilary Mantel, David Nichols, Khaled Hosseini, Bill Bryson, Ian Rankin, Philip Pullman, and Salman Rushdie – are donating their books for UK bookseller Waterstones to sell in their stores under the "Buy Books for Syria" banner, with 100 percent of the retail price going to Oxfam's Syria Crisis Appeal.
The campaign begins Thursday, Oct. 1, and includes all books marked with the "Buy Books for Syria" sticker in any of Waterstones' 280 UK locations.
“Everyone is forgoing profits – nobody is deducting a penny anywhere, including the distributors and the warehouses, who are doing it for free,” said James Daunt, Waterstones managing director.
Some of the industry's top publishers – like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster – are participating in the campaign.
Among the titles being donated are Ms. Mantel's "Wolf Hall," Mr. Rushdie's "Midnight's Children," Mr. Nicholls' "One Day," Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk About Kevin," Mr. Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book," Mr. Hosseini's "The Kite Runner," and Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
Waterstones said most authors jumped at the chance to do something to help the cause of Syrian refugees.
“Those authors we contacted directly gave us an answer in about three minutes – Victoria Hislop said yes in 30 seconds,” Mr. Daunt told the UK's Guardian. “This is simple and effective, and it should result in a lot more help.”
“It’s hard not to feel powerless when confronted by those nightly scenes on TV,” Nicholls told the Guardian. “In the current absence of a long-term political solution, supporting agencies like Oxfam and Save the Children seems like a practical response to the heartbreaking situation and it’s wonderful that booksellers, publishers, authors and readers have come together like this.”
The campaign also speaks to accusations that Europe and the UK are not doing enough to help Syrian refugees. After coming under fire for agreeing to accept only 500 refugees last year, the UK recently revised that number to up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
Caitlin Moran, who has donated copies of her bestselling book, "How To Be a Woman," told the Guardian that “whilst the governments of this world still fail to come up with a solution to this problem, I am proud to do as millions of others have, and say ‘We see you, we hear you, we will not let you suffer this alone. We promise – help is coming’.”
“This is the biggest refugee crisis in history – 60 million people, world-wide, are displaced, half of them children – threatening both the stability of the Middle East and Europe, and our own sense of compassion, and the value we put on human life,” said the writer.
It's not the first time the book industry has raised money for Syrian refugees. After the author Patrick Ness took to Twitter earlier this month, tweeting that he was “tired of just tweeting my despair about the current refugee crisis that the UK government is responding to with inhumane feebleness,” he said he would match funds raised by the public up to £10,000.
That target was met almost instantly and a group of other authors joined in with pledge-matching promises, including John Green, Mr. Pullman, Nicholls, Anthony Horowitz, and others. Together, they raised over £600,000 for Save the Children.