Books

John Bird launches new magazine to get the nation 'reading deeper'

Chapter Catcher gives readers access to dozens of fiction and non-fiction excerpts to encourage critical reading

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has revealed Chapter Catcher, a new magazine with a social echo – set to improve literacy among UK readers.

The 64-page magazine features dozens of short chapters from fiction and non-fiction books, designed to give readers a taste of novels they might not have picked up otherwise. Charities that sell the magazine get half of the sales proceeds.

Lord Bird described Chapter Catcher as “a revolution in social literacy”.

Issue one of the magazine, which costs £4.99, features specially curated excerpts from writers including Stephen Fry, Virginia Woolf, Polly Clark, Richard Wiseman and Natalie Haynes.

“If we’re to solve the big issues of today – the climate crisis, poverty, short-termism – we need to start thinking differently, and that starts with reading differently,” Lord Bird added.

He hopes one section of the book, ‘in process’, will inspire unpublished writers to submit their work. “I want to encourage the growth of writing and break down the world of publishing and magazines,” he said. “It’s the beginning, in my opinion, of a new way of encountering writing and a new way of encountering reading.”

It’s hoped the quarterly magazine will also play a part in boosting bookshops and libraries. Phil Ryan, who helped Lord Bird set up the Big Issue nearly three decades ago, took on the roles of publisher and managing editor for the magazine, and said the Chapter Catcher concept was floated by the pair in the early 1990s.

“We’re going to encourage you to go and order that book you might otherwise never have read but enjoyed the chapter of.

“In the Brexit referedndum, a lot of people voted without any deep reading – they accepted nonsense on buses or scaremongering. Both sides were as bad. We need to get people out their comfort zone.”

Ryan said future plans include incorporating graphic novels into the magazine.

He added: “People have a box set mentality now. If you like a writer, you go and read all their boks. We’re not reviews, we’re not plugging a book. But sometimes people get a bit narrow and we want to try and broaden their view of reading.”

The Chapter Catcher team encourage those who want a copy to request it from their local bookshop or library.

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