ACCLAIMED author Alex Gray penned this piece exclusively for the people of Inverclyde to mark Book Week Scotland.

The Glaswegian crime writer has produced an article for the council’s libraries service discussing the importance of reading, how vital it’s been during the pandemic, sharing childhood memories of going to the library and exploring some of her favourite home-grown reads.

The piece, called ‘Read All About It!’, was specially commissioned to mark week-long celebration of literature.

Read All About It!

By Alex Gray

Every day we hear news about Covid 19 and the current state of lockdown but what if I suggested that there is a ‘get out of jail free’ card that everybody can use to escape it?

During these past few months the library card that is tucked away in your wallet or purse may have opened the doors of whatever place you have felt trapped.

And that card is the key to finding books.

Lots and lots of books, piles of them, row upon row, shelves full just waiting for you to make your next choice or at least have the librarian choose them for you in these times.

If not, then perhaps now is the time to find your card, or just pop along to the nearest library where a smiling librarian is waiting to help you find your way through the bars of that magical gate.

For, books do possess a sort of magic.

Fiction can transport us to so many places, as if we actually had a secret portal from one of the Harry Potter books.

As a child I walked eagerly along to my library each week, my stack of cardboard tickets tucked into one another, eyes shining in anticipation of what new stories I would find.

I am certain that it is this early acquaintance with libraries that gave me the foundations needed to become a writer. Even at the age of 8 my primary four teacher told my parents that I was “going to be an author”.

Right now, travel is restricted but what a wonderful thing it is to find other lands through a book, be it a work of fiction or something from the travel section.

Perhaps you might follow Alexander McCall Smith to Botswana as he tells the tales of Precious Ramotswe, his Number One Lady Detective?

Or maybe you would prefer to read something closer to home like Ann Cleeves Shetland series. If you have had to cancel a holiday, when you can, ask your librarian about books set in the very place to which you had hoped to journey and there is every chance they will find a book to transport you there.

While it seems that supermarkets are being ordered to keep their books under wraps as non-essential items, readers can still find solace in libraries.

For my own part, books have been essential items under lockdown and they have made life immeasurably better.

And there have been times, too, when I have felt a glow of satisfaction knowing that, as a writer, I have helped others to take time out from thinking about the pandemic and all its horrors.

So, wrap up well, crunch through these fallen autumn leaves and take a walk to your local library where you will find treasures to bring home and while away a few precious hours.