Who chooses the books?

Book Choice Team
L-R: Charlotte Stainton, Craig Riley, Liane Venner and Lisa Finch
philhadland with iguanodon tooth
Project partner Phil Hadland (Fossil Phil) holds a cast of the Iguanodon tooth found by Gideon Mantell.

The small unincorporated community team behind the A Town Explores A Book festival are a team of volunteers who make the book choice.

The team aim to choose very different heritage books every year that highlight anniversaries. Thus in 2023 the choice of Mary Seacole’s Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole In Many Lands was made to mark the bicentenary of Mary Seacole’s first solo journey to England from Jamaica as a young woman. The centenary of author E. Nesbit’s death was behind the 2024 book choice, The Railway Children.

The 2025 book choice marks the bicentenary of the naming of the Iguanodon, a fossil reptile found in Sussex by local palaeontologist, Gideon Mantell. The discovery of fossilised teeth led to the naming of the species in a paper delivered at the Royal Society in 1825. The pages from the book Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Volume 115, Issue 115 in which Gideon Mantell announces the name of the fossil reptile found in the sandstone of Tilgate Forest, Sussex, will be published in a special A Town Explores A Book 2025 edition alongside illustrations of fossils from Gideon Mantell’s other books.

It’s a book choice that is different from other years because as team member Jacqui Mohammed says, “Books are as varied as people are diverse. This means that every year, festival exploration can be a fresh, unique journey.” Jacqui’s responsibility within the team is access, drawing on her experience as a mental health nurse.

Co-chair Craig Riley is working with team members Lisa Finch, Charlotte Stainton and Liane Venner on the compilation of the festival edition which ensures that this exploration of heritage writing and illustration contains an inviting entry point for the festival schools and the many varied community organisations in the towns as well as festival viewers and visitors.