Until lockdown hit the singer – who won an Ivor Novello for songwriting – had never read a full book. Now he has galloped through 70 and is writing his own. He talks about his life-enriching habit

Should the government ever need to hire a reading tsar to raise the country’s literacy skills, then they should look no further than Tony Mortimer. Sure, the former East-17 star had made it until almost 50 years of age without ever reading a novel – perhaps not ideal credentials for the role. But listening to him talk about the wonder of books, and the journey he’s been on since picking up his first one last March, is such a pleasure that I’m convinced he could sweep anyone along.

Mortimer is emblematic of the reading boom brought on by lockdown this year – Bloomsbury reported its best half-year profits in more than a decade – and his social media posts documenting his new hobby made national headlines, with sweet, awestruck tweets that proved to people that you’re never too old to embark upon a new, life-enriching project.

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