I’m for books. I’m for reading. I’m for getting as many people to read as possible, and enjoying it so much they want to do it again and again. So when I heard last fall about World Book Night, I knew it was for me.
Here’s what it is: a committee of industry folks picked a list of thirty titles – something just about everybody would like, from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to Friday Night Lights, The Hunger Games to Bel Canto. The publishers printed a special edition of 20,000 of each title, and the books’ authors all generously forfeited their royalties. But how to spread this free bookish joy?
Book givers, that’s how. World Book Night enlisted about 25,000 people across the country to give away thirty free copies of the book of their choice on one night, April 23. For me, this was like Christmas – I counted the days until the event. I could hardly wait. Evidently other book lovers all over felt the same, eager to distribute their bounty to our targeted audience: people who may not be as likely to walk into a bookstore or visit a library as we would be. So seeing the venues of where book givers distributed their title was almost as fun as giving your own stash of books away. We went to youth centers, tattoo parlors, senior centers, parks – one woman even took hers out on her surfboard and tossed them to others catching a wave (yes, they were in waterproof plastic bags). A publishing friend gave a book to a French waitress, who said it would be the first book she ever read in English. Author Rebecca Skloot gave away copies of her bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks with Henrietta’s grandchildren. What did I do? I took my bag of Patti Smith’s National Book Award winner, Just Kids, and got on the subway to Grand Central Station, my intended giveaway spot. But at every stop, as more commuters got onboard, I started my evangelistic spiel: “Today, I’m sharing the joy of reading!” By the time I reached Grand Central, every copy was gone, and over the next day or so, I saw the tweet I posted (below) repeated all over, including in the publishing industry’s morning news site, Shelf Awareness.
This, friends, was literally “spreading the word.” And just like Christmas, it ended altogether too soon – in fact, I’m already devising my plan to find eager readers for next year. And yes, you can join in. Just sign up for the mailing list by clicking here at World Book Night, and get ready to give the gift of reading. You cannot believe how it feels.
Books change everything.