World Book Night began in the UK in 2011 and spread to the U.S. this year. It's an annual celebration of reading and books. Authors, publishers, distributors, independent booksellers, UPS, printers, and binders collaborate to print and distribute the books, for free, to reluctant readers across the country. This year 25,000 givers distributed 20 copies of a book out of a selection of 30 books (some pictured at left). (We got to make three choices, and if we were lucky, we received one of the books we requested.)
I gave away a book by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. I went to pick up my stack of books at our wonderful local bookstore, Annie Bloom's, where they had a World Book Night Giver Reception complete with sharing of stories, cupcakes, champagne, and door prizes. It was fun, and I met one of my coworkers there. (Kieran was very happy to get my cupcake, while I enjoyed the champagne.) I also picked up an extra (unassigned) box for Mike to distribute: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. (He also helped another friend, laid up, who had signed up to give away The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, by arranging a giveaway at Chris' high school.)
We decided to distribute the books after school at Kieran's elementary school, along with another parent, Leigh, who was also participating (she was distributing Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which I recently read for my book group).
Everyone who received a book was very appreciative and grateful. I'm afraid that we were not as successful as we'd hoped at reaching "reluctant" or "light" readers. A couple of self-admitted reluctant readers studied our selection and ended up leaving empty handed, saying that they already had enough books to read. I'm wondering if that was partly because all of our books were serious fiction and perhaps too literary for "light" readers. Now that I look at some of the other possibilities, I realize that our selections probably reflect our high-falutin' fiction preferences--perhaps not as appealing to those light readers. (We chose books that we'd read and loved.) If we'd been distributing The Hunger Games, perhaps even light readers would have been interested. (The Hunger Games was one of the choices, but of course it was the most popular!)
World Book Night is celebrated on April 23 because it's the UNESCO International Day of the Book, chosen in honor of Shakespeare and Cervantes, who both died on April 23, 1616. (It is also the anniversary of Shakespeare's birthday.) In the Catalan region of Spain, the day is celebrated by giving a book and a flower to a loved one.
We had lovely sunny weather for our book giveaway--all of the pale Portlanders were wearing summer clothing!