Some time ago, I did a post on World Book Night, an ambitious project to give away free books that started in Britain and jumped across the pond to America (See Book Night). Well, April 23 was the BIG DAY and 30 different titles were given away all over the country. The books were chosen by a librarians, booksellers, and publishers — mainly modern, popular books like The Kite Runner and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
World Book Night is “like an intellectual Halloween, only better,” says novelist Anna Quindlen, the program’s honorary chairwoman. “We’re giving out books, not just Mars bars.” Carl Lennertz, the project’s U.S. director, agrees: “There may not be anything that says, ‘I care about someone else, friend or stranger,’ more than handing them a book that you personally love and want to share. Maybe food, but that’s quickly gone… a lot of people still love print books.” Bravo, Carl!
Parties were held last week in 2,200 locations, mostly bookstores and libraries, where those selected as book-giving volunteers met to pick up the books they requested in their applications. Each volunteer received 20 copies of the title of their choice to give away wherever they decided to, from schools to prisons and homeless shelters. With events taking place in 5,800 communities all across America and 500,000 books being given away, there’s a lot going on:
In Brooklyn, Mallory Grigg, a young children’s book designer, chose her favorite bar, the Vanderbilt, to give away copies of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (See Summoning Beauty). Mallory said she knows of “no better way to celebrate reading than to share a book with someone. It’s our nature to share stories.”
In North Kansas City, Amy Skeels, an officer manager, visited the school where she volunteers to give away Because of Winn-Dixie. Her assistant was Jonah, a registered therapy dog and certified R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dog), which means he sits quietly and listens to kids as they read books aloud.
In St. Louis, Jarek Steele, co-owner fo Left Bank Books, and friends staged a READMOB on the steps of the city’s landmark Arch. More than 120 people plan to spell out “READ BOOKS” using their bodies, which was captured on film.
What a wonderfully inspiring celebration of words: Read on!