Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night

April 23 is World Book Night in the U.S., the UK and Ireland. Essentially, it is a celebration and a promotion of literature that encourages people to go out into their communities and give out one of thirty designated World Book Night titles.

After applying to be a giver a couple of months ago, I picked up my box at Barnes and Noble last week. The application process allows givers to rank their top three title choices, and I ended up with my first choice (woohoo!) The Book Thief. Each giver box contained twenty copies of the giver's chosen book, to pass out ideally to people who are not big readers already.

I planned to pass out my copies at the train station in my neighborhood. It's always super busy, but I am always surprised by the few people reading.

This morning, admittedly, I started to panic a little. To do this, I would have to approach people I did not know and try to convince them that I'm not crazy quickly enough for them to take a book from me. It involved a serious level of commitment and courage that I hadn't thought through completely. The morning...was rough. On my way to work, I passed out exactly seven books on the train platform.

In all honesty, I probably only tried to pass out about twelve books during the morning. After work, I got serious. With a little more confidence, I was able to pass out twelve books with relative ease. Here are my favorite moments:

1. When I finally convinced an older woman on the train to take a book from me, at which point she opened it and started reading immediately, not taking her eyes off it until sometime after I got off the train later. "It's free? Really? Thank you!"

2. When I walked off the platform armed with only a few more books, and a woman tried to hand me this coupon for a salon. One thing that I think made it so difficult to pass out books in NY is that everyone's always handing you things you don't want--why would people think this book was any different? But today, when this girl tried to hand me a coupon, I smiled right back at her and said, "I'll trade you!" And we did.

3. To give away my last few books, I stopped at the bus stop near my apartment and said, "Excuse me, would anyone like a free book to read on the bus? It's a good book!" The very first person to answer, immediately and without hesitation, was a boy who looked somewhere around eleven or twelve. Who says kids these days don't want to read?

After my very successful afternoon of playing Santa, I had just one book left, and I knew just what to do with it.  Laundry was at the top of my to-do list this evening, and I decided I wanted to leave my last copy at my Laundromat for someone to pick up and enjoy. Rather than seek out one person in particular to give it to, I hope whoever finds it picks it up and starts reading and maybe even leaves it there when they finish, or passes it on to another person.

What a wonderfully unique and strangely rewarding experience. See you next year, World Book Night!


  1. Just got back from giving away 20 copies of Bel Canto at our neighborhood mall. Although I expected it, it was still kind of sad how many people were resistant, suspicious, or just didn't read.
    My favorite was the preschooler who took one (with Dad's prodding) to give to his mom for Mother's Day.
    And I think I hit the target audience with a couple, 3 kids in tow, who love to read but never get around to it. They said this would inspire them!
    Congrats for getting your books out!

  2. Sounds like you had a successful day, Karen. It took me quite a while to understand how someone might be resistant to taking such an excellent (free!) book, but I suppose that's the reason we're doing this. LOVE your preschooler story, that's adorable.

    Congrats to you, too!

  3. What a great story, Kelly! You inspire me! - Lorena

  4. Thanks! You should do it next year--you and the kids (or some of them) could all do it somewhere together, you'd have a blast!