26 January 2012

World Book Night

UPDATE 2 February 2012: World Book Night (WBN) has extended the sign-up deadline to midnight on Monday, February 6, for book givers and for stores and libraries that would like to serve as book pick-up locations for the April 23 celebration of reading. The goal is to recruit 50,000 book givers and hundreds of bookstores and libraries to be book pick-up locations across the country.

The non-profit people at World Book Night want to hand you 20 free copies of a current paperback book for you to give away on Monday, April 23.

You have to apply to do this, they have to pick you, and you have to apply right now – before midnight on February 1. If selected, you will choose your book from a list of 30 provided by participating publishers. Then give away the title you chose. World Book Night.

You’re encouraged to give books to strangers, not to family and friends. Find “light” or “non” readers” and hand each a book until your 20 have disappeared. They’re looking for 50,000 readers to give away a million books. You can be one of these inspirational people.

What’s the catch? Well, you have to do this right away, as the deadline is almost here, and WBN has to chose among thousands of applications to pick the most worthy. You tell them which three books you’d give away, and why. If your application is approved one of the titles you picked will be boxed and waiting for you at a nearby independent bookstore or community library.

In the meantime you can start to think about how to spot a light reader. How you tell a light from a heavy reader. I myself have been all of those things in the past, non, light and heavy, sometimes at the same time.

When I was in my 20s I hardly read a book or looked at TV. I was busy changing the world and chasing women, not in that order. Reading furthered neither, or so I thought at the time.

I was the classic “light” to “non” reader. Read a Vonnegut here and a Catch-22 there. Pondered deeply How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot by John Muir (probably not his real name). Got oil stains on it.  Read the Berkeley Barb and The Oracle. Not much else.

When I finally stumbled into bookselling I had a lot of catching up to do.

Suddenly I was surrounded by people who read books. All the time, night and day. They talked about them. They had opinions, favorites and failures. This was a new thing for me. I was educated by customers, by the opinionated people who worked the bookstore floor, by out-of-town sales people, catalogs, and book chatter I picked up everywhere.

During the initial decade I had little time for reading. I had to open up in the morning and close down at night, add up receipts and walk them to the bank, pay bills, negotiate with landlords, fight fire and flood, make smart decisions about everything, not least of which included figuring out which titles to stock. Little time for reading anything but publisher catalogs.

In 2006 the bookselling monkey, fat and sassy, jumped off my back. Now I am the obsessed, catching-up-with-classics, free-form reader I always wanted to be.

People in their 20s and early 30s typically don’t read much. It’s not because of electronics, it’s because first-person, hands-on life does not encourage the contemplative life. This opinion may be totally wrong of course, as it is based solely on my own experience.

So.. If you successfully sign up for World Book Night you will then be presented with a list of 30 titles. Pick the book you want to give away.

I looked at the list of free books. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ll admit it – I don’t read a lot of fiction, and of the books on the freebies list I think I may have read two. Two of 30, or about six per cent. I am definitely a “light” reader in relation to these admirable books. Maybe someone will spot me on the evening of April 23 wandering the streets somewhere, and have mercy on my lightly literate soul.

Maybe she’ll hand me a copy of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Sorry – that’s the one title I think I have read. Show me The Book Thief, The Lovely BonesThe Poisonwood BibleQ is for Quarry, orThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I haven’t read those yet.

Not Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I have a copy but haven’t read it yet. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo? I THINK maybe I read that. Let me take a look at the first page...


Here’s where to register to be a book giver.

More information about World Book Night USA

And the British site, where World Book Night was invented

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