We are happy. We are gushing. We are giving away books!
"Little ol' Brookline, NH will be having its own World Book Night event at the Brookline Public Library. My book is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, which was the subject of an attempt to ban in the local schools. So, we'll be having a discussion about banned books as part of our event....
"... reception for Book Givers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts!"
"Yvonne Zipter: I am happy and excited to be providing copies of Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping to residents at my YMCA. Only a few days now."
"Lindsay Alaimo: I picked up my books for World Book Night USA. Thank you to The Concord Bookshop for the wonderful reception last night. I'm giving out The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold on Monday. Look for me and other book givers all day!"
"Stacey Biemiller Maisch: These books can't wait to be GIVEN away. No thievery required come Monday night!"
We are all excited, nationwide. It's a very good thing, all these free books, with the help of cooperating publishers, libraries, bookstores, YMCAs, and all the happy people on World Book Night, both givers and receivers, Monday, April 23.
If you didn't get a chance this time around to sign up to give away books, you can do it next year.
Last week the Mendocino contingent of givers, about seven of us, met at one of our local independent bookstores. We sipped wine – two colors of wine! – and talked about the almost 300 books we plan to give away, and how we plan to do it.
One person works at a local state park, so she's got a forest full of campers and a truck, and boy are the people in those tents going to be surprised when she hands them their free book. Books will also be given away at coffee shops, restaurants, urban and rural fire stations. One book giver plans to hang out at local laundromats. At the suggestion of that state park ranger person, I will carry a bunch of copies of Ann Patchett's novel Bel Canto into the nooks and crannies of Russian Gulch State Park. Boy will those Russians be surprised!
We locals also are giving away The Stand by Stephen King; The History of Love by Nicole Krauss; Peace like a River by Leif Enger; Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card; and The Hunger Games, the wildly popular novel by Suzanne Collins.
World Book Night started in England only last year and expanded into the US this year where it also will be an annual thing. A million books – a million! – will be given away in one evening, both here and in the UK and Ireland. April 23 is the UNESCO International Day of the Book. And this date also honors William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes, both of whom died on April 23 in 1616.
First came World Book Day, which began in the UK and Ireland 15 years ago. Book tokens are given to schoolchildren. World Book Night, mostly for grownups, began there and expanded to the United States.
Givers in Britain get to hand out books by Bill Bryson and Jane Austen and Bernard Cornwell and Roald Dahl and Cormac McCarthy and we don't. Maybe next year.
When I first heard of this project I applauded, but the cynic in me guessed that publishers were offloading unsold books onto unsuspecting light or non-readers. Not at all, as it happens. More than a dozen publishers have printed special World Book Night editions at their own expense, including shipping them around the country. Each of us givers will have 20 copies of one title culled from a carefully selected list of about 30.
Inside each specially marked box of books – actually, inside each book, is a Dear Reader letter:
"You are holding in your hands one of the free books especially printed for World Book Night... handed out by thousands of volunteers in communities across America as a celebration of the joy of books and reading... we hope you will seek out more books, and there is no better place to do so than in a bookstore or library. We are blessed with thousands of them in America, all staffed by people who have devoted their lives to telling others about books. They stand ready every day to introduce you to a good book you might fall in love with."
Find out more at www.worldbooknight dot org.