The inaugural World Book Night in the U.S. takes place Monday, April 23. We checked in with booksellers to see how they're gearing up for the nationwide event, during which 25,000 volunteers are giving away 20 books each in their communities. A half a million specially printed copies of 30 different titles are being distributed as part of the organization's mission to spread a love of reading and books.
World Book Night was launched in the U.K. in 2011. April 23 commemorates three literary anniversaries: the birth and death of Shakespeare and the death of Miguel Cervantes. It has been designated World Book Day by UNESCO in the two scribes' honor.
When Terry Louchheim Gilman heard about World Book Day, she immediately knew she wanted to participate in some way. "It sounded absolutely magical to have an opportunity to give books away to light readers and to people who don't have access to books," said Gilman, managing partner of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.
Mysterious Galaxy's stores in San Diego and Redondo Beach, Calif., are both taking part in World Book Day. Each hosted a pre-launch gathering for givers earlier this week and on April 30 will hold Reflection Mixers for participants to shares stories about their experiences.
Several staffers are among the stores' assigned givers. Gilman plans to take copies of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game to a bus depot across from the Redondo Beach store. "I look out at it from my office every afternoon when people are coming and going. It just seems like the perfect audience," she said.
Gilman also invited members of the media to be givers on World Book Night, among them Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin. Mysterious Galaxy joined forces with [pages] a bookstore, located in Manhattan Beach, to promote the event with a dual press release. A goal of the media outreach, noted LeAnna Herrera, marketing and events manager at the Redondo Beach store, in an e-mail to givers "is to raise awareness about World Book Night so that more book lovers have the opportunity to participate in next year's event."
|WBN givers gather at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Ill.
Orson Scott Card is appearing at the wrap-up party in San Diego, talking about his works as well as World Book Night. (The 30 authors whose books are part of the initiative are forgoing royalties on the special edition copies.) Attending the Redondo Beach post-gathering is Cynthia Fox from Southern California radio station KLOS 95.5; on May 2 she'll be interviewing World Book Night givers on the show Spotlight on the Community. At both mixers, givers will have the opportunity to record their experiences on video or in a journal. Videos will be posted on the store's YouTube channel.
In the works at Riverwalk Books in Chelan, Wash., is a post-World Book Night event with an international twist. The store's 35 givers will swap stories with their counterparts at the Bookcase in Lowdham, England, via Skype. Riverwalk owner Libby Manthey and Jane Streeter, the Bookcase founder and president of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland, came up with the idea after meeting at this year's Winter Institute, where they were on a panel together. (The only World Book Night selection being given away both Stateside and in the U.K. is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.)
On World Book Night, Manthey plans to surprise customers at restaurants and taverns along Chelan's main street. Her title of choice is Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. A teen giver is dispensing copies of Ender's Game at track practice, while another plans to distribute a Spanish-language edition of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz among the town's Hispanic community.
Manthey has stirred up interest about World Book Night with area residents and out-of-towners. Canadian vacationers who stopped by the store expressed the wish that their country would take part. She spoke about the literary initiative to the city council and to school board members, one of whom in turn talked it up to her son; he's now a giver in another town. And earlier this month, the mayor made a special proclamation: April 23 has officially been declared World Book Night in Chelan. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt
top photo: boxes ready to go at Bookpeople