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 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.
An assortment of unopened boxes--adorned with the World Book Night logo and the words "Giver Box" and artfully arranged in a pyramid--has piqued customers' interest at Watermark Books & Café in Wichita, Kan. The prominently placed display "is creating a lot of dialogue in the store," owner Sarah Bagby said. "People are asking what they are."
Inside the boxes are some 2,000 books that will be distributed on April 23, as part of the first World Book Night in the U.S. Watermark Books is one of more than 2,200 bookstores and libraries serving as pickup points for givers to retrieve the tomes they'll be handing out.
Store staffers and other community members are planning to spread the love of reading at a variety of locales, including a VA hospital (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot), a yogurt shop (Peace Like a River by Leif Enger) and in the parking lot of an aircraft manufacturing company during a shift change (The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri). Bagby chose Patti Smith's Just Kids and is giving away copies in a public plaza outside an arts center and a movie theater. She plans to be there to talk up the rocker's "inspiring" memoir at a time when classes at the arts center let out.
Every year during the holidays, Watermark Books partners with a private preschool to provide each of the underprivileged children it serves with a new hardcover book. Now it's their parents' turn to receive some reading material. Moms and dads will get Q Is for Quarry by Sue Grafton and Kindred by Octavia Butler when they drop off or pick up their kids. Among the other World Book Night participants are Wichita's finest. Police officers on beat patrols plan to give Michael Connelly's Blood Work to people along their routes as goodwill gestures.
Regular editions of the 30 World Book Night–designated titles are prominently placed at Watermark Books, and the increased visibility is translating into sales. Another store that also has seen an upsurge on those books is UConn Co-op in Storrs, Conn., where the selections are featured on a table display along with signage about World Book Night.
Givers are invited to a gathering tomorrow evening at UConn Co-op's cafe to mingle and chat about the places where they've decided to hand out Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie, Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible and other page-turners. Folks at a VA hospital, a soup kitchen and a women and children's shelter are some of those who will be on the receiving end. So will residents of nearby Willimantic, an economically hard hit mill town where Suzy Staubach, the store's manager of general books, is handing out Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
More than 750 bookstores and libraries are hosting pre-World Book Night gatherings. Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex., is teaming up with Houston Public Media at an off-site event tonight that is both a reception for givers and a celebration of literacy. Andrea White, former First Lady of Houston and the author of four sci-fi novels for young readers, is hosting the soirée, and news reporter Edel Howlin is moderating a panel of literacy experts from the Houston Public Libraries and other organizations.
At Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago, Ill., local writers Richard Fox, Bryan Gruley, Jacqueline Edelberg, Keir Graff, Anne Elizabeth Moore and Patrick Somerville are headlining a party this Friday, April 20, and will be reading from their favorite titles on the World Book Night list. Givers received personal invites to the get-together, which is open to the public.
Buyer Stefan Moorehead was inspired to have the store participate in World Book Night after hearing U.S. executive director Carl Lennertz give a presentation about the initiative at the ABA's Winter Institute. "He's so energetic," said Moorehead. "The more he talked about it and explained what it was about and everything that he was doing, it was like, wow. We definitely need to be a part of this."
Moorehead used Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to promote World Book Night and sign on givers, who will be gifting people with Bel Canto and other titles. The second most popular choice among the store's givers is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, edged out slightly by Dave Eggers's Zeitoun. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt
photo of boxes at Anderson's by www.dolcebellezza.net