My Much-Delayed World Book Night Post!


I know, I know: World Book Night was two weeks ago. But we just got back from Disney World, so my blogging was on hold for a bit. (In case you were wondering: Disney World is awesome when you’re a kid, but seeing things through your child’s eyes takes it to a whole new level. It was a truly magical experience.)

Basically, World Book Night is an effort to spread a passion for reading to people who are not already avid readers. A committee selects 30-35 books from a variety of genres that are released in a special (read: slightly flimsy and cheaper to produce, but still readable) edition. The authors waive their rights to the books, publishers cover the cost of the printing, and volunteers across the country distribute 20 copies each to light or non-readers. (This is a summary from the WBN site, which you can visit here.)

I was thrilled to be selected as a giver this year. I’d been interested since the get-go, but I was eight months pregnant during the launch year and my son was too young to tag along last year, so this was the first time I could make it work. I got my first-choice book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and was eager to share such a great story with some strangers.

Our first stop was a post office near where I used to live. (We checked with employees ahead of time.) This particular town (very rural) relies heavily on P.O. boxes, so there were lots of people to greet. Of course, many of them eyed me suspiciously. (“A free book? What’s the catch?”) But many were receptive to the idea once I’d explained it. Most of the people to whom we offered a book said something along the lines of, “Yeah, I really should read more often. I keep saying I’ll get around to it, but I never do.” I’m hoping that a free book will get them started.


My little helper. Some people came over just to say hello to him and ended up taking a book as well!

Unfortunately — and I really should have planned for this — distributing books on the sidewalk on a cold, blustery day was not the best idea. April weather is fickle, and I should have aimed for something indoors. But since I hadn’t contacted any other businesses for permission, and I had about a dozen books left, I decided to distribute some copies while running my errands for the day.

I had some returns to make at Target, so I left a book with the customer service rep. She said, “Ooh, is this like the movie? I loved the movie!” I told her that, yes, it was, and I even recommended that she pick up the similar-and-also-very-good Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria. (She jotted the title down on a scrap of receipt paper and slipped it into the pages of her free book.)

I picked up a memory card at Best Buy in preparation for our upcoming vacation and gave a copy to each of the cashiers. (When I offered a copy to the girl who rang me up, I could see another girl leaning over out of curiosity.) As I walked away, I could see them reading the back covers. I was glad to see that they were interested and not just stuffing the books under the counter.

My parents took me to lunch for my birthday, and I left a copy for our server along with a note explaining why she was getting a free book. (Note: This was not in place of a tip.)

At the end of the night, I gave a copy to my cashier at the gas station and one to the man behind me in line. It really felt great to be able to exercise a gesture of goodwill with literally no strings attached. It made me want to perform random acts of kindness on a more regular basis.

Since I still had a few copies left, I stopped at a couple of Little Free Libraries over the next weekend and dropped two books in each one.

At the end of the day, I found myself thinking about all of the books I’d unleashed into the world. Would they be read? Would they collect dust on a shelf or coffee table? Or would they be tossed into the recycling bin? I’m hoping that people will actually read them, but it’s hard to know for sure. Most of the people we approached accepted the free book with a smile and a thank you, but they weren’t all that willing to stick around and chat about their reading preferences or habits. (I can understand this, because I don’t like being approached by strangers with offers of a “free” anything, but I was hoping to interact with them a bit more than we did.)

And that’s my World Book Night experience. Over the course of the day, I had company: my mother and stepfather, my son, and my husband were all able to be a part of the “festivities.” It was great fun, and I was happy to be a volunteer giver. Next year, though? I might want to do something indoors so we don’t have to thaw at the end of our giving experience!

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