Welcome to “World Book Night”

Montage of 30 books for World Book Night

It’s tonight! Monday April 23rd, is World Book Night, “an annual celebration designed to spread a love of reading and books,” in which more than 25,000 volunteers will be handing out free print books (according to USA Today). It’s “like intellectual Halloween,” novelist Anna Quindlen joked to the newspaper, “only better!”

I’m excited partly because we’re seeing the birth of a brand new tradition. The event was started just last year by the managing director of a publishing house in Scotland, according to MSNBC, so this is the first year it’s also being held in the U.S. “One of the things I love is how this isn’t just happening in New York and California,” noted the event’s U.S. executive director. “The whole country is involved!” And I love how MSNBC’s article painted a picture of the event — as a series of smaller personal events being held around the country.

Stores from Oswego, N.Y., to Hilo, Hawaii, will be helping out, but World Book Night will reach well beyond traditional channels, into military bases, prisons, ballparks and ferries. A church in Denver will give copies of Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” to a nearby magnet school for refugees and immigrants. Vernon Legakis, a surfer in Santa Cruz, Calif., will seal copies of Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” inside Ziplocs and hand them out at Monterey Bay. Attendees of a “Hunger Games” screening at Windsor Theatre in Hampton, Iowa, will receive editions of Collins’ million-selling novel….

True to their mission, the volunteers will be handing out some great and engaging reads, as a way to encourage a love of reading. They’ll be distributing everything from Stephen King’s The Stand to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. There’s heartwarming popular titles like Because of Winn Dixie, and Dave Eggers’ gritty non-fiction novel about New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Zeitoun. Besides The Hunger Games, they’ll also be distributing Orson Scott Card’s classic science fiction novel, Ender’s Game. All the authors have agreed to waive their royalties for the books,

Here’s a complete list of the 30 different books being distributed for “World Book Night”

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Friday Night Lights
Ender’s Game
Little Bee
The Hunger Games
Blood Work
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Because of Winn Dixie
Peace Like a River
A Reliable Wife
Q is for Quarry
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Kite Runner
The Stand
The Poisonwood Bible
The History of Love
The Namesake
The Things They Carried
Bel Canto
My Sister’s Keeper
The Lovely Bones
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Just Kids
The Glass Castle
The Book Thief

It’s a cheerful event, but I wondered if it was started partly as a reaction to the popularity of the Kindle. The books will be distributed in special paperback editions created just for the event, with the costs being covered by publishers, printers, and paper companies, according to another article USA Today. The event’s official page notes it will promote not just the value of reading, but also “of printed books, and of bookstores and libraries to everyone year-round.” Riffing on that theme, a cheeky editor at the New York Daily News headlined their story: “It’s World Book Night, but Amazon isn’t invited to the party.”

They note that the event “is being sponsored by Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble, the last two remaining bricks-in-mortar giants” — and, that Amazon was not also asked to participate. They cite a quote from the event’s founder that “the philosophy behind World Book Night has been about physical books in physical places, handed out person to person.” But that may change next year – at least, if Amazon has its way.

A spokeswoman for Amazon told the newspaper, “We look forward to talking to the organizers of World Book Night about future opportunities…!”

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