Monday, April 23, 2012

News: World Book Night

Today is UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day. UNESCO established the day in 1995 to promote reading, publishing and copyright. (Although, it has been reported that the date was chosen partially because both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on April 23rd in 1616, this may not be fully accurate, due to a discrepancy between the Gregorian vs. Julian calendars.) 

Today is also the first World Book Night. The goal of World Book Night is for avid readers to spread the love of reading to people who do not read often. It started in the UK last year, when a group approached authors and publishers about distributing books for free. Their theory was that if someone (even a stranger) personally handed a book to someone who seldom read saying, “I loved this book,” the other person might read it. Although last year’s giveaway did not occur on April 23rd, it was such a success that it has now spread to the U.S. and Germany, and has been moved to coincide with the UNESCO day.

In each country, volunteer “givers” signed up and chose a single book, which they had read and loved, from a preselected list. In the U.S., 25,000 “givers” will each be distributing 20 copies of their chosen book. The books include: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Bel Canto by Ann Pachett, Just Kids by Patti Smith and The Stand by Stephen King. In the UK, 20,000 people will be giving away 24 copies of their chosen book. The books include: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. (I was unable to find information on Germany.) In each country, givers were asked to distribute books within their community, but preferably not simply to friends. 

In all cases, the authors have graciously agreed to forgo royalties. Additionally, printing, binding and shipping services were all donated or offered at steep discounts. Each book was printed in a special World Book Night edition to publicize the event, as well as to help prevent resale. 

So, keep your eyes peeled tonight. You just might see someone by your subway station or in your local bar giving away books.

  I'll be giving out copies of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. I chose this book because I love it, but also because, even though it was a Pulitzer-prize finalist in 1991, I thought it might be one of the less familiar books from the list. It is a collection of closely related short stories, but not a novel in stories. Still, all of the stories take place during or in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Although Tim O'Brien has written about his service in Vietnam as memoir, he has always been clear that this is a work of fiction. I also chose the collection because, although the title story has become very well known and has been anthologized many times, the other stories are as good, if not better. 

No comments:

Post a Comment