April 23 is famous for two reasons. One, it’s Shakespeare’s birthday. And two, it’s World Book Night, where thousands of people in the US give away books to non-readers. Is it a coincidence? Certainly not, as World Book Night is all about promoting literature and the love of reading—Shakespeare included.
World Book Night was created in 2012 as a way for seasoned readers to introduce non-readers and light readers to the joys of literature. Thousands of volunteers sign up, are sent 20 books each, and then distribute them to their friends, their classmates, or strangers on the street. In the end, 500,000 free books are given away across the country. This list of distributed books—which changes every year—is carefully crafted by a select group of booksellers, librarians and authors, and features everything from classics to new and popular novels. Click here for a complete list of all the books being given away this year.
This year the list includes a few bestsellers, a few soon-to-be-classics, some nonfiction and even some poetry. The aim is to target adult readers, and most of the books reflect that level of maturity. Cheryl Strayed’s popular memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Wild, is on the list, as is Michael Pollan’s study of plants and humans, The Botany of Desire. Classics are represented in Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 and Tobias Wolff’s memoir This Boy’s Life.
But not all the books are “heavy reading.” The list also includes genre fiction, such as an Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral, and a fantasy by John Flanagan called The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1. There’s even a Pride and Prejudice retelling novel by Sharon Lathan that focuses on Georgiana Darcy’s quest for love—Miss Darcy Falls in Love.
Though World Book Night is aimed at adults, they do include a few select young adult and middle grade novels. A couple of classics, like Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, made the list, as well as a few soon-to-be-classics, like the World War II thriller Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. Other media wasn’t left out either—Derek Kirk Kim’s graphic novel, Same Difference, was included, as was Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which blends fiction and curious photographs.
Unfortunately, it’s too late to become a 2014 volunteer, but visit the website to sign up for the newsletter and learn more about how you can help in the future. It’s clear the organizers rely on those who value literature: from the authors who agree to wave their royalties, to the staff who manages such a large project, to the volunteers responsible for distribution, World Book Night truly is a collaboration of book-lovers. So keep your eyes peeled on April 23rd—if you run into the right person, you just might find yourself holding a new book.
Cover Photo: http://livewellnyu.com/event/world-book-night-2014/#.U1XumOZdWgs
World Book Night Logo: http://youngtopublishing.com/2014/04/world-book-night-2014/
Spread the Love of Reading: http://pegasus.indiebound.com/event/world-book-night