Last night, April 23, marked the third annual celebration of World Book Night in the U.S. The national campaign dedicated to spreading the love of books and reading grew by 16 percent since last year to involve more than 29,000 volunteer book givers, who distributed 580,000 free books to new or light readers in 7,000 towns and cities across America. Indie booksellers were key to the celebrations, serving as book pick-up locations, event promoters, party and launch event hosts, and in many cases, givers themselves.
Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Florida, hosted an April 22 celebration with author Carl Hiaasen, whose book Hoot was a World Book Night pick this year. At the reception, Vero Beach handed over nearly 600 books to the community literacy initiative “Moonshot Moment: 90% Literacy by Third Grade” for distribution to low-income children at Wednesday’s Read Across the Field event, held at the Vero Beach High School Citrus Bowl. More than 600 people attended the event, where Hiaasen autographed copies of his book and attendees lined up on the field to form the shape of the Moonshot Moment rocket logo.
For its third year participating in World Book Night, Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, brought stacks of books to The Care Center in Holyoke, an alternative education program for pregnant and parenting young women. Fifteen students accepted WBN titles from Odyssey owner Joan Grenier, her husband Jon Weissman, and store manager Emily Crowe, who told MassLive, “We are booklovers. We want to share this enthusiasm of the written word with people who haven’t discovered the love of books.” The team gave away Code Name Verity, Zora and Me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Dog Stars.
Washington City Paper in Washington, D.C., spoke with Politics & Prose’s events coordinator Sarah Baline at the store’s World Book Night kickoff and open mic celebration on April 22, where past givers took the stage to share their experiences. “People think you’re trying to sell them something,” Baline told Washington City Paper. “When you get through to them that no, this is just a free book, they get really excited.” Attendees related their plans for Wednesday’s giveaway, including handing books out to people in the waiting room at the National Institutes of Health.
At The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, owner Betsy Burton welcomed members of the city police and fire departments, who trucked 600 World Book Night titles to the local library to kick off a day of giving on Wednesday. Givers included volunteers from the mayor’s office, the police and fire departments, the library, the Homeless Outreach Service Team, and authors Ann Cannon, Shannon Hale, and Josh Hanagarne. “Givers figure out a book they would like to give off this list, in a place that would be best suited to give that book, so they’re matching books to people who very much need the books, and by giving the right book to the right person, they’re changing lives all over the country,” Burton told Fox 13 News. “It’s just a wonderful program.”
The Morris Book Shop community engagement coordinator Natalie Cunningham spoke with WUKY in Lexington, Kentucky, about the growing interest from readers about World Book Night. “What’s exciting about it is it’s not a random giveaway. It’s person-to-person contact, saying ‘I think you might really enjoy this.’ And hopefully inspiring people to go on beyond that one book, to get more excited about literacy in general,” said Cunningham. To get kids in the area excited about reading, volunteers from Morris Book Shop coordinated a medieval carnival in Lexington.
BookBar’s Nicole Sullivan joined author Peter Heller for a pedicab ride in Denver, Colorado, to give out copies of his book, The Dog Stars. Heller signed copies of his books and gave them away to homeless youth on the street, one of whom played a song for him in exchange. The best comment of the night came from one of the recipients, Justin, who told Sullivan and Heller that he was going to read the entire book that night, while another, “Chains,” said that he might start reading again. “The kids didn’t know who Peter was but they were thrilled to meet an author and get his book signed and free,” said Sullivan. “Peter said it was one of the most important things he’s ever done.”
Several participating booksellers took to social media to share their WBN excitement and activity.
Booksellers from Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington, wished their Facebook friends and Twitter followers a happy World Book Night from their book-giving spot under a bridge in the company of the Fremont Troll.
Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, Washington, tweeted: “Love giving out books to our troops!” and included a photo of members of the U.S. Navy with WBN titles in hand. Liberty Bay also shared a photo of teenage recipients at a local skate park.
Author Chris Cander helped kick off the event at Houston’s Brazos Bookstore by sharing stories of being a giver in previous years. In the spirit of celebration, Cander came to the store with cookies bearing the World Book Night logo.
Cander wrote about this year’s giving experience on her blog: “What I love so much about World Book Night is that it not only spreads the love of books and reading, but it catalyzes connections that might never otherwise take place.”
In the days leading up to the event, Brazos manager Jeremy Ellis spoke to Houston Matters about the purpose of World Book Night. “It’s really exciting to see people so excited about books,” he said. “Books are so important to so many people and for someone to be able to share a book they love with someone else is really exciting.” —Sydney Jarrard and Elizabeth Knapp