Wednesday was William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and the annual International World Book Night!
World Book Night originated in the UK in 2010 (and came to the American shores in 2012). It was based on a children’s holiday called World Book Day, a “worldwide celebration to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.” Just like World Book Day, World Book Night distributes books generously donated by the publishing world to promote literacy in the local communities.
Once again (third time running), I was selected to distribute books to “non and light readers” in the Ferndale, Royal Oak and Berkley area. My book this year? Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Feeling optimistic, I visited my old friends at Southfield’s Book Beat (a major supporter in this worthy effort and all-around good people) to pick up my copies and set forth in the world.
When I first read my selection in my bookselling days, I thought Bourdain was entertaining, a rebel. He was a gritty chef that was ‘telling it like it is’. I particularly appreciated it as I was living in New England at the time (oh, the seafood shacks along the shore!), and I knew the Cape area well (P-town was a favorite excursion). After receiving my books to distribute this year, I decided to re-read it so I could chat it up as I handed them out. It wasn’t charming anymore. A little obnoxious even, but I’m sure someone out in the community would enjoy a little snarkiness.
I set off early, in my orange CL “Volunteer” t-shirt from last year. The inside book cover announced that our Thorndike division donated large print versions for this year – cool! One of my first stops was the City of Ferndale offices. A very nice lady suggested the nearby “Free Clinic”, community centers, and other services.
Approaching people in the downtown areas wasn’t realistic – it was cold with a risk of rain so nobody was stopping to talk. On my list were free clinics, convalescent homes, community centers, and a soup kitchen. It was painful seeing their pain – the convalescent home was like a punch in the gut. The residents were parked in the halls and so listless. But the nurses gladly accepted several copies to hand around. Maybe they need a little literary fire and scandal to liven things up?
The only thing to give me real qualms was distributing a non-fiction biography about a famous chef to visitors of a soup kitchen. I will have to re-think my selection next year. I was glad to give away my last copies as the sun came out and it was time to set off on another adventure.
|My certificate of participation|
What are my takeaways?
- Several people mentioned they hadn’t read a book in a long time. This made me very sad. The rush of a new story? The smell of the pages? The escapism? Is there a greater joy than losing oneself in a book? Of having a tale weave itself around you and hug you like a warm quilt? I hope their new book is a turning point for them.
- I miss my bookselling days. I miss chatting about my old favorites and getting suggestions in return. I ran into one of my former customer’s, and it really reinforced how special book people are!
- I was thrilled to hear several recipients mention they had recently heard about World Book Night. It’s a great program that can truly make a difference if the word is spread.