I have been lucky enough to be a giver for World Book Night twice now.
It’s the most amazing organisation based on a very simple but powerful idea. Getting people passionate about books and reading to hand out books they love to spread the word……. reading is really fantastic.
Last year I was lucky enough to be a giver of Stuart: A Life Backwards, a book very dear to me. It makes for very tough reading in parts and I did worry that I was handing out a book that might have issues in it that “9 to 5ers” as Stuart himself called them might not be aware of/or want to think about. Stuart wanted his story told and managed to get his rather dry academic biographer (Alexander Masters) to turn his life into a real page turner, a thriller, like a Tom Clancy novel. I felt very proud to be part of the first World Book Night and to continue to help pass this remarkable, often hilarious, sometimes very sad, story on to new readers.
This year I thought maybe I should try to go for something completely different and I was so happy to be chosen to give I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. A sweet charming tale of a girl growing up in England in the 1930s. I arranged to give it to some of the girls at the high school I work at. I did worry it might be too gentle for the Twilight Generation. (Although there is plenty of longing in it for fans of Team Edward). I hoped that no matter which decade you grew up in, there are certain universal themes that girls everywhere can relate to.
This year I was even brave enough to approach some strangers. I worked out the best question to open with was “When was the last time you read a book?” with a big smile on my face. If the answer was “errr” and then a very long pause I knew I had a contender.
The books have generally been very well received. I only had 3 knock backs.. and all my co-lunch time supervisors. They are not interested in reading. I wondered what it would take to reach them. Ah well, I thought you can’t please everyone, but I was surprised one wouldn’t even take it for her teenage daughter.
It is the most wonderful feeling to speak to someone who hasn’t read for a while and put a book in their hand, a completely altruistic gift. Both years I have been overwhelmingly and very powerfully taken aback by the pleasure, the strength of feeling I received giving these books. I thought it might be nice for someone to receive a free book, but I didn’t think I would feel the emotions too.
So I really want to thank the organisers for all their hard work. I am so grateful to be part of something so unique and satisfying. I hope this is an annual event for many years to come and that these books are sent off on long adventures and journeys, enjoyed by many, many new readers and that people come to love “to lose (their) thoughts in other men’s minds” just as Charles Lamb once described so wonderfully and accurately when he was asked what he enjoyed about reading.