Friday, 4 March 2011

Come On Down! To World Book Night

On Saturday nights there are all kinds of giveaways. Gameshow contestants win holidays, cars, and wide-screen TVs. Countless millions win however-many-quid on the Lotto. In town, there are drinks promotions, free entries before 11, and all kinds of deals to get you into the various rival restaurants. Literature, on a Saturday night, is normally off the menu; the crowds crave fantastic wealth, via their hopefully held lottery tickets, rather than a wealth of words; bookings for dinner, rather than books themselves.

This coming Saturday will be different! World Book Night is the largest book giveaway ever attempted, with one million of the lovely things being distributed at over a thousand bookshops and libraries around the country.The books themselves are being donated by roughly 5000 “passionate readers” who want other readers (perhaps those with less access to, or less experience of, books) to have and enjoy them. A sort of literary ‘pay it forward’, which includes distribution in places where people may not be able to attend the event themselves, e.g. hospitals and prisons.

Supported by the Publisher’s Association, the Booksellers’ Association, the BBC, and a host of other Guilds and Agencies, World Book Night is a breathtakingly BIG event, stretching from Glasgow to London to Abergavenny. Twenty-five titles have been chosen for distribution, and the range of these is, like the event itself, w i d e – classic tales rub papery shoulders with lesser known gems; adventure-led romance walks tantalisingly alongside gripping travelogue; award-winning pages flicker themselves at the merely adored. Something for everyone in the selection, which was chosen by a panel of even more “passionate readers” (those who make books their life’s work, as well as love).

Those who receive the books are encouraged, once they’re been read, to pass them on to other potential readers. And the givers themselves can track the progress of each book, via the Book Crossing website, in which each book is ‘tagged’, like an exotic animal, before it is “released into the wild”. In effect, you get the pleasure not just of reading the book and sharing it with others; you get the satisfaction of seeing the thing literally ‘take flight’. Who knows where that well-thumbed copy of Seamus Heaney’s Selected Poems, Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, or Nigel Slater’s Toast will end up? Wherever it does, you can be sure, via the Book Crossing system, that it will be passed on, and on, and on again, the bookish equivalent of pass-the-parcel, in which everybody wins.

Yes, that’s right, ladies and gents, everybody’s a winner, here! World Book Night takes place just two days after World Book Day, and it is calling you to come and take part. So, log in to the website (, and see what’s going on! As well as FREE books, there will also be readings, performances, fun, games, and (if you are very lucky) a glass of wine! I will be performing in Abergavenny Library this Saturday from 8pm, for example – attendance, like the books themselves, is free – and you are invited to attend. So – come on down! The price is right! And, strike it lucky, with a book (or 25), on the inaugural World Book Night.

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