Night of the Living Book

April 23, 2014 marks the commemoration of World Book Night in the United States. It is also the International Day of the Book, which is commemorated in other countries by giving a loved one a book. This commemoration — known specifically as World Book Night U.S. — has been going on for at least a couple of years, unbeknownst to me. I love the idea of it. The particulars may be found herebut the gist of this celebration is that a number of authors and other good people in several cities across the United States will be hand-giving away copies of special editions of more than thirty books to those who for one reason or another don’t have access to the print books.  I literally just found out about this (on Thursday, March 27, 2014, to be exact) and am, uh, a little late to the party in terms of signing up to do something is concerned, but I have already taken steps to officially participate in 2015, if the Lord be willing and creek doesn’t rise. May I make so bold to say that we, authors and readers alike, should be strongly on board with this?

It is not bulletin news to any of us that there is a great deal of competition out there for that very limited thing known as leisure time. Television, movies, video games, the stage…curling up with a good book is not everyone’s leisure drug of choice. Just as we have a generation of people who have attained their majority without ever having heard a jazz album in its entirety (my younger daughter was ready to call Children’s Services when I made her spend thirty minutes of a road trip listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue) there is a large chunk of the population who haven’t read a book that wasn’t called “Cliff Notes” since eighth grade. Oh, the Humanity! Each of you reading these words knows someone like that, someone good and decent whom you call friend but who just doesn’t read. You know their interests, what types of television shows they watch or what movies they enjoy; with just a bit of thought you can put a book that matches their interests in their hands, for the price of a trip to Sonic or dinner out, depending if you buy them a hardback or paperback.

The music industry has been doing something like this for several years with “National Record Store Day,” supporting local music stores selling physical product (usually vinyl, believe it or not). In my city of residence, there are actually more stores selling vinyl records than compact discs. World Book Night U.S. isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s a similar sentiment: support the product.

Please: take ten minutes, pick one person out of your circle of acquaintances and lay a brand new book on them on April 23. I’m mentioning this three-plus weeks ahead of time to give you time to plan it and to pick up all that loose change on the floor of your car to pay for it. Trust me: whoever you pick will be delighted that you thought of them, and they might even read the book. And another.  And another.  And as a treat for yourself, visit the Book Night website and pick up a coffee mug or a tee-shirt or something while you’re signing up to be an official participant for next year. The toughest part will be handing away all of those special editions (“Huh? What box of special editions of PRESUMED INNOCENT by Scott Turow? Oops. I forget to pass those out.”) but somehow we’ll manage. And thank you.

10 thoughts on “Night of the Living Book

  1. Interesting concept and a thoughtful gesture, if it works. I’ve tried this tactic with one of our kids based on the movies and TV shows watched, but the interest isn’t there beyond reading the first few pages. Playing games on the iPad holds more appeal. As you say, there are too many distractions available.

  2. Nancy, what I’m hoping is that it will reach a few people who never even consider a book. I had an experience recently which involved my recommending the library to someone who was looking for an audiobook and couldn’t find it. I asked them if they had checked the library. They looked at me for a moment and said, “Wow. I totally forgot about the library.” I think that people forget about books, too, or have acquired the attitude of the ingenue who stated, “A book? Why? I have one of those.” Those are the folks who will hopefully be reached.

  3. Kathryn, thank you for planning to participate on behalf of each and all of us out here who love reading and good writing and want to restore it to its proper popularity.

  4. Jim, I think that they’re focusing on physical product but in my opinion reading in ANY medium needs to be championed. And Thank You! I’d love to see your book.

  5. You and me both, Joe. Yesterday I finished a pass through the book where I was changing the page breaks and the chapter headings. When I arrived at the LAST chapter I realized that for the past two days I had been making changes to an “older” draft. Yowzers!! Took a few tricks and an all-niter to get that half-way straightened out. Now here I am going through another line-by-line edit. During this course I’m finding that I’d screwed up some of yesterday’s “fixes.” So now I’m refixing the fixes and getting the sensation of moving backward through time. How’s that for progress?

  6. Actually, Jim, I think(for what it’s worth) that refixing the fixes, as described, is progress. Absolutely. I probably would have dropkicked my laptop across the room, which would not have been progress.

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