Saying good-bye to World Book Night

I write this with a broken heart. As many of you have heard, World Book Night has suspended U.S. operations due to lack of funding.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

After three years in which thousands and thousands of you distributed over a million and half specially printed World Book Night paperbacks across America, we are sad to announce that we are suspending operations. The expenses of running World Book Night U.S., even given the significant financial and time commitment from publishers, writers, booksellers, librarians, printers, distributors, shippers–and you, our amazing givers!–are too high to sustain.

I read the rest of the email in a state of shock. I have championed WBN for three years, as a giver, on social media, recruiting other givers, as a blogger, suggesting books and generally shouting from the rooftops. I loved being one of tens of thousands of volunteers spreading out across the country for the sole purpose of giving away half a million free books. What could be cooler than that?

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

But, and this is a big but, I didn’t put my money where my mouth is. As generous as I could be with my time and talent, I did not share my treasure. Shame on me.

Do I think my $25 or $50 or even $100 would have made a significant difference? Probably not, given the tone of WBN’s letter:

For three years, the publishing industry and book community have very generously footed the bill and contributed enormous time and effort, and we are so very grateful for all the support. We did receive some funds via individual donations, and we worked very hard to get grants. We did get some, but there are a lot of other worthy causes out there and only so much money available. We can’t carry on without significant, sustainable outside funding.

I don’t have the means to provide “significant, sustainable funding,” but I might have slept better last night if I knew I had done everything possible to make sure World Book Night survived. Instead, I wondered how we book lovers, collectively some of the most passionate people I’ve ever encountered, couldn’t rescue this sinking ship.

I don’t have any answers. I’ve worked in sales and/or fundraising for not-for-profits for much of my life and understand the obstacles. I give enormous amounts of credit to everyone at World Book Night and all of the publishing houses who worked together to grow this effort for the past three years. I sincerely hope that some organization or individual will be moved to step in and solve the immediate crisis so that this post will serve only as a cautionary tale.

As optimistic as I am, I don’t feel confident that will happen. So I am left with my memories. And they are awesome ones. I overcame my fears and talked to perfect strangers about books I love. I placed printed books in the hands of dozens of people, young and old, asking them to give a new title a chance. I take some comfort in knowing we all made a difference.WBN_passiton_300x250_020912

YOU, the givers, made it possible for WBN to reach its full potential. For us here at World Book Night, this experience has been life-changing, as we hope it has been for you and recipients of the books. Our gratitude to you is simply immeasurable.

Naturally last night I also went back to revisit my posts about World Book Night (further saddened that WBN 2013 was during my hiatus in blogging):

World Book Night with a little help from my son 

World Book Night 2014 – A Perfect Pub Crawl

I shared this experience with people around the country and felt myself an ambassador for reading. That will have to be enough.

World Book Night 2014 — A Perfect Pub Crawl

The World Book Night 2014 euphoria is still fresh in my mind as I write this.

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

Kathy and I in our WBN shirts. April 23, 2014.

This was my 3rd time sharing my love of reading and pressing books into the hands of strangers – and it was the best year yet. Instead of the train station, we opted for a pub crawl. Really, beer and books have a natural, alliterative relationship anyway. Four of us, wearing matching WBN shirts, hit the first tavern.

WBN 2014 Stop One at FatDuck. Beer & Books.

WBN 2014 Stop One at FatDuck. Beer & Books.

We got off to a slow start. We were hesitant to interrupt conversations and didn’t have any formal permission to embark on our mission, but we ordered our beers, set our books on the bar, took a deep breath and plunged in. I introduced the hostess to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, assuring her she’d love the insider’s look at the restaurant biz. She cracked it open immediately (as the restaurant wasn’t busy). I can’t express how rewarding it was to see her smile grow as she turned the pages. It gave us all the confidence to approach everyone else.

We quickly found our groove and gave away 80 books in a little over 2 hours in two pub/restaurants and a coffee shop, plus several pedestrians as we made our way down Madison Street. We stayed the longest at the Piggy Back Tavern, where we gave away books, sampled a great variety of draft beers and shared a delicious dinner. We took turns approaching families, individuals and staff members, offering our selections.

WBN 2014 final stop. Piggy Back Tavern

WBN 2014 final stop. Piggy Back Tavern

Of course there were a number of polite (and sometimes rude) “no’s,” but far more people got into the spirit of the night, asking us questions about the books and about WBN. Two interactions stand out:

As I made my way to a new table, the woman seated there looked at my shirt and said, “Oh, April 23, Book Night. When did that come to America?” I gave her the WBN background and she told me about the custom in Spain where you give a book and a flower to a loved one. I ended up chatting with her family and sharing Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Kitchen Confidential and The Ruins of Gorlan with them.

Then, at the end of the night, when we had only two books left, we were ready to give in. The bar had filled with mostly male Chicago Blackhawks fans (April 23 was also Game 4 in the Stanley Cup Playoff series vs. the St. Louis Blues – GO HAWKS!). None of us felt confident interrupting these fans with our book pitch. We noticed one fan talking to the bartender and pointing to all the customers around him with books in front of them. The bartender pointed out our table; the fan came over and I ended up convincing him to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, telling him he’d seem like a sensitive soul with the ladies.

World Book Night 2014 was awesome. I’m always a little reluctant/nervous to start but end up feeling so rewarded by sharing the love of reading. Strangers are so surprised that we’re offering something and asking nothing in return but that they try a new book. Many of these people stopped to thank us again before leaving. I also got such a kick out of sharing the experience live on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – connecting immediately to givers across the country.

Can’t wait for next year.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

My WBN 2014 choice was Kitchen Confidential.

Our group's selections for 2014.

Our group’s selections for 2014.

Thursday Flashback — World Book Night

Yesterday I received the official notice that I have been chosen to be a World Book Night Giver. With hundreds of thousands of other people, I will be part of an effort to give away a million books to light or non-readers. Once again I will work with my wonderful friends and I have been so heartened to hear from other readers on Goodreads that they too have signed on to be part of the fun this year.

I went in search of what I wrote about last year’s event as I look forward to making this year even better (perhaps without my youngest son in tow this time.)

Are any of you givers this year?

Originally published April 24, 2012

So I participated in the first-time-in-America World Book Night last night. As with many things in my life, it didn’t go according to plan.

Way back when (6 months ago), I stumbled across a Facebook post about World Book Night in the UK. When I followed the link, I saw it was coming to the US in 2012. I love books. I love promoting books. I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I signed up for the newsletter.

When it came time to actually register and request books, I faltered. Once again, the idea of this was more appealing than actually committing to the follow-through.

Choosing titles to give away was no problem, but writing about a place I’d go and why I wanted to do this was a little harder. I’m a curl up on the couch and share my book love with like-minded people kind of girl. The thought of seeking out a place where I could find light or reluctant readers scared me. But I did it.

First paperback edition book cover

First paperback edition book cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then I was chosen and I had to move beyond my comfort zone. I had a plan. I would go to the train station and just smile and offer my book, The Kite Runner, to strangers. Gulp.

As the date approached, I turned again and again to the virtual world for courage. I followed @wbnamerica on Twitter and “met” thousands of other people giving away books. I promoted World Book Night on Facebook and received loads of encouragement from friends and family. Ultimately, I connected with real-life friends and revised my work-alone plan.

Feeling better about a group of us working together with several titles, I wore my button, passed out stickers and packed my box. Then real life interfered with my best-laid plans. My husband could not get home in time for me to meet up with my friends. Sigh.

I could have used this as a reason to not interact with strangers, but I surprised myself by adapting quickly. I brought my youngest son along for the “fun.” He was none to pleased about being taken away from his backyard soccer game to “sell” books, but he had no choice. I explained how much this worldwide event meant to me and he agreed to help.

In the end, we had a blast walking up to strangers, talking up our titles and seeing people walk away with a new book. After a slow start, and quite a few skeptical looks, one train’s worth of commuters cleared out most of our books. My son was cute and charming and more than willing to run back to the box to refresh our armloads of books. I felt like part of a much broader community as I followed the experiences of givers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Now that it is over, I can forever claim being one of the first in America. And, so can my youngest son. I like that.

Some of my favorite #wbnamerica tweets:

Stacey Mason ‏ @StaceyLMason

“Sometimes we need books. And sometimes books need us.” Perhaps half a million free books started a new conversation last night @wbnamerica

Martha Kiley ‏ @MarthaKiley

Gave Bel Canto to a bartender, barista, counter girl, pizza guy, new moms, dog walkers and a butcher. Great night! #wbnamerica

The Book Shepherd ‏ @mybookshepherd

Yesterday was World Book Night-continue it and donate books to those who will open them and fall lin for the love of the word.#wbnamerica

Gabe Eggerling @saysgabe: I have always been told it’s a Gift to receive a book, but thanks to @wbnamerica I can say it’s also a Gift to give a book!!

20120424-091233.jpg

My box of WBN books

20120424-091256.jpg

Proud book-nerds ready to talk to commuters.

20120424-091305.jpg

My youngest son with an armful of The Hunger Games. Ready and willing.

World Book Night with a little help from my son

So I participated in the first-time-in-America World Book Night last night. As with many things in my life, it didn’t go according to plan.

Way back when (6 months ago), I stumbled across a Facebook post about World Book Night in the UK. When I followed the link, I saw it was coming to the US in 2012. I love books. I love promoting books. I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I signed up for the newsletter.

When it came time to actually register and request books, I faltered. Once again, the idea of this was more appealing than actually committing to the follow-through.

Choosing titles to give away was no problem, but writing about a place I’d go and why I wanted to do this was a little harder. I’m a curl up on the couch and share my book love with like-minded people kind of girl. The thought of seeking out a place where I could find light or reluctant readers scared me. But I did it.

First paperback edition book cover

First paperback edition book cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then I was chosen and I had to move beyond my comfort zone. I had a plan. I would go to the train station and just smile and offer my book, The Kite Runner, to strangers. Gulp.

As the date approached, I turned again and again to the virtual world for courage. I followed @wbnamerica on Twitter and “met” thousands of other people giving away books. I promoted World Book Night on Facebook and received loads of encouragement from friends and family. Ultimately, I connected with real-life friends and revised my work-alone plan.

Feeling better about a group of us working together with several titles, I wore my button, passed out stickers and packed my box. Then real life interfered with my best-laid plans. My husband could not get home in time for me to meet up with my friends. Sigh.

I could have used this as a reason to not interact with strangers, but I surprised myself by adapting quickly. I brought my youngest son along for the “fun.” He was none to pleased about being taken away from his backyard soccer game to “sell” books, but he had no choice. I explained how much this worldwide event meant to me and he agreed to help.

In the end, we had a blast walking up to strangers, talking up our titles and seeing people walk away with a new book. After a slow start, and quite a few skeptical looks, one train’s worth of commuters cleared out most of our books. My son was cute and charming and more than willing to run back to the box to refresh our armloads of books. I felt like part of a much broader community as I followed the experiences of givers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Now that it is over, I can forever claim being one of the first in America. And, so can my youngest son. I like that.

Some of my favorite #wbnamerica tweets:

Stacey Mason ‏ @StaceyLMason

“Sometimes we need books. And sometimes books need us.” Perhaps half a million free books started a new conversation last night @wbnamerica

Martha Kiley ‏ @MarthaKiley

Gave Bel Canto to a bartender, barista, counter girl, pizza guy, new moms, dog walkers and a butcher. Great night! #wbnamerica

The Book Shepherd ‏ @mybookshepherd

Yesterday was World Book Night-continue it and donate books to those who will open them and fall lin for the love of the word.#wbnamerica

Gabe Eggerling @saysgabe: I have always been told it’s a Gift to receive a book, but thanks to @wbnamerica I can say it’s also a Gift to give a book!!

20120424-091233.jpg

My box of WBN books

20120424-091256.jpg

Proud book-nerds ready to talk to commuters.

20120424-091305.jpg

My youngest son with an armful of The Hunger Games. Ready and willing.

Monday Quote: Books as Capital

Cropped version of Thomas Jefferson, painted b...

Cropped version of Thomas Jefferson, painted by Charles Willson Peale. Philadelphia, 1791. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.
Thomas Jefferson

In honor of World Book Night on April 23rd, I ask you to consider this quote. Thomas Jefferson may have had his faults, but the promotion of literacy and the love of the printed word were not among them.

I love the image of books as capital. Are we not enriching our children by reading stories, teaching them to read and then exposing them to books? Why not, then, continue that enrichment throughout our lives?

As I pass out free books this evening, I will proudly spread the wealth.

 

Further Reading:

https://alenaslife.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/wbn-im-a-giver/

http://www.us.worldbooknight.org

 

WBN – I’m a giver

Did you know Monday, April 23rd is World Book Night. On that evening I will be part of an international effort to give away 1,000,000 books. Successfully launched in the UK last year, readers in the United State will spread the joy for the first time this year. I am extremely proud to be part of the effort to celebrate reading by GIVING AWAY FREE books.

Volunteers were offered a list of 30 titles from which to choose. We requested first and second choices, hopefully of titles we had read so we could share our love of a certain title. WBN worked with publishers to produce 1,000,000 specially designed paperbacks which we will give away in every state.

I picked up the box of books my mom is giving out yesterday and will get mine at the library tomorrow night. The paperbacks are terrific looking. On Monday evening, I’ll be standing at the train station convincing commuters that THE KITE RUNNER is one those modern books everyone should read. http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/wbn2012-the-books/the-kite-runner

And, yes, it’s free.

Cover of "The Kite Runner"

Cover of The Kite Runner

Thanks to upallnightreading for the lovely post on this same topic and for the list of all of this year’s WBN books. http://upallnightreading.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/world-book-night-update/I have read 13 of the 25 books and plan to read a lot more of them. How about you? Which are your favorite.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Wintergirls by Laurie Anderson

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings* by Maya Angelou

Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Little Bee* by Chris Cleve

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Blood Work by Michael Connolly

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Zeitoun* by Dave Eggars

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton

The Kite Runner* by Khaled Hosseini

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Stand by Stephen King

The Poisonwood Bible* by Barbara Kingsolver

The History of Love* by Nicole Krauss

The Namesake* by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Bel Canto* by Ann Patchett

My Sister’s Keeper*by Jodi Picoult

Housekeeping* by Marilynne Robinson

Lovely Bones* by Alice Sebold

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* by Rebecca Skloot

Just Kids by Patti Smith

The Glass Castle* by Jeannette Walls

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

See the list of books and cover art at the WBN website here.

* indicates books I’ve read

I would love to hear from any other book givers out there. Where will you be? How do you plan to give away books?