World Book Night 2013

As most of you have noticed, I’ve been live-blogging my World Book Night experience. It’s been wonderful. But here’s the whole story in a more narrative sort of fashion. 

I found out about WBN last April, a few weeks before the event. My coworker at the time was participating and ended up handing books out with the YPG group. I got on the mailing list and figured I’d strategize if I became a giver. 

Come October, huzzah! I apply and in February received the email saying “Hello! You’ve been chosen as a Giver” and telling me I was given The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. At which point I tweeted my excitement and received a lovely tweet back from the author, making my entire month. 

Come April, I got an email from the Mid-Manhattan Library about pick up events and decided that I would just pick it up the evening of WBN and take my chances handing books out on the steps of the NYPL’s Schwartzman Building. 

The morning of the event, I showed up to work and my coworker gave me his pin from WBN 2012, which I proudly wore all day at the office. Even though I work in publishing most of my office had no idea the event was happening. Bad book people! No cookies for you. 

I spent part of my lunch break writing post-it notes to stick inside the books. They started out reading something like :

"Dear Reader,  I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. Atwood creates a thrilling, terrifying world of could-be or could-have-been. In this dystopian future, there is no choice. Should you choose to read on, you won’t regret it. Best, Whitney  @wishme"

Quickly this devolved into pithy quotes such as:

Once I got to the library, I recruited a few of my fellow Givers at the pick up location to come with me to hand books out. We prepped our books together. 

We had options for the unsuspecting public!

And then we swung out into the world of Fifth Avenue during rush hour. The best part about doing this in front of NYPL was the sheer variety of people we could interact with. Cranky businessmen who hadn’t read Bradbury since High School, Elderly women who were just being kind, High School kids who liked free stuff, tourists who were familiar with the event  (or not) and were just curious.

Under 20 minutes later, all 60 of our books were gone. We had short, excited conversations with people, a number of people stared at us for the majority of the time we were there, ignoring our invitation to talk. 

But my favorite part of the evening- No, two favorite parts- were supremely special. A group of tourists from Catalan came up and said “Is this World Book Night? For the 23 of April?” So which we said, “Yes!” and they regaled us with what WBN is for them in Spain— the bookstores and shops stay open late, books are handed out, wine flows, and roses are given as well. We gave them copies of our books which they said they’d use to practice Enlgish, they gave us kisses on the cheek and took promises from us to visit Catalan next year for World Book Night so we could experience it there. 

The second was an interaction with a High School kid who had read both Bossypants and Fahrenheit 451  and who positively glowed when I explained The Handmaid’s Tale. He took it to be The Hunger Games for adults, which I explained “not quite, but still dystopian” and explained more, to which he got even MORE excited and sat down on the steps to immediately read the book. 

Twenty minutes. Countless smiles from people walking by cheering us on and from those who received books. A handful of eyes lighting up, a handful skeptical but still willing to take a chance on a new book. 

An exceptional experience. I so look forward to doing it again next year if I can. Maybe in Spain. 

Many thanks to World Book Night US and to Margaret Atwood (and Ray Bradbury and Tina Fey and every other author) as well as my two new friends and giving buddies. 

Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 7:53 PM

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