Reading giver applications is a genuine joy. Sure, you sit down and look at the spreadsheet and realise that there are less words in War and Peace than there are in front of you and you'll be reading them for days and days and days, pretty much till your eyes give out. And you have to make serious decisions about whether people can take part. And it really means something to the people who've applied which adds a whole load more pressure. But reading through them and seeing how much reading means to people and how much they want to share that with others is an incredible privilege. Then occasionally you stumble across a truly incredible application, like this, and you just have to share it.
"A few years ago, I was given a WBN book. I didn't read very regularly - and didn't read at all because I wanted to. After being given the WBN book, my curiosity and imagination was sparked, and ever since I have been addicted to reading. First it was a small bookcase, now I have piles of books all ...around my bedroom (and overflowing into other rooms of the house - much to my parents annoyance!). I want to share this love of reading with other people, and hope that if I can spread it to just one person, hopefully they can do the same to someone else in the future. I was a giver last year, and have got many of my friends hooked on Patrick Ness and other writers, and even made a new friend because of WBN! Hopefully I can replicate this again this year!"
- Jack, 18,
A story about giving in the gym (again)
"WBN came and went in a flash. I thought long and hard about the possible places of distribution but alas, my experience last year coloured my decision and I found myself, yet again, opting for the gym!
So, again, I lugged my 20 books to this place dominated in the evenings by muscle-bound, sweaty, smelly, macho sorts whose prime aim in life is to pump iron, admire themselves in the mirrors surrounding their over-sized bodies and convince themselves that all that really matters in life is the size of one's biceps and the broadness of one's shoulders.
Many remember me as the tiny lady from planet weirdness where books are kings and power lies in pages. They all recalled being presented with "The Room" last year and immediately reiterated their fascination with the captivating story-comments which were repeated to me throughout the year since the last WBN. What did I have to offer them this year? Well, I replied, another story which would fascinate, move, entrance and leave them in tears.
This was just the sort of challenge these supposed iron men needed, and all clambered for a copy of "Me Before You." I have yet to receive feedback from this group of softies, but I bet they will love the novel, want to analyse it with me and await next year's offering. I have these giants in the palm of my hand but more importantly, they are interested in reading and empowered by the opportunities that WBN presents them with. What a great invention this fantastic idea is and what great fun it has given me to be able to spread the love of reading amongst men who realise that there is life beyond weights!!"
Giving The White Queen to non-reading mums
"Dear world book night you made my dreams come true! Thank you all so much for letting me give out the white queen. I had such a fantastic day, and thanks to you there are lots of very happy people in my home town, I gave my books away around my local estate. And after convincing some mums to put down their phones and give reading a try instead of social networking, over a cup of tea they took my books and said they would give them a try, but not to expect to much as they could not give a lot of time to read a book, as the last time they read one was at school
A week later and I saw 2 of the young mums, and they recognised me as the book girl and said to me that they found the book took less time than they thought to get into, and it was really great and they had been discussing it!!!!! And they both had started to think of reading as fun!!!! That's all down to you giving me the books to share it really was an honour thank you keep spreading the joy x x x x x x xx"
So, we chose the books, we printed 500,000 of them and then distributed them to 20,000 individuals and 1200 institutions. On Tuesday April 23 they were given out to those who don't regularly read all over the country to spread the joy and love of reading.
But that's nowhere near where their - or our - story stops.
We now begin the really important work - evaluating what happened on the night, where and to whom the books actually went and how what we've done is impacting on people's lives.
But most of all we do still just really want to say thank you to everyone who came together to make World Book Night happen. It is the most amazing collaboration of people who love and know how important books and reading is, from the authors and publishers to booksellers and librarians and ultimately you, the readers. It is our enormous privilige to be able to work with you all to deliver the power and joy of reading to new people.
Oh, and we're launching a book club on May 1 to highlight each month the one book we've absolutely fallen for and think everyone should be reading. First up is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and if you want a little teaser of it you can see Graeme reading from it at our London event this year.
A story of giving at Edinburgh Court House
Overall, though it was a really enjoyable experience, most people were very amicable and receptive. It took me about 20 minutes to distribute all 20 books. I could have easily distributed double that with ease.
A Giver of Little Face who was surprised by how many non-readers she knew
The first of (hopefully) many stories today to touch us:
A story of giving books as an unexpected patient in hospital
The people who have already had a book have started reading it and seem to be enjoying they are going to come to let me know later on what they think of it.
3 days to go!
A story about giving 100 books and the love letter (and guilt free threesome!) that went with them
Michelle Varney, The Player of Games
I had a lovely and exhilarating - if exhausting - time chasing after people at a cinema, trying to thrust a copy of 'The Player of Games' into hands. I did a radio interview in the days before and managed to rope in a publisher who gave away a couple of dozen of their soon-to-be-published books and persuaded a historical author (Elizabeth Chadwick) to come along too. She gave away about twenty or so of her books, lovingly inscribed in celebration of WBN and signed by her. I made up over a hundred book marks with the following love-letter to literature upon them and put one in each and every book. So, all in all, 100 or more people got a free book. I am definitely signing up again in 2013....
How can you not love a book?
It goes everywhere and yet is always by your side.
It holds you close through the dark times and soars with you when your heart is up in the clouds.
It makes you laugh just in remembrance of it and yet the taste can be as wormwood.
You can meet books more vivid than your wildest imagination, you can meet your most feared, most beloved and encounter those that are mad, bad and dangerous to know.
You can pick up books you wouldn't take home to Mother, ones that will shock the Vicar, those that keep children spellbound and ones you and your Granny can talk about for hours.
You will meet your soulmate, your enemy and your hero.
Books will accompany you down the road to the pub, that long journey up North to Aunty Winifred's or halfway across South America to find yourself.
They have been taken to the bottom of the sea, to the North and South poles and are circling the planet as you read this.
Take three of them to bed – they won't care and they'll still respect you in the morning. Nothing loves you like a book.
A story of giving to travellers and of celebrating short stories
Mary Walker, Someone Like You
Thank you so much for letting me be one of the very privileged people who were givers this year. What a lovely task! I loved every minute. I chose Roald Dahl's short Stories, because there's a generation who only know him as a Children's writer, not as a wonderful writer for adults. Also because Publishers underestimate the popularity of short stories and don't publish them. They are perfect for life today, when we're all on the move. As promised, I stepped onto buses, and the odd train in far-flung West Yorkshire, to press the books into hands of very surprised and delighted passengers, especially if they looked young, or were obviously commuters. I only got one suspicious person saying "How much do I have to pay you'. Everyone promised to pass their copy on to a fellow passenger. Everyone smiled, or was tickled pink. So I just want to pass on their thanks to all of you who made it possible. Thank you for stretching us givers into tactical giving...it would be so easy just to give to friends. Long Live the Short Story. Long Live Book Night! It's brilliant.
A story of how being a giver has changed a sufferer of social anxiety’s life
Louise Dibble, Abergavenny, Someone like you
I would like to thank you for choosing me to be a giver...As a sufferer of social anxiety i dont very often find the courage to venture out through my front door but being a giver has given me the courage and focus to go out and meet new people whilst giving them a free book and changing their lives as much as they change mine..
Cant wait until i can register again for next year..
THANK YOU WORLD BOOK NIGHT !!
All my love
A story from a depressed librarian who found joy and new readers
Marie, Sunderland, Good Omens
The excitement was almost too much. The sun dawned bright and... sunny; today, finally, at last, was the day I was to bless twenty-four neighbours with twenty-four copies of one of my most favourite books as part of World Book Night. From the word go the experience of being an official 'giver' had been one of personal fulfillment and righteous pride. For once, I was actually making a difference!
That was, of course, how I felt until the slightly uneasy feeling of last night emerged fully-grown into some kind of twenty-four-copies-of-Good-Omens-shaped nightmare. What was I actually going to do with these books? Who would I give them to? Oh, crap... and then, it sunk in. Not only had I no idea where I would offload my precious charges, but I had entirely forgotten the fact that I would be approaching total strangers to do so.
I've never been the most confident person in the world, but this is one thing I find exceedingly difficult. To admit my worst faults, I am shy, introverted and carry a complicated inferiority complex. I am clinically depressed and suffer from anxiety. I gibber awkwardly when put on the spot. To put it simply, I am not the kind of person you would find doing this sort of thing willingly. My job does involve working with strangers, but working behind a desk or among the bookshelves and being approached by people with fairly predictable queries is a completely different kettle of fish. I don't think I'd mentally prepared myself for today's challenges.
It didn't start out particularly promisingly, either. One thing or another had driven the necessity to phone ahead prospective locations where I could give out the books. I was already feeling guilty when I dialled the number for the local Sainsbury's superstore; the waffle about 'nominated charities' and 'monthly diaries' made me feel worse. It was clear they were not going to allow me to do anything there this year, let alone today. My next attempt was the local doctors' surgery, where I was informed quite snootily 'we don't really do things like that' (what, provide free literature for your patients?).
However, a suggestion from my mother had me phoning one of the local cafes - The Mad Hatter. The literary connotation of the name should've perhaps occurred to me earlier, especially since it is (in my preformed and therefore unbiased-by-recent-events opinion) the nicest cafe in the area. They also do the best chili-chicken paninis this side of the Wear and quite regularly deliver dinner to an elderly friend of mine's door, even though they don't normally do deliveries. Surprisingly enough, they were more than happy to let me hand out books in the cafe. It's just unfortunate the book in question wasn't Alice in Wonderland!
So, we decided to have our lunch at the Mad Hatter today and while we were waiting for our food, I would be giving out the bag of books I'd brought with me. I won't lie and say I wasn't nervous, or that I didn't feel like an ungainly pest, but it became easier and easier. The lady at the first table I approached expressed shock when I told her that the book I'd just given her was entirely free. At another table, I was asked about World Book Night and what the free books were for. After explaining that it was an opportunity for people who love books to share the joy of reading with others, one of the gentlemen at the table who had previously declined my offer asked me for his own copy.
As luck had it, sitting in the middle of the room was our local councillor, who invited me to sit down and tell me about WBN and the book I had just given him. Even though the upcoming elections were in the corner of my mind (and no doubt his also) he seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing and who I was. He promised to read it, said he would give it to his wife too then made a note to contact the library when he'd finished to tell me what he thought of it. He also came over afterwards to thank me again and wish me luck with my career.
Not a single table turned down my offer and I was genuinely surprised that the books made people happy. My mother commented on how nice it was to see people leaving with books under their arms. One of the waitresses told us that the other diners were talking about how nice it was. I was even invited to come back tomorrow with any I had left. Looking at the much depleted pile, I wish I'd been given more!
When I applied to be a giver I did so because of my love of reading and, of course, because I want other people to find enjoyment in reading too. I definitely wasn't expecting anything in return. This experience gave me the impetus to overcome my fears and share something I love and feel so deeply about; and as a result, my self-confidence, interest in the life of my community and pride in myself have improved a thousandfold.
This much should be said: I will DEFINITELY be participating in World Book Night next year!