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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Book Night 2013


So today is World Book Night and this year has been the first that I have participated as a giver of books! For those unfamiliar with this event, World Book Night is a charitable event aimed to promote reading in adults. It runs as a parallel to the more established World Book Day, which tends to be more oriented towards children. All over the world people have been giving away free books today, particularly to those who don't read for one reason or another - maybe they don't think reading for pleasure is for them, maybe they 'don't have time', or perhaps they find reading itself to be a struggle. A few months back I applied and was accepted to give away copies of Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture. So today I set off to work at the hospital with a big bag of lovely books to distribute!
I had originally intended to give the books away to patients at work but as the day approached I became more and more apprehensive about this idea. There were two things holding me back: firstly, the nature of the job I'm doing at the moment means that most of my patients are quite acutely unwell, either waiting for investigations or immediately post-surgery, and I don't think that many of them would be particularly enthusiastic about fiction while they are feeling so rotten. And secondly, I have to admit that I wondered how professional it would seem to be approaching patients to have a chat about reading. I'm quite conscious of the way in which front-line NHS staff are being portrayed in a fairly negative light in some corners of the media at the moment, and was worried that people would turn around and tell me to stop asking them about books and to get on with doing my job!

So when I set out this morning I changed tack and decided to start by sharing books with colleagues instead. And it went really well! I handed some out to other doctors and left a little pile in the doctors' mess with a World Book Night poster explaining that people could help themselves. I also gave some to the cleaners, canteen staff and some of the nurses who I work with on the ward. It was really nice to see the smile on peoples' faces and in some cases incredulity that you were offering them a book that was entirely free. Lots of people said that they didn't read much as they don't feel they have the time, but said they would make an exception to give The Secret Scripture a try. In the spirit of the event I tried to avoid giving copies to keen readers, but when you're offering free books it's a bit like moths to a flame and it would have been very difficult to say no. But what was nice was how a couple of the self-confessed bookworms noted the name of our local bookshop that I'd written inside their copies, and said that they would strive to visit independent bookshops more often rather than always buying from Amazon.

There were a few hiccups, though. A couple of ladies seemed very suspicious that there was some sort of religious organisation behind the event that might have a spiritual agenda (possibly due to the title of the book I chose!). They were asking "well who else would be giving away books for free? Have the government paid for these?". It's funny how people tend to think there must be a catch and that nothing in life really comes for free. I overheard another man ask his friend: "Do you think you're going to read that, then?". He replied: "Well, no, but it's free isn't it? So you may as well take one". I nearly called him a cheeky monkey and asked for it back! But then I thought that maybe he would change his mind when he got home, or perhaps he was just putting on a bit of bravado in front of his friend so as not to seem nerdy and bookish. I do think some people still see reading as a bit of a nerdy pastime! But even if a book was free, why would you take it if you had absolutely no intention of ever attempting to read it?

At the end of the day I had about 8 copies left in my bag, so on my way home I took a trip up the stairwell of my building and left them on the doormats of neighbours who I don't know with a little note to say Happy World Book Night! I felt like Father Christmas sneaking around and hoping that nobody caught me in the act. I hope they enjoy the surprise when they leave the house tomorrow morning, and who knows, maybe I will meet some new friendly neighbours as a result if they like the book and strike up a conversation in future.

So ultimately I enjoyed my World Book Night experience and I'm really glad I made the effort to get involved. To anybody considering taking part as a giver next year; it is a scary idea at first but quite a rewarding task to undertake. I really want people to enjoy The Secret Scripture as much as I did. And to anybody who also participated in the events this time around; I hope you had fun!

8 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed World Book Night. It looks like a lot of fun. Though I think you were definitely right not to give the books to your patients. Most of them would be happy with the distraction, but some might have taken offense. And it only takes ONE person to ruin it for everyone!

    Good job!

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    1. I'm glad you agree, Rachel! Some people seemed to think it was a bit of a cop out and that it would have been a great idea to hand them out to patients, but you have to be careful not to intrude at such a stressful time, even if well-intentioned.

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  2. That's fascinating Marie. I've thought about getting involved before but you've inspired me to give it a go next year. Thanks!

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    1. It's difficult at first and definitely involves stepping out of your comfort zone, but I found it to be well worthwhile. I think it's easier too if there's a book on the list that you really love already - all the better to get enthusiastic about it.

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  3. How wonderful, thanks for sharing your experience! This is absolutely new for me because in Spain we don't have this initiative: we only have book fairs this day so that you can go and buy, and there are also authors there and you can have your books autographied.

    Well, it was for sure that somebody would catch the book even though they weren't going to read it. People is like that. Here it is said that if you give away combs, even the bald-headed will go for one!
    And it is funny that some people thought this is a religious book :)))

    Ohh and I would love to see the reactions of your neighbours when they open the door the next day!

    I think you did a great job!!

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    1. Ha! I like that turn of phrase about giving away combs. It's true! I think World Book Night is slowly reaching new countries every year so hopefully it will be rolled out in Spain soon. It's so much fun. And you'll be happy to hear that a couple of days later I had a card pushed under my door from some neighbours saying thank you for the book - so hopefully I may have made a new friend!

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    2. Greaaaaat! :)

      And next year I will check in case the World book night has come to Spain. It would be awesome!!

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  4. It's a lovely idea. I hope all your neighbours and colleagues enjoy the books.
    Lynn :D

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