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!
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!