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April 26, 2014 / Charlie McNabb

World Book Night 2014

On Wednesday, April 23, I had an absolute blast distributing free books to light and non-readers for World Book Night. World Book Night is an annual celebration intended to spread the joy of reading to people who either do not have access to books or who do not read regularly. It’s an amazing collaborative effort between authors, who waive royalties; publishers, who pay the cost of producing special WBN copies; bookstores and libraries, who act as the community hub for distribution to givers; and givers, who distribute the books in their communities.

I was very pleased to get my first book choice: Derek Kirk Kim’s graphic novel Same Difference. I decided to give books to homeless and impoverished youth and adults in the downtown Eugene area. I walked around the bus station and surrounding city blocks where I often see folks resting and panhandling. I spoke to probably 80 people; half of them identified themselves as heavy readers, a quarter of them were not interested, and a quarter of them were light or non-readers and were happy to take a free book.

 

Some of my favorite interactions:

 

Me: Do you like to read?

Elderly Man: I invented it.

 

Me: How often do you read?

Cool Teen: Honestly, I have like five books in my backpack right now.

 

Young Man: I’ve only read one book all the way through, and that was in prison.

Me: Did you enjoy it?

Young Man: *laughter* No. But I’ll take a comic book.

 

Me: Did you know it’s World Book Night?

Young Punk: I LOVE BOOKS!

 

Me: It’s a graphic novel called Same Difference.

Middle-Aged Woman: Graphic? Does it have sex and violence?

Me: Oh! No, I mean it’s a comic book.

 

I had such a lovely time talking to people about reading and World Book Night. I had quite a few interactions that involved excited book recommendations. I also had a couple of disheartening discussions about lack of access to libraries and books for homeless folks. And I had a couple of embarrassing moments where I was ignored and I could tell a person really wished I wasn’t talking to them. I get that; I often feel the same way in public spaces. Most people I talked to, though, were impressed with the concept of World Book Night and some of them were even interested in participating themselves next year.

"Do you like to read?"

“Do you like to read?”

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