Posted April 21, 2014 by in Bibliotherapy

World Book Night 2014


For booklovers, discussing our passion with non-readers can be a little unsettling. Non-readers just don’t understand why nothing smells better to us than a freshly printed novel. They cannot fathom how we look at paper cuts caused by turning pages too quickly as war wounds. But, what if we were able to turn those non-readers into book lovers, too? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we could? A movement aimed at doing just that has been gaining ground for several years now, and while many may have never heard of World Book Night, it is an event that all of us bibliophiles should get behind in the hope of bringing the joy of reading to everyone.

William Shakespeare's monument Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.

William Shakespeare’s monument in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.

World Book Night originated in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2011; it was introduced in the United States in 2012. April 23 was selected as World Book Night for two reasons: it is William Shakespeare’s birth and death date, and it is the death date of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. In the Catalina area of Spain, locals celebrate Cervantes’ contributions to the literary world by giving a book and a flower to loved ones each April 23. In honor of that tradition, World Book Night’s goal is for readers to share their love of books with those who have not yet discovered the happiness the written word can bring.

The basic idea of World Book Night is that, on April 23, volunteers will give out 20 copies of a selected work. Volunteers receive the books free of charge from participating pick-up centers, such as libraries and independent bookstores. Since its inception, World Book Night participation has grown to include 25,000 volunteers across the United States.

When volunteers go out on April 23 to give away the books, they are encouraged to share the works with light or non-readers. The whole purpose of World Book Night is to encourage those individuals to become more interested in reading. Although many reading programs are aimed at young children, World Book Night targets teens and adults because of the need for encouraging these age groups to become more active readers.

This year’s World Book Night selection list includes 37 different titles from many genres, including mystery, drama, historical fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Among the selected books are Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral, Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, and 100 Best-Loved Poems. A complete list of titles can be found on the World Book Night website.

Those interested in participating in the event have several ways to do so. Libraries and bookstores can become pick-up centers for book givers. The World Book Night organization ships the books to the designated volunteer centers, and the book givers pick up the books from them. Individuals wanting to become book givers should fill out the online application and sign up for the World Book Night newsletter. Applications are closed for 2014, but the newsletter will provide advanced notice for next year’s activities and events.

Capitol Book & News in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo courtesy of Capitol Book.

Capitol Book & News in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo courtesy of Capitol Book.

This year’s World Book Night will be my first as a participant. I am volunteering as a giver in the small town where I live. Chery Upchurch with Capitol Book & News in Montgomery informed me about the event and got me involved; her store is serving as a pick-up center this year.

Zora and Me

Because I teach American literature, I selected the book Zora & Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon. Zora & Me is a fictionalized account of American author Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God. In Zora & Me, young Zora and her friends find life can be quite exciting in their little town of Eatonville, Florida. The book is aimed at middle-level readers. I like it because Zora Neale Hurston is one of my favorite authors, and I look forward to sharing my love of reading with others.

As all bibliophiles know, reading is good for the soul. Books invite us into new worlds where anything is possible, and they allow us to experience the adventures of our favorite characters. Elizabeth Hardwick once said, “The greatest gift is a passion for reading,” and readers know this to be true. Here’s hoping that World Book Night 2014 will inspire some non-readers to become more passionate about reading, too.

Mollie Smith Waters

Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.