It’s surprisingly difficult to find people who don’t like to read. Or maybe it’s just difficult to find those who will admit to it. Since the purpose of World Book Night is to reach “light and non-readers,” this presents a problem.
For those of you unfamiliar with the event, World Book Night is “a celebration of books and reading held on April 23, when 25,000 passionate volunteers across America give a total of half a million books within their communities to those who don’t regularly read. In 2012, World Book Night was celebrated in the U.S., the UK, Ireland, and Germany and saw over 80,000 people gift more than 2.5 million books.” (From World Book Night’s website http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/about-us/what-we-do.)
Last year, I arranged to hand out books at Starbucks before learning the book I would be giving out was mid-grade fiction, not ideal fodder for the coffee shop crowd. Plus, when I arrived, someone else had already set up shop (someone who, it turns out, did not ask permission, which made the manager less than happy when she found out).
My response was to go on the road. I wandered through our local grocery stores accosting every person I saw with a child. (Way to make parents nervous, Kym!) But grocery stores are surprisingly dead on Tuesday nights, and you can only roam their aisles for so long without being approached by management. I ran out of kids before I ran out of books.
In desperation, I turned into The Winking Lizard (a local bar and restaurant), an inspired choice as it turned out. The restaurant had pizzas on special for half-price. Every family in town seemed to be there (though the parents were no more sanguine at having a stranger trying to give books to their kids). Still, there were a lot of kids, and I managed to give away the rest of my books.This year, I requested only adult titles and having heard about my friend Holly’s success at Lagerheads Microbrewery, decided to hand them out at Great Lakes Brewing Company. Beer and books, what could be better?
After getting the go-ahead from Dan Conway (one of two brothers who own the brewery), I was ready. Since my book this year was Language of Flowers, I made up signs that said, “Do you know what your favorite flower means?” and “Hops symbolize injustice” (who knew?), and — more to the point — “Free books!”
Strangely, the only person who approached me was Rock, the chef, who offered to take a book for his girlfriend who is a “big reader.”
Several hostesses then asked for copies , as did the bankers who were having a drink with Dan and Pat Conway (“for their wives,” yeah sure, guys). Eventually, however, I began approaching customers.
“Are you a big reader?” I asked them.
Almost everyone answered yes, although two did ask rather suspiciously if the book was religious.I gave them books anyway. What else could I do? Say, “Oh, sorry. Then, I can’t give you this book.”? Hardly. I compromised by asking them to pass it on to someone who didn’t usually read.
Of all the people I approached, only three admitted to being light or non-readers. After enthusing about the story (secretly gloating that I’d found a non-reader), I pressed a copy of the novel into each of their hands.
I hope they read them.
P.S. The idea of World Book Night did spark some interesting conversations about reading. Or maybe that was the beer. I even gave away my personal copy of the Language of Flowers to one of the waitresses because several people said, “Oh, if you want to give a book away, you should give it to Fer.” (Fer, it turns out, is short for Jennifer, and she was delighted, having read previously read a positive review about Diffenbaugh’s book.)
P.P.S.S. Next year, I’m going to request only “guy” books and going back to Great Lakes.