Thoughts from World Book Night

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

As you may know, today is World Book Night, as well as possibly Shakespeare’s birthday and St. George’s Day in England. And this morning, as part of a nationwide giving-away of half a million books (which is also happening in America and Germany) I gave away 20 copies of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to random members of the public. Well, actually, I gave 16 copies away to random members of the public, and four to people I already knew.

So, anyway, the public seemed to take remarkably well to being handed free books: my 16 copies were gone in less than half an hour, and at one point I even had a queue. (Of three people, but still.) More than one person came back when they realised they’d heard the words “World Book Night”, meaning that I was not just a random crazy person (an easy mistake to make, I’m sure)but part of an actual official event, and quite a few people were encouraged by the word “free”. Which just goes to show what a good idea World Book Night actually is: if you don’t read much, you’re not likely to go out and buy a book, but getting one for free implies no kind of commitment to finish it or enjoy it, and who knows, you might stumble across something you like.

The moral of the story: World Book Night is a Good Thing for everyone: I got a chance to evangelise about a book that I like very much, and the public got something good to read for free. I don’t know if WBN can singlehandedly save books from oblivion, from the internet and films and television and kindles, but I think it might help. So happy World Book Night, everyone, and go and get lost in a book.

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