The Thirty Day Book Challenge: Day Seven

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”

Helen Fielding

Before resuming normal service, I’d like to say something about the changes to World Book Night 2014.

If you don’t know (and why don’t you?), World Book Night is – or was – a terrific initiative begun in 2011. On the 23rd April 2011, one million free books were given out across the country by twenty thousand volunteers, ordinary members of the public. Each book had an individual code; the idea was that their passage across the world could be tracked as they were handed on after each reader.

Sounds like a terrific idea, right? Right. It was.

And then…things started happening. In 2012, WBN’s focus moved to non-regular readers. You were only selected to be a giver if you pledged to hand books to people who don’t read very much. Fair enough, except that if you give a book to a friend who doesn’t read, you know what will happen? They won’t read it. Still. Non-regular readers. Fine.

Skip to 2013. The focus is now more or less exclusively on non-regular readers, which is, you know, sad, because WBN always felt like it should be for everyone, no matter how much or how little they read. The tracking code is also removed from the books, and the book discussion aspect of the website essentially disappears. The number of books handed out overall is also halved.

And now. The policy for 2014 has just been announced, and it annoys me for reasons that are hard to explain. I’ll try, though. Firstly, to be a giver, “you must be able to clearly demonstrate how you’ll reach those who don’t regularly read.” a) How is this going to work? Is there going to be a WBN assessor following applicants around to check that they meet this requirement? b) The way this is phrased is really not very friendly, and would certainly put me off applying if I was visiting for the first time. Ditto “any applications to give books to regular readers will be rejected”.

Also, there is no public vote, this year, over which books people would like to be considered for WBN.

Small things, really, but what it adds up to is exclusion. WBN, originally a wonderful thing meant to complement World Book Day, the reading celebration for children – all children – has now, seemingly, become what amounts to a niche charity event for non-readers instead of a nationwide celebration of books and reading for everyone, an organisation controlled from the top down, from within, as opposed to a free and frank discussion point about books – which books we think worthy of remembering.

I’d just like to say that I have no objection to giving out books to non-regular readers. Of course more people should read. The world would be incomparably better if everyone read regularly. It’s just that WBN’s policy recently has seemed to aim towards excluding the entire reading community, which is a shame because it is generally a very good idea to get readers on your side, and because it is, after all, meant to be World Book Night.

In summary: I am afraid – terribly afraid – that WBN has failed to live up to its enormous and once-wonderful promise.

Day Seven: A Book That Makes You Laugh

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, by Helen Fielding. Literally. Bridget is just so recognisable: we all do stupid things, as she does, from time to time. And her narrative voice is compelling – like a disaster constantly waiting to happen. I’m quite looking forward to the new book, Mad About the Boy, too. Just as a cheery corollary to the depressing WBN stuff.

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