News: Do You Know About World Book Night?

by Matilda Butler on April 29, 2012

catnav-news-active-3Post #76 – Women’s Memoirs, News – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

World Book Night, Sharing Books

Lanie Tankard is one of the regular memoir book reviewers on this site. We had the pleasure of meeting up with her again in Austin at Story Circle Network’s bi-annual Stories from the Heart Conference in mid-April.

While talking, Lanie mentioned World Book Night and agreed to share her experience with us. Readers of Women’s Memoirs are interested in writing a memoir and that means we are all also readers. Want others to become readers too? Read about what Lanie did.

Thanks, Lanie.

memoir reviewer, World Book Night, memoir writingWorld Book Night

By Lanie Tankard

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
St. Augustine

I love books. Always have—always will. I’m definitely with Oscar Wilde on this one: “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

Every book definitely needs someone to write it but then, of course, each book must have someone to read it. Otherwise, what’s the point? “A book, tightly shut, is but a block of paper.” That’s a thought-provoking old proverb. Books definitely need readers.

I like to discuss books, but most of the people I usually talk to about them already enjoy reading. Not everyone does, though. Some people have just learned how to read. Very often, however, it’s because they have no access to books. Either they can’t afford them or they don’t have transportation to the library.

Maybe no one ever read to these light readers and showed them how nifty reading can be. Others may simply have given up, never finding a special book that resonated. Long long ago, a famous Chinese thinker noted: “You cannot open a book without learning something.” I would never disagree with Confucius on that.

Frankly though, at times it’s nothing other than the pure, absolute, unadulterated, complete utter joy of the words on a page—the sheer beauty of the language—that sweeps readers from this world to another in their minds for a moment, albeit a brief one . . . a tiny respite in the midst of a long and often tiring day here on this whirling planet. W. Somerset Maugham once wrote: “When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me.”

Powerful storytelling, as in a strong memoir, can mesmerize listeners into sitting down by the primordial fire, feeling the warmth of their ancestors, caught up in a tale that transports them into imagination.

Perhaps people who don’t consume many books merely need to encounter a stranger jumping up and down with excitement, waving a volume in the air, and telling them, “This book was SO cool! I loved it! And I want to share it with you. Here, take it home. It’s free. It’s yours.”

That’s what I did last week. I was a Giver. And I gave a memoir. It all actually started for me right here on the Women’s Memoirs website. Let me tell you about it. Maybe you can join me next year for World Book Night. I reviewed a memoir on this blog in 2010 that really spoke to me: Just Kids by Patti Smith. The book reached me on oh so many levels, but my takeaway was Patti Smith’s fine-tuning of Winston Churchill’s famous maxim: “Never give in.”

Reading her eloquent rendition of tenacity in the face of downright poverty and defeat empowered me. Listening to Smith’s potent lyrics in songs such as her ode to poet William Blake gave me strength—to find my own voice and seek ways to use it, even when no one was listening. Memoir offers that venue to anyone, inspiring others to join the chorus: “Here’s my story. What’s yours? Let’s share.”

Just Kids, first published in January 2010, went on to win the National Book Award in Nonfiction later that year in November. Smith is now adapting the memoir into a screenplay, and writing a sequel memoir.

Back to World Book Night

Sometime in late 2011, I received an email telling me about World Book Night and asking me to be a Giver on April 23, 2012. Busy with other things, I let it slide down my digital scroll and forgot about it. When I first read about it, however, I thought the idea was a great concept. Beginning in England and Ireland in 2011, World Book Night pulled in the USA and Germany as well for the following year.

I love things that go global, when countries work together in pursuit of common goals. And what a fantastic objective: to promote the love of reading to “reluctant readers.” The event is held on Shakespeare’s birthday—also the date of his death, as well as that of Miguel de Cervantes. That’s why UNESCO selected it as World Book Day, “celebrated in the UK and Ireland by giving schoolchildren a book token.” World Book Night, though, brings “attention to books for adult readers.”

Early this year, on the day before the application deadline to be a Giver, a friend who knows how much I love books sent me an email. A former teacher, she’d heard about World Book Night and thought I’d make a perfect Giver. She encouraged me to do it. Close to midnight, I sat down at my computer to peruse the 30 wonderful titles that would be given away. Applicants had to select three, and rank their choices. If there were too many requests for a certain book, then Givers might get their second or third choice. We also had to tell where we planned to give our book away, and the reason we picked that title.

How to choose? I loved so many of them. Then I spotted Just Kids hiding on the bottom row. Swiftly I selected it, and immediately copied and pasted the URL to my review from Women’s Memoirs into the electronic application as my reason for deciding on that book. Then I went to bed.

On February 3, I received an email beginning: “Dear World Book Night book giver, Yes, you read that right: World Book Night book giver! Has a nice ring to it, yes? And you’re one of them, or will be on April 23! Thank you!!!!!!!. . . .Smile, shout; whatever you like to do to celebrate. And accept our grateful thanks for your application. World Book Night is all about you and your passion for books and your community and fellow citizen[s].”

So I did both—smiled and shouted—particularly when I read this: “Authors are foregoing royalties to make this possible, and American book publishers, the American Booksellers Association, Barnes [&] Noble, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, Ingram Book Company, UPS, and a dozen printers and binders have paid for the production and shipping.” The nonprofit aspect of the whole venture amazed me. Here were all kinds of folks all along the production chain of a book working in tandem to give reading away. Entire countries were combining forces for reading. I wondered, “Could this be a template for peace?”
Here I was—one of 25,000 Givers in 6,000 towns and cities across the USA preparing to hand out half a million books. I was part of a tsunami of Givers around the world, one of 78,000 who would place 2.5 million books in the hands of people who don’t read a lot. And we were all planning our stealth operation for the same night. The whole idea just gave me goosebumps.

Each Giver needed to designate a pickup point for the carton of books. I live in Austin, Texas, so I selected our great independent bookstore, BookPeople. The store held a party when our boxes arrived. We sat down with plates of munchies to visit.

On my right was a Giver who had also selected Just Kids. We enjoyed talking about the book and where we would each go to give it. On my left was a Giver who would be handing out The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. We had a great discussion of Greek myths in relation to the popular book.

Then I picked up my box with 20 specially printed copies of my book selection inside. Each paperback book cover listed all 30 titles and explained World Book Night. Givers also received official buttons, bookmarks, reminder sheets, honor pledges, and appreciation certificates. We departed with our matériel, outfitted for the mission as armies of the night.

World Book Night, memoir reviewer, memoir bookAs the sun set on Monday April 23, the first US World Book Night, I loaded my box into the car and drove to Threadgill’s restaurant, where Janis Joplin started out. I thought that spot was an appropriate venue for Patti Smith. After checking with the manager and getting an enthusiastic thumbs up, I set my books on benches in an alcove by the entrance, under a sign I’d made.

Then I waited. As each hungry patron approached the door, I asked, “Are you a big reader?” If the answer was “Yes! I love books!” then I gave the person a World Book Night bookmark and said, “Great! I love books, too! Keep it up!”

To those who replied “Naw, not much,” “Well, some,” “Not really,” or “A little,” I replied, “It’s your lucky night! I’ve got a book to give you that I just loved, because it’s World Book Night.”

Who took them? All ages, races, and genders. One man accepted it silently, quizzically, walking swiftly inside. He emerged in a bit with a takeout bag in one hand, his head down reading an open book in the other. The book looked awfully familiar.

Most grateful? A weathered and tattered man who hugged the volume. He wanted to give me some money for it. I explained it was free. He said in awe, “No one’s ever given me a book before,” and shook my hand.

Threadgills, World Book Night, memoir writing, memoir bookMost excited? A couple coming to celebrate their anniversary.

One or two people turned them down, but everyone else accepted with interest. Well, just about everyone else. Most dazed and confused? A young man who turned it over and over saying, “I read electronically. What is this?”

“A book,” I said. “Enjoy.”

Afterward, I went inside to order a takeout dinner of liver and onions with collard greens, coleslaw, and cornbread. While I waited, the manager thanked me. She said she really enjoyed watching all the people come into the restaurant looking at their books and talking about them excitedly with one another. I left the rest of the bookmarks on the bar to spread the word.

What did I love most about World Book Night? I think it was the actual placing of the book in the outstretched hand, that connection contact filled with the hope that this volume might be the one that could inspire the opening of another—and then another after that one. It was like passing a torch.

National Book Award Finalist Kate DiCamillo once said this about reading: “Every well-written book is a light for me.”

Join me next year as a Giver, will you? Help spread the power of the written word. Now if we could only harness all that energy. . . .

Lanie Tankard, memoir book reviewer, writingLanie Tankard is a freelance writer and editor in Austin, Texas. A member of the National Book Critics Circle and former production editor of Contemporary Psychology: A Journal of Reviews, she has also been an editorial writer for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

PS — Story Circle Network, Lanie Tankard and Janis Joplin

memoir writing conference, Story Circle Network, memoirLanie’s article reminded me that I had some great photos from the Story Circle Network Conference that were still on my camera. Specifically, I had a picture of Kendra and me standing in front of a photo of Janis Joplin. The picture was taken just before we took off for our different directions. I was driving to Ft. Worth to see a son before flying back to Oregon. Kendra was driving to see her sister in North Carolina before heading back to Maine.

We loved the photo of Janis Joplin that was hanging outside one of our conference meeting rooms. I knew about her connection with Threadgill’s, having read about her when working on our collective memoir: Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story. Yes, Janis Joplin is a Rosie’s Daughter.

Thanks, Lanie, for this great article and for taking us down memory lane with Janis Joplin.

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World Book Night 2013 | lanietankard
April 29, 2013 at

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Ronda Armstrong May 6, 2012 at

Lanie, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm about books and World Book Night! Brought back lots of memories about books and authors and said to me we book lovers have a responsibility to share our passion about reading in a variety of ways.

Lanie Tankard May 22, 2012 at

Oh Rhonda,

I loved what you said about “responsibility” there! Hope you can join me as a Giver next year! If you sign up for the WBN newsletter now, you’ll be able to vote on the book selections for 2013.

Read on,

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