World Book Night 2012 took place yesterday, 23rd April: the supposed birth and death date of Shakespeare, and the death date of Spanish novelist Cervantes. After hearing about last year’s celebrations, I decided I wanted to be involved this year and signed up to be a book giver.
Book givers are sent twenty-four copies of a book, chosen from a list of popular titles, and give them away to others on World Book Night. I was lucky enough to get my first choice, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The idea is to get people reading and encourage them to discover new authors. I have always loved reading and was really excited about the chance to introduce new people to a book they have never read.
I chose Rebecca, firstly because it was my favourite novel from the list: a hard decision, since other choices included Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. However I ultimately decided that I loved Rebecca the most. I also hoped to assist with changing the perception of Daphne du Maurier. Though she’s a popular and acclaimed author, I don’t feel that she’s given enough credit as an author of ‘proper literature’. She is often labelled as a romance novelist but there is so much more to her work.
Giving my books away
I thought of a few different ways I might give away my books, but ultimately decided to hand them out at my local London Underground station. Unimaginative it might be, but I knew I’d be sure of catching a lot of people, and I thought I might attract some non-readers. I headed off with my (rather heavy) bag of books and stood by the entrance to the tube, attempting to attract bleary-eyed commuters with my free books.
I managed to get rid of all my books in about five minutes. I attracted tons of suspicious looks – I find Londoners are generally distrustful of anything free, particularly on a Monday morning when brain function hasn’t kicked in properly. As a regular commuter myself, I can sympathise with this feeling! Many people walked by in a world of their own, but others made a beeline for me when they saw me waving my copies of Rebecca around.
I think I could have planned my giveaway better in all honesty – perhaps I could have printed out some bookmarks or got hold of a poster (though I don’t know how TfL staff would feel about that!) to better explain what was happening. Of course, those who picked up a copy of the book would have read the back and understood what World Book Night was but I bet many of the people who walked past me were wondering what on earth that crazy girl was doing giving out books. They probably thought I was distributing some bizarre religious tract. One man actually asked me if I had written it myself – he thought I was trying to flog my own book. In a way this was rather funny (why yes, I wrote Rebecca myself, certainly) but it does show that it wasn’t immediately obvious what was going on!
One thing I was pleased about was that at least half of the copies went to men. Maybe this is because men are more confident about picking up free stuff, but in any case I hope that these men read and enjoy Rebecca, proving that du Maurier isn’t just for women.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience and I hope I managed to brighten up the first day of the week for a few people. I certainly did this for myself – I can’t remember ever feeling that good on a Monday morning before! I definitely want to sign up to be a giver next year.