Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Night as a Book Giver

This past Tuesday was the 2nd annual World Book Night in America. World Book Night is a fantastic night, an event for which authors, publishers, bookstores and nerds team up to distribute free copies of books to members of their communities. The goal is to put a book in the hands of a "light to non-reader," someone who may not be able to afford the book, or someone who doesn't normally read for pleasure. I participated as a book giver last year in Port Angeles, WA and again this year in Seattle. This year I distributed 20 copies of Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith around Seattle's U-District and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.

I love World Book Night, and here are the two main reasons why:

(1) The pressure is off. When cash isn't at stake, it feels great to put a book in the hands of a peer. I get nervous, sometimes, recommending a book I loved to a customer. I've been given a good review, only to be disappointed myself. So it feels good to hand out books with a whaddhya-have-to-lose? attitude. And the soon-to-be reader is so much more likely to step outside of his or her comfort zone. I totally get it, I'm often strapped for cash and hesitant to spend my money on something I'm not sure about. (So many missed concerts! so many movies I didn't see!) WBN takes that financial pressure off, even the pressure of taste and preference. Most of my conversations went like this:

Me: Hey, are you interested in a free copy of a novel written by a Portland-based author?
Person: It's free?
Me: Yeah!
Person: Sure, why not!

Everyone loves free stuff.

(2) People talking about books, in the real world. I spend most of my time talking to people about books. That's who I am. I go out to coffee with someone, suggest we bring books and just get cozy for a quiet morning, then end up repeatedly blurting out how good my book is and reading passages out loud. I go out for drinks with friends and end up talking about Moby-Dick and race on the seas (stay tuned for a series of posts I'm calling "Blogging the Whale"). Seriously, that's what I do. But on World Book Night, I get to be that girl, but also change the course of a stranger's night.

Wrapping up my night as a book giver, I met a friend at a bar on Capitol Hill. I had three copies of Glaciers left, and spotted a small group of friends having a heated conversation about some band or some new album. They were smart, and you could tell they loved to get together and shout about things. It was a book club without a book.

I approached them and told them a bit about Glaciers, a little bit of the plot and the author. It's a dreamy nugget of a story about a librarian living in Portland. It's also a story about being a twenty-something today. About our misplaced nostalgia, about our love for thrift shopping and ephemera. And have you heard of Powell's Books? The author works at Powell's. And the book came out from Tin House, have you heard of Tin House? Their books are smart and smartly designed. Look at this gorgeous image of the actual cover!

So this cool group of friends could have blown me off, said no thanks and gone back to their original conversation. They could have taken a copy of the book, tucked it into a backpack and waited for me to creep away. But no!, they got really excited. One guy grew up in Portland, and loved the idea of reading a book set in his hometown. A girl there told me she hasn't read a novel since high school because she hasn't made the time for it. She loved the idea of this small, gorgeous novel and was curious how it packs all those themes into its pages.

Eventually, after a few minutes of excited chatter, I politely bowed out and headed back to my friend's table. As I walked away I heard them, still talking about books. One friend made the other promise to pass Glaciers on after he finishes it. They started to say how they should start a book club. And eventually they were arguing about books and had completely moved on from their previous conversation.


1 comment:

  1. I want to give away books!!! Nice blog post Sarina! Keep on posting... ;)


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