How did you spend World Book Night? Were you a ‘giver’? Did you go to an event? I was kindly invited to take part in a WBN gig at Crawley library by fellow-writer Neil Ayres and duly went along to do a reading, listen to other writers reading and watch lots of people (well, the specified forty-eight, I suppose) get a free copy of Cloud Atlas, the book Neil had nominated to give away.
There has been a certain amount of controversy over the whole idea of Jamie Byng’s World Book Night. You can read some of the controversy here. And, whilst I was making my way (thank you Google maps) to and from Crawley library, I wondered what I would do if somebody asked me to come up with an alternative idea for WBN (which should, strictly speaking, more accurately be called National Book Night since nobody outside Britain seems to have caught the vision).
I think that giving away books is a grand gesture, in more senses than one, but when the books are chosen centrally, we are missing the opportunity for people to rave about books they personally care about. Maybe your favourite book appeared on the list but none of mine did.
I quite like Nicola Morgan’s suggestion but instead of just buying a book and giving it to a friend, I’d combine it with the kind of event I was part of on Saturday, plus some other stuff.
It would go something like this. There’d be a barn dance (or quiz, karaoke or any other kind of activity that brings people together. Since WBN is supposed to be about getting people reading, you need to encourage people who don’t read much to come – they need something they know they’re going to enjoy) and something to eat and, at some point in the evening, the book giving would commence. Anyone who’d like to speak about the book they’re giving to a friend would be able to do so. (A surprisingly small number of people are prepared to speak publicly, even when actually asked.) Any writers giving a book away might, in passing, mention their own work. The band would provide live entertainment during the eating part of the evening and they could sell their CDs. Everybody would be a winner.
So that’s my World Book Night. What would yours look like?