Wednesday, 9 March 2011

World Book Night


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?

7 comments:

Frances Garrood said...

I spent WBN looking after a sick baby. I'd been given instructions on how to work the TV, but could ony produce grey fuzz. V disappointing.

But I'll come to your barn dance, Alis, and I'll give away a copy of Helen Dunnmore's The Betrayal. I think it's a lovely idea.

Alis said...

Excellent. Perhaps next year we should organise a MNW event. Trouble is, we all live so far away from each other...

Akasha Savage. said...

Alan Bayford was one of the 'givers'. He chose CJ Sansom's Dissolution. It goes without saying I got a copy, wasn't going to turn down a free book! Have yet to read it.
I watched all the booky TV programmes that night. I love listening to other writers talking about how they get their ideas etc.

Aliya Whiteley said...

Maybe a WBN where you all had to choose your favourite book and then take turns enacting them using the medium of expressive dance? Should be a jolly good laugh, if nothing else.

Deborah Swift said...

I think a more personal way of giving would be better as you suggest. I quite like Aliya's suggestion, but think the wole thing could be augmented by some ultra-violet light and a carnival parade.

Alis said...

Hi Akasha - Yes, I've read all the Shardlake books - they're great!

Hi Aliya - a jolly good laugh indeed - especially if you've ever seen me doing expressive dance!

Hi Dee - ultra violet light, all white and glowing-in-the-dark - sure you're not a vampire writer on the side?!!

Karen said...

I wish I'd read these great suggestions earlier. Our library was trying to think of an event apparently (I wasn't there that week) and they ended up doing ... nothing :o(

I did give away a book at least, that I thought a friend would enjoy and she ended up buying one by the same author, so that was a (small) result!