This year, for the first time, I was giving away a book I hadn’t read before I selected it. The Boy With The Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera is a rewarding read ultimately, but it took me well over 100 pages before I really got into it, and although I’m a doggedly persistent reader (I was the only member of my book-club who finished Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook!), I was slightly concerned about giving this particular book to people who weren’t big readers, which is WBN’s main aim. So, since WBN has invited volunteers this year to give away books from their own bookshelves if they choose to, I decided to also offer people a second book, a choice of one of two that we have a stock of at home (we are author/publishers) that probably come under the heading ‘popular fiction’. One of these is a horror thriller and one a psychological thriller, and it was fascinating to see how people had a very definite idea about which of these they would rather take.
I also explained to recipients that they needn’t feel the pressure of ‘having’ to read what they’d been given, just maybe give the books a try, and if they couldn’t get on with them, pass them on to a friend or family member.
My patter usually starts with “I’m giving away books for World Book Night, would you like one?”. I have tried “Do you read many books?” but people can feel patronised by this. I just try and approach a variety of folks, and ultimately probably choose people who appeal to me in some way!
Most people say yes, but there are always a few refusals. This year’s included:
“Sorry, but I only read angling magazines.”
“Thanks, but unless it’s about steam engines, I wouldn’t read it.”
“I never read anything till I got a Kindle a couple of years ago. Now I’ve read hundreds of books, but mostly gangland stuff… my Mum’s a fourth cousin of the Kray brothers. But I don’t read actual books.”
“No thanks. I like the Robert Jordan books. There’s 26 of them … I’m on Number 8 at the moment.”
And, from a man sitting on a bench in a park: “Sorry, I’m homeless, I wouldn’t have anywhere to put extra books … I’m reading the true life story of Meatloaf at the moment.”
I’ve come to accept that there are some people who just don’t like reading. Some perhaps have a history of dyslexia, others prefer to be doing or making rather than reading. But for those for whom books are still an undiscovered country, I hope World Book Night makes a difference.
World Book Night:
Sathnam Sanghera's website