Fancy getting 48 free copies of a book you love, to distribute to people who want them?
World Book Night (two days after World Book Day) are giving away a million books (multiple copies of 25 selected titles), and yes, 48 of them could be through you. 20,000 volunteer book-givers – passionate readers who want to recommend a particular title – will receive 48 copies of one book from the WBN list, and will pass them on individually to people they think will enjoy them.
The rest of the books will be distributed by World Book Night staff, to hospitals, prisons and other institutions.
The 25 titles, chosen by a committee chaired by James Naughtie, are:
Kate Atkinson – Case Histories
Margaret Atwood – The Blind Assassin
Alan Bennett – A Life Like Other People’s
John le Carré – The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Lee Child – Killing Floor
Carol Ann Duffy – The World’s Wife
Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Seamus Heaney – Selected Poems
Marian Keyes – Rachel’s Holiday
Mohsin Hamid – The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Ben Macintyre – Agent Zigzag
Gabriel García Márquez – Love in the Time of Cholera
Yann Martel – Life of Pi
Alexander Masters – Stuart: A Life Backwards
Rohinton Mistry – A Fine Balance
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
Toni Morrison – Beloved
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun
David Nicholls – One Day
Philip Pullman – Northern Lights
Erich Maria Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front
CJ Sansom – Dissolution
Nigel Slater – Toast
Muriel Spark – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Sarah Waters – Fingersmith
You won’t be able to wrap them in brown paper and string and leave them under the Christmas tree, because giver selection is not till January. World Book Night is on Saturday 5th March 2011, and the t’s and c’s state that givers will be throughout the UK and Ireland, so if I can bypass the mandatory postcode entry I’ll be making an application. Harder than you might think, though, to come up with 48 people you know who’d all love, say, the Heaney poems, or would take the necessary leaps of faith to make it through the early parts of Cloud Atlas. I’ve certainly recommended books to 48 people, but I don’t know if I’ve ever recommended the same book to 48 people before (except maybe the wonderfully funny Cold Comfort Farm, which most people handed back in confusion), and I’m not sure how genuine my “personal recommendation” will be, when the reason I’m giving the book away is because I have 48 copies of it and I’ve promised to.
I suppose when it comes down to it World Book Night is not so much a celebration of reading and the joy of sharing your personal favourites with your 48 most intimate friends, but a clever word-of-mouth marketing scheme by publishers. But hey, more power to their elbow. Not everything that makes money for someone else is wrong, and a million free copies of those 25 books floating about in the world aren’t going to make it a worse place for my children to grow up in.
Thinking of applying? What book would you choose? I can’t decide.
Update, 5th February: I’ve just heard that I was successful in my application for the Selected Poems of Seamus Heaney. Very happy to give copies away in response to begging emails.