“Have you read anything recently?” she asked in a tone that piqued the zealot in me. I responded with bravado and a confident smirk while confessing to having finished a book the night prior. Her face became a picture of pure disappointment and I became as confused as a toddler that stumbles into their parents’ bedroom during “alone time”. Was not this question generally intended to invite a literary conversation? Surely the woman had meant to tout a new love of a tale freshly plucked from the orchard of histories accumulations. Yet, there she stood, looking as though I had insulted her in some way. From the bag she carried with her she produced two novels and the veil of her discouragement began to lift.
The books were bordered similarly, though not in a way I had ever seen. Closer examination revealed the cover art of each particular novel to be miniaturized within a distinct border that declared these books were printed for the purpose of someone reading them. Most assuredly you are thinking something along the lines of, “of course, dumbass”, but there was a deeper meaning intended. By whatever trick of fate, until that moment I had been criminally unaware of an organization/campaign known as World Book Night. This campaign is dedicated to spreading the love of the written word to those among us who are non, or light, readers by handing out over 500,000 free novels each year on the 23rd of April, William Shakespears day of birth.
In truth, the woman who held these books was upset that I was already a literary aficionado. Her affiliation with the organization afforded her and her husband each 20 copies of their chosen novels to dispense among the public, especially to those who have so abstained from the company of a novel. Though not her deeply desired recipient, I was able to help her find solace in the fact that the copy of Kitchen Confidential she sought to enlighten with would fit perfectly into my self-promised exploration of non-fiction tales. Her confidence in her mission restored, it was my turn to take on an incongruous expression of malaise. How the hell, in 27 years, had I never heard of such public efforts on behalf of books!
This post is not about being recommended a book, but rather my shame and embarrassment in the light of an entire section of the populace that was and is currently heralding something I claim to herald tirelessly for. In the two days since I have learned of the organization, their efforts, and seen their stalwart volunteers in warm flesh I have made it a goal of mine to make known this organization and its purpose. Books hold a unique power to shake the foundation of our very understanding, color our world with lights we never knew existed, help us peek into the annals of history, and educate us in order to harden our resolve against any large or small task that may befall us. There exists a network of individuals who dedicate their time to making sure more people understand that today than did yesterday. For my part, I’ll make sure more people know it April 24th 2015.