World Book Night.
I almost didn't join in this year but there were so many books that I loved on the list I decided to jump in. With all that's been going on, though (LTYM on 5/12, Cabaret on 6/7) I didn't think about it much beforehand.
Last Wednesday I brought Ed with me to Greenlight for their book pick up event. They had local celebs reading bits from some of the books on offer. Ed was really good. I was sitting on the floor because the joint was packed and he was lying down in front of me. I was doling out the treats and all was going well. In the middle of a reading from The Lightning Thief (the scene at the St. Louis arch where the chihuahua is actually a chimera) someone leaned around the greeting card display behind us and Ed went apeshit. I toned him down super quick but was really embarrassed and hope that everyone thought it just enhanced the reading.
He made up for it later by posing on top of my box of books (Bossypants by Tina Fey) so the rep from WBN could take pics of him.
I fell asleep last night worrying over where and to who I would give the books. Reading is part of regular life for me. It's not a hobby or a special skill, it's just LIFE. I read every day. I read fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry, plays, screenplays, essays, from trash to treasure. If I went to that mythical desert island and only got to bring five books I would still, surely, read every day. WBN books are supposed to be infusing communities of infrequent readers with literature. This is not something I can really wrap my brain around. When I volunteer to do this I'm supposed to, essentially, profile people and try to ensure that these books get into the hands of infrequent readers. How do you tell? I mean, I know highly educated people who don't read or only read manuals or only read non-fiction. I know people without degrees who read all the time. They don't wear a sign! There's a lot of room for accidentally pissing someone off. This makes me anxious.
Part of why I have signed up to do this is to move myself out of my comfort zone, encourage myself to speak to new people, to chance rejection and not have it stop me. This sort of task works for me because I'm more worried about wasting the books than I am about feeling shitty when someone rejects my offer. (Best rejection today: Guy handing out flyers is staring at my books. I stand in front of him and offer him a book. He stares at me for a second then just turns his head and continues to hand out flyers pretending that I'm not there.) That being said, as I left my house this morning with my Book Giver sticker on and my tote bag full to the brim I felt more alone, more isolated, more fragile, more reluctant than I do on a normal day so I'm pretty sure I won't be signing up for a third WBN. I will absolutely support the event in other ways but giving alone isn't working for me. Maybe someone will want a team member and that will be something I rock at.
Of course, a block from my house I had my favorite giveaway of the day so far. I was crossing the street and a teenager was coming the opposite way. I offered him a funny book. He took it, said thank you, and then took his earbuds out to see what he'd gotten. I got a teenager to remove the earbuds! I am a golden goddess!!
Then I walked to the train, realized I'd forgotten my wallet and metrocard, walked home to get them (1.25 miles each way), and walked back. I only had 5 books left by the time I finally got on the subway to go to work.
I'm afraid to tell the next part. What are the WBN folks going to do, fire me? Will they not give me an A+ in book giving? My whole life I've been a B student, who do I think I'm trying to fool? Anyway, sometimes I don't give a book to a person directly. Sometimes I find a place where someone will find it and I leave it there, begging to be read. I left one by the local engineering HS in a place where either a tech-focused kid or a member of the custodial staff is most likely to find it. I left one on an outdoor chair at a burger place near the school. I left one on the metrocard reader in the subway. I left one in the laundry room of my apartment building (the washers often get stuck and you have to wait up to an extra 10 minutes for your load to finish). I know there's no guarantee that these books will be picked up by infrequent readers. My logic is that if it's picked up by someone in the target audience then cool, mission accomplished. If it's picked up by an avid reader they're likely to read the info about WBN on the book and pass it along to someone who reads less often than they do so mission also accomplished!
I enlisted a small street team. On my way back home to pick up my wallet I ran into some dog park friends who I'd told about WBN before. Three of them each took a book to hand out on their own. Many hands really do make light work. Light was important while I trudged back and forth with a load of books.
Standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change a woman sort of cut her eyes at the books in my hand. There was a man standing nearby. He'd looked, too, but I'd been to shy to approach him and he'd been too wary to ask me about the books. I offered the book to the woman and she took it, immediately reading the back and introduction. I saw the man lean in to see what she'd gotten so I gave him one, too.
I gave a copy to the local fruit stand guy, to the security guards for my complex, and to two different crossing guards.
I have four copies left. I'm trying to give three of them away on my way home. The fourth I'm saving to send to a friend who is in the hospital. He'll get to read it and then he'll be able to leave it behind for other patients, many of whom absolutely fit the description of the target audience.
I know I said this wasn't exactly for me but I really am amazingly glad I did it twice. I hope you'll consider doing it, too. It's a national movement and people choose many ways of giving their books. You should try it! No, really, you should!