According to UNESCO, Monday is a pretty significant day in the literary world. It’s the anniversary of the birth of Nabokov and the deaths of Cervantes and Shakespeare*, among others. And so in 1995, UNESCO declared it World Book and Copyright Day on April 23rd, in part to tie into a pre-existing celebration of Cervantes in Spain and a lovely sounding holiday in Catalonia where people give a flower and a book to a loved one. To my knowledge, World Book Day isn’t much of a thing here in the US, but it sounds like a decent number of countries get on board.
Last year, a corresponding event, World Book Night, was launched in the UK, and this year it’s coming to the US as well. On Monday night, tens of thousands of people will be giving out free copies of 30 different titles in their communities. Each of them goes to a public place with 20 copies of the same book to give out to people who say they are not readers. It’s one thing to give out books to people who love books, but the WBN volunteers give them to people who might discover they love something they have never seen as something other than a chore.
I think my favorite thing about it is that volunteers get to name their favorite titles from the list of 30, and the organization tries to distribute the books to people who really love them. It’s one thing to be handed something randomly, but it’s something else entirely when someone can put a book in your hand and say “I love this, and I hope you will, too.” Who doesn’t want to share their favorite books with as many people as they can? And who doesn’t want to read something more when someone shares it passionately?
Here’s hoping that the world has some more readers in it very soon. Is anyone participating in World Book Night?
*Fun fact: Cervantes and Shakespeare both died on April 23rd, 1616, but they didn’t die on the same day. Apparently, since England still used the Julian calendar at the time, April 23rd in Spain was 10 days before April 23rd in England, so Cervantes was dead for a bit before Shakespeare kicked the bucket.