British Fiction Focus

World Book Night is Back

65% of the population of Great Britain read for pleasure regularly. Not a bad number, compared with some countries. On the other hand, that leaves 22.4m folks who don’t even dream of reading—and that’s just not on. Not according to the minds behind World Book Night.

Since 2011, World Book Night has brought together “a powerful collaboration of […] partners—publishers, printers, distributors, libraries, booksellers, private donors, trusts and foundations—to inspire more people to read.”

To that end, many millions of books have been given out over the years by teams of volunteers… yet in 2015, World Book Night will be a decidedly less worldly event than it once was, with the United States having had to “suspend operations after failing to secure outside funding.”

Former chief executive Julia Kingsford found a silver lining in the sad news:

Launching it in the midst of financial crisis and industry change was always going to be a challenge but its achievements in three years shouldn’t be underestimated. Under the inspiring leadership of executive director Carl Lennertz, hundreds of thousands of lives were touched by the gift of books from activists in every State, from the north coast of Alaska to Hawaii’s southernmost island. So the legacy will live on in fledgling readers and empowered communities who now know how powerful the gift of reading really is.

But let’s get back to Britain, where World Book Night remains a fixture—thanks, I think, to The Reading Agency, under whose umbrella the event was brought in 2013.

We’ve known for a while now that the fifth annual World Book Night is to take place on 23rd April, but last week, representatives announced the twenty titles set to represent the gift of reading in 2015, and the full list features a few choices genre novels, including Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb and The Martian by Andy Weir.

The Martian Andy Weird World Book Night

In addition to the winner of this year’s Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction, watch out for Dead Man Talking by Man Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce—which the last teams of volunteers voted the book they most wanted to give away in subsequent years. Plus, for the first time since World Book Night’s first year in 2011, some poetry—specifically a selection from The Staying Alive Trilogy edited by Neil Astley—made possible because of the financial support of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and the Forward Arts Foundation.

We are thrilled to announce this varied and exciting list of 20 books for World Book Night 2015. […] We are now calling for a huge team of volunteer givers who will feel inspired to go out into the community on World Book Night and share their love of reading. Through this remarkable mass celebration of reading on 23rd April, we hope that people who receive a World Book Night book will begin their reading journey as we seek to create a reading nation.

That’s a goal I can get behind. Say you can too—why not volunteer?

Failing that, there are a few other ways to participate. After all, the organisers “only have a limited supply of World Book Night books,” thus they’d “love you to provide and give out any book you choose on the night—one you already own, or one you buy specially. You can also choose whoever you want to give the book to—a friend, a member of your community, a complete stranger.”

As we learned earlier, World Book Night is an expensive endeavour, and one unlikely to last forever, so take a leaf, you lot: get involved in this good cause while you can.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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