Cannon: Share the gift of reading on World Book Night

By Ann Cannon

Tribune Columnist

Published: April 17, 2014 03:56PM
Updated: April 16, 2014 11:43AM
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Ann Cannon

Quiz time! Please answer the following multiple-choice question: “What is World Book Night?”

a. Wait. What did you say?

b. Never heard of it.

c. Something involving books. Also the world. Also night.

d. It’s where all the books in the world get together at night, have a few drinks, have a few more drinks, watch a playoff game on TV and then set a couch on fire when their team loses.

e. You tell me.

If you answered “a,” you probably weren’t paying attention when I asked the question. Whenever I ask people to repeat themselves, it’s not that I can’t hear. It’s just that I wasn’t listening in the first place.

If you answered “b,” you aren’t alone. (Does that make you feel better about yourself?)

If you answered “c,” you remind me of myself when I try to bluff my way around a subject I know nothing about.

If you answered “d,” you have earned my profound gratitude for allowing me to make a lame joke. Thank you! (And BTW I want to know when “couches” became the new “cars” when it comes to burning stuff after your team loses.)

Finally, if you answered “e,” you’re in luck! Because I’m going to tell you! As Betsy Burton, owner of the King’s English Bookshop, says, World Book Night “is an idea whose time has come” — specifically, to America.

World Book Night, which originated in the UK, is an annual event that promotes the distribution of paperbacks (donated by publishers) to volunteers who then share those books with members of underserved populations in their communities.

This year’s selected titles appeal to a broad range of ages and interests. They include “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen, “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple, “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller, “After the Funeral” by Agatha Christie and “Wait Until Next Year” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

For a complete listing of titles, check out the World Book Night website at www.us.worldbooknight.org.

As bookseller Catherine Weller notes, local volunteers take books to prisons, nursing homes, and alternative high schools.

“It’s wonderful to enable the public at large to do what booksellers do every day” — that is to match the right book with the right person.

Betsy Burton remembers the World Book Night when she took “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” by Sherman Alexie to the Indian Walk-in Center and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood to residents at the YWCA.

“When you can get people who don’t have easy access to books reading those books and having conversations about them, then you’re really changing the world,” she said.

Now in its third year here in the U.S., World Book Night takes place on Wednesday, April 23, which just happens to be the birthday of William Shakespeare — and, coincidentally the late Sam Weller, Utah bookseller extraordinaire.

The event has gained traction in Salt Lake City this year, thanks to the combined efforts of the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLPD), the Salt Lake Fire Department, the mayor’s office and the city library, along with The King’s English and Sam Weller Book Works.

To participate, go to the Main Library at 210 E. 400 South at 10 a.m. on April 23.

Lara Jones said the police department is looking for volunteers to be a part of its “giving team.”

On that day, 600 books, as well as information about distribution sites, will be available. For more information, contact Jones at 801-799-3340 or slcpdpr@slcgov.com.

Hope to see you there!

Volunteers needed for World Book Night

The Salt Lake City Police Department needs volunteers to help distribute books as part of World Book Night.

When • Wednesday, April 23, 10 a.m.

Where • Main Library at 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City

Contact • Lara Jones at 801-799-3340 or slcpdpr@slcgov.com.