World Book Night: Giving Thanks in April

Once in a while it occurs to me that I ought to be a better person. Better in the selfless, I’m-going-out-for-coffee-can-I-get-you-anything kind of way. Better like my grandmother, who never forgets a birthday for any of her children, or her children’s children, or the steps, the halfs, or the otherwise affiliated but geographically estranged. My grandmother always bought me books for my birthday. I loathed getting books when I was younger, books which were always a few hundred pages beyond my yet undisciplined attention span, usually featuring protagonists who were a little too world-wise for a grade-schooler to appreciate. And, anyway, I was a materialistic brat of a tweenager– I wanted lip-gloss and nail polish and body lotion that would make my arms glittery.

As an adult, all I ever want to give anyone is a book. For a birthday, a funeral, a holiday, for an ‘I’m sorry’ or a ‘thank you,’ for a long train ride, or to strangers I meet briefly and with no expectation of seeing again. Like my grandmother, I usually give my favorite books, which is, I am aware, completely inconsiderate of the literary sensitivities of the recipients of these books, but it is something they will endure as I did, because eventually you will find yourself thinking of this person (be they a kind stranger or a far-from-home friend), and in the book you will find their company.

On the night of April 23rd tens of thousands of people will swell into the streets of their cities and neighborhoods to give 20 copies of a specially-printed, not-for-resale edition of a book of their choosing to 20 strangers. Launched internationally in 2011, World Book Night debuts in the United States this year, joining the U.K. and Ireland to celebrate the power of books, spread literacy awareness and bring individuals together on a date that famously marks Cervante’s death and Shakespeare’s birth. It is my instinct that this night will unwittingly inspire some new friendships, that insights usually reserved for classrooms will be exchanged without pretention or hesitation and that there will be much to be thankful for in April. It’s like Trick-or-Treat with books. Thanksgiving in spring. A birthday present for Shakespeare. It’s good-doing that’s really, really fun. 

This year’s deadline for becoming a giver has passed, but for those of you who were able to become givers this year, we invite you to share your stories of the events of the night of the 23rd with us. Learn more about World Book Night , or to visit their blog. Do you have your own blog? We’d love to share your posts about WBN on You can also view their Facebook Page, where other givers will be sharing their stories, as well.