Whether reading a good book or listening to one, individuals enjoy the ability to feel connected to characters, to experience wide-eyed surprise as a character dies and cringe as the murderous details unravel.
This is the first time the U.S. is participating in World Book Night—a nonprofit started last year in the U.K. to get people excited about good books and the experience of reading them.
According to Stacie Williams, in-store WBN coordinator for Boswell Book Company on Downer, 6,000 towns and cities are participating with roughly 25,000 volunteer givers handing out half a million books nationwide.
When it comes to giving away literary works of art, Milwaukee is the fourth-largest giver city in the nation with 164 people located around the city and suburbs dispersing books to those not easily able to obtain them.
Some givers are handing out books to young college students at Alverno, while others are standing on street corners, riding buses, visiting women’s centers or swinging by soup kitchens.
“The givers are going to be focusing on light readers. So people who can hop down to the bookstore and buy whatever book they want — it’s not for them,” Williams says.
Last Thursday night Boswell held a reception for their volunteer givers featuring five local authors reading passages from five of the 30 books chosen for the WBN giveaway. Givers received their books and certificates of appreciation for volunteering.
Giver and Vietnam Veteran Bill Christofferson found participation in this event a no-brainer. “It’s an amazing concept,” says Christofferson. “I signed up as soon as I heard about it.”
Christofferson is handing out Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, at a homeless shelter run by Veterans for Peace for homeless, low income and at-risk veterans.
“I’m hoping it might inspire some of them to read more, or to be willing to share more of their own stories about their service,” Christofferson says.
Lauren Fox, author of Friends Like Us, read a passage from The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and says she chose the passage because “it marries the universalities of the experiences of immigration and assimilation with such a specific, moving, funny and artfully rendered story.”
She says, “It was lovely to read a passage from one of my very favorite books in front of an audience of volunteers who were all there to celebrate and spread the joy of reading. What could be better?”