Read any good books lately? On World Book Night, that’s kind of the million-dollar question. Or rather, the half-a-million-paperback question. On April 23—a date picked in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday—volunteers across the country and beyond distribute free books to light or non-readers. The 500,000 specially printed paperbacks run the gamut from fiction to the classics, poetry, young adult, children’s books and beyond.
Last year, over 2,300 bookstores and libraries participated in the event and organized 25,000 volunteers. Publishers and book-manufacturing companies support the printing of the free books and authors agree to waive royalties. Local venues selected by the World Book Night organization receive some of the 37 donated titles and coordinate the volunteers. In Santa Fe, the venue is op.cit books.
“Op.cit has been involved in this event from the very beginning—this is the third year [it] has been going on in the United States,” the bookstore’s owner, Noemi de Bodisco, says.
A nonprofit organization supported by volunteers, booksellers, librarians and diverse financial backers, World Book Night was first launched in the UK in 2011 with the intention to increase adult literacy. A year later, the event was celebrated in the US and Germany and has kept growing in popularity since.
“It has really exploded,” de Bodisco says, “and it’s amazing to have this opportunity to improve literacy rates in New Mexico.”
Santa Fe was selected to be one of 20 cities across the country hosting a simultaneous launch event on April 22, the day before the widespread book bash begins. As well as coordinating the giveaway, the launch celebrates the previous year’s accomplishments and features a speech by legendary author and Tesuque resident, Armistead Maupin.
“Maupin is a wonderful ambassador for the program,” de Bodisco says. “He’s hilarious and a really interesting guy. He’s planning to speak about reading, giving and why this event is so important.”
Maupin, who has written 11 novels, is best known for his nine Tales of the City books—the first of which was selected for the World Book Night giveaways.
Also speaking at the launch night are last year’s volunteers (called “givers”), who will share stories of their experience giving away books.
“Interesting things happen while distributing the books,” de Bodisco says. “This is a chance for the givers to talk about the many reactions they got. They’ll also talk about where they plan to distribute this year.”
For de Bodisco, the givers are the heroes of this tale. Their efforts, paired with year’s selection of books, which along with Tales includes such titles as Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.
“The volunteers get to share their love of reading and put books into the hands of people who otherwise might not have picked them up, plus it’s truly a great list of books,” she says.
If that wasn’t reason enough to check it out, there is yet another perk: All attendees will be gifted with a special World Book Night edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, because it’s hard to beat a collection of poetry that can both improve your mind and seduce your peers. Come celebrate the Bard’s b-day in style and rediscover reading for pleasure, no book club membership required.
World Book Night Launch
5:30 pm Tuesday, April 22. Free.
500 Montezuma Ave.,