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Read all about the great books giveaway...
DON’T be surprised if a perfect stranger comes up to you at York Station on Monday and presses a copy of Maggie O’Farrell’s bestseller The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox into your hand.
It won’t be some weird high-pressure sales technique – at least, probably not. Monday is World Book Night and that pleasant-looking stranger will almost certainly be taking part in the mass giveaway of one million books.
The idea for World Book Night came from Jamie Byng, the boss of publisher Canongate. It is run by a charity, and the aim is to “inspire those who have never discovered the value of reading”.
This will be World Book Night’s second year. It will be celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the US, with one million books being given away in the UK and Ireland alone by 20,000 people.
The date of April 23 was chosen because that is the anniversary of the day in which Shakespeare was born and died.
In York, there will be more than 120 ‘givers’, each giving away 24 copies of one of their favourite books.
The books all come from a list of 25 chosen by World Book Night organisers, which includes Pride And Prejudice, Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island, Stephen King’s Misery, David Peace’s The Damned United, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, and many more.
In York, books will be given away at the railway station, the Minster, the University of York campus, and local fish and chip shops. The person who will be giving away the Maggie O’Farrell book at the station, who prefers to remain anonymous, says this is a perfect location because there is a “captive audience of travellers, held in time”.
At St Wulstan’s Church, off Fossway, meanwhile, 48-year-old self-employed gardener Mary Merchant will be giving away 24 copies of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca at a mums’ and toddlers’ group on Monday morning.
Mary believes Rebecca is the perfect book to get people reading. “It’s got everything – love, murder, madness, the whole lot,” she says.
World Book Night is a great idea to get people interested in reading, she believes – and so helping improve literacy and ultimately people’s life chances. “It’s about telling people that reading is enjoyable,” Mary says. “I’ll be saying ‘give it a go! Just try the first page’.” She is convinced that once they do, they won’t be able to put Rebecca down.
World Book Night boss Julia Kingsford said one thing all the books being given away on Monday had in common was that they were all brilliant reads.
“From classics to contemporary favourites, international bestsellers to major prize-winners, it’s an exciting, diverse and compelling list that genuinely features something for everyone and we feel sure will inspire… many hundreds of thousands of people to read and share these great books.”
So remember: for one day only, if a stranger comes up to you on Monday and thrusts a book into your hands, don’t shrug them off. Accept it, say thanks – and get reading.