Tuesday, April 23, 2013

World Book Night

Twenty books in 60 minutes might be some kind of a record! It was certainly a lot easier than I expected to get people to engage in conversation and accept a special World Book Night edition of Fahrenheit 451.

In the end, on the same principle as pick-up lines, the simple, direct approach was best: "Hi, tonight is World Book Night. Would you like a free book?"  That was enough to get folks to pause for a look.

Once they paused, I said more. Sometimes I told them how much I liked the book. Sometimes I launched into a short description ("It's a story about a future time when it's illegal to own books. The government doesn't want people to think for themselves."). Sometimes I said it was a science fiction book, "but don't let that put you off." Sometimes I emphasized that it was written in 1951 but the author imagined some things that are weirdly accurate now.  I just went with my gut on what might appeal to the person.

Most people readily admitted they didn't read much, so they were squarely in the target audience of "light readers" and "non-readers."

By the end of the night I'd talked with people from India, New York, and Jamaica, from teens to retirees, and families, couples, and friends of both genders.  My impression was correct: the Riverwalk was a fantastic crossroads of my town. Sooner or later, everyone shows up there.  And it doesn't take long before the beauty of the place puts everyone in a good mood.

During the entire evening, only 3 people refused the book.  Anyone who remembers the "seashells" described in the book will appreciate the poetic appropriateness of the fact that all 3 of them were wearing earbuds attached to their iPods.

Life imitates art, in this case.


  1. Jane, what location did you choose? So many others had problems getting their books out - I'm always curious where the receptive light readers can be found.

  2. I chose the Riverwalk in my town, because so many people use it every evening for recreation, exercise, and socializing. We often go there to watch the sun set, so I knew it would be a beautiful place to hang out, too. I sat on a bench on the peninsula pictured here and spoke to people as they walked by.

    We are so lucky here to have a true "community crossroads" like this! More photos of the Riverwalk are posted at this cool blog: Sanford365.com/day-41-sanford-riverwalk.


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