Yesterday, as part of World Book Night, I handed out 20 copies of "The Stand" by Stephen King. It's one of my favorite books. I have great memories of reading it aloud - yes, all 1000+ pages - to my future husband as we completed our graduate research in Venezuela. We hung from hammocks during the heat of the day, arms and legs lazily swaying, when little else could be done and entered the world that King created.
So I was the perfect person to present this book to people who maybe didn't consider themselves big readers. Who might be kinda intimidated by the sheer size of the book. It's big, no doubt about it. When I attended the reception last week to pick up my box of books at A Real Bookstore, my box was bigger than everyone else's. By a lot. And heavier. I made one of my strapping young sons carry it to the car.
I anticipated having to convince people to take the book, or having people reject my offer because they didn't believe anything to actually be free. My experience was quite the opposite.
I hauled the box to the back of my car in the morning before I tackled a long list of errands. First on my list was getting the air conditioning on my car checked. It took about an hour and, during that time, I worked up the nerve to ask the guy behind the desk if he was a reader while I was paying. "No, not really," he admitted. "Mostly just magazines and stuff."
"Well," I said. "Tonight is World Book Night and I'm a Book Giver and I have 20 copies of one of my favorite books. Would you want one?"
"It's Stephen King," I added.
"Oh! Well, sure. I'll take one. I've been wanting to read more," he admitted.
"Great!" And I raced out to the car to get not one, but two copies.
"Don't be scared by how long it is," I told him as I came back inside. "It's really, really good."
He laughed as he accepted the copy I handed him.
"Is there anyone else here that you think might want one?" I asked him. At that moment, another employee emerged from behind the counter.
"Let's both read it," the one said to the other.
I smiled. "I hope you like it as much as I did," I said as I walked back outside to my car.
Stopping by the bank, I momentarily confused the manager who wanted to know how he could help me. "By taking one of these books," I explained. "You guys were so nice to us when we opened our account, I thought of you when I had these books to give out."
His face was flushed. "That is so nice of you!" His coworker listened from a nearby desk. "Can I have one, too?" he asked. I happily passed out three more copies before making my way to the unemployment office in the same strip mall. This was the place that I said I would go when I applied to be a book giver. Recently unemployed a few months back, I was thinking about how much more time I had to read when I didn't have a job. And how everyone's in the same situation when they lose a job. I wasn't sure how it would be received, but I was going to stand by what I said I'd do.
I approached the office receptionist who asked, "How may I help you?"
"You guys help people all day long," I began. "So I wanted to stop by here today because I'm giving away free copies of one of my favorite books, Stephen King's 'The Stand' for World Book Night. It's just to encourage people to read. Would you like a copy?"
She took the book I handed her. "Sure! I've been trying to find something for my teenage daughter to read - I want her to read more. Would this be good?" I told her my 13-year-old had just started it and loved it, that it was about good and evil, and that I thought any teenager would love it. At that moment, a couple who had been filling out paperwork approached the desk and I offered them copies as well. They were thrilled. I continued to make my way around the room, quietly handing out copies of the book and explaining the purpose of World Book Night to folks as they sat at computers, job searching. That can be a pretty discouraging process, so I like to think I brightened it up just a little bit.
This is how my day went. It was like passing out candy or Christmas cookies. I grinned at the grocery store when two young men who bag groceries all day gladly took copies and began arguing about who could finish it faster. The girl at the cash register when I paid for my lunch acted like it was the best tip she'd gotten all week.
It was a great day. I got to share a book I love with absolute strangers. I like to think that they're all folding back the cover now, beginning that journey that begins every time we open a new book - a journey that is full of possibilities and worlds we might never imagine on our own. And I helped that happen.
The authors and publishers who agreed to be part of World Book Night are an amazing group who truly appreciate the power of reading. The 30 books that were selected to be given away this year are listed here. I've read quite a few, but I'm going to work my way down the list until I've read them all.