On my way home from work yesterday, I did my bit as a volunteer for World Book Night and gave away all but one copy of my chosen book Why Be Happy When You Coud Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. I didn’t have much of a plan and because of that I’ll admit I was nervously excited about how people would react to me offering them a book. I was keen to give the books away in Leith as I had picked my books up from the library there and wanted to talk to people in my (relatively) new barrio.
At least the rain had gone off but the wind was blowing at some speed and I wasn’t holding up much hope that people would want to stop and chat to me. I was approaching strangers on their way home from work which some might say is mad but it proved to be very interesting! I was gearing myself up so much that I actually pounced before I even reached Leith Walk. I saw a man with a bright pink scarf walking past Gayfield Square and thought I’d chat to him. He was a bit suspicious at first but once I explained what I was doing he was happy to chat and walked off with a big smile and, importantly, a copy of Why Be Happy When You Coud Be Normal? which he tapped me on the shoulder with saying, ‘D’ye know what? I’ll read it.’ I took this to be a good omen and it certainly put a smile on my face.
Next, I brought out what I thought was the key move in my plan – to chat to people at bus stops and hopefully hand out some books. The first bus stop went very successfully and I handed out books to a range of ages, both male and female. I was a bit worried that men would turn up their noses at a book by a female author so I was keen to chat to them too, although I will say, gents, that 4 out of the 6 knockbacks I got for receiving free books were from you. I also got told ‘but Champions league’s on the telly tonight’ as if a free book would somehow mean he couldn’t watch the match. That particular gent said he didn’t read much and although I explained that was kind of the point of WBN and a reason that I would love to give him a book, he still turned me down… So onto the next! The problem with bus stops is buses – you know when you stand there for ages and a bus never turns up? Well I seemed to have the opposite effect and made buses magically appear. I lost an 8-person full bus stop to one bus which I was rather sad about. I also started chatting to a few commuters only to be told, ‘Oh! Sorry – that’s my bus. Byeeee!’
I walked over 3 and half miles in total, all the way down the Walk, round past Commercial Quay and along The Shore, covering a fair bit of Leith, and I’m pretty pleased that I only have one book left. It was lovely to see happy faces with their new books, finding their seats on the bus and leafing through the pages of a book they have just received, completely out of the blue. Some were a bit baffled as they had never heard of World Book Night before so I am pleased to have been the one to introduce them to this wonderful project. I think maybe next year I’ll have more of a plan on where to hand the books out and to whom as mine was a bit random this year to say the least. I am very glad I took part – hopefully rather than scaring people on the streets of Leith, I will have actually inspired them to read, or even to read something that they wouldn’t normally pick up off the shelf. An exhilarating experience!
Find out more on what World Book Night is all about over on their website.
Have any of you been giving away books for World Book Night? What kind of reactions did you get?