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An Evening of Giving Away Books

World Book Night has become more than a noble experiment. Again this year on April 23, more than 25,000 people will fan out across the United States to place books in the hands of those who don’t normally read—or don’t have—books. More than half-a-million editions will be given away, free of charge, thanks not only to the many volunteers who will be doing the distributing, but also to the authors who have waived their royalties and to the publishers who have agreed to pay the book production costs.

This ambitious event, first tried in Britain in 2011, is now in its third year in the United States and also has spread to Germany. Politics & Prose is proud to be participating as a community distribution center, along with hundreds of other bookstores and many libraries. And we’re grateful to the dozens of Washington area residents who have volunteered to serve as book givers.

April 23 has special historical significance. It is the UNESCO International Day of the Book, as well as date both of Shakespeare’s birth and death. It also is the date that Miguel de Cervantes died, and in the Catalan region of Spain, the day is celebrated by giving a book and a flower to a loved one.

The 35 titles that will be handed out were selected by a national panel of librarians and booksellers. The complete list is below. But one new element this year involves a special e-book that’s been put together for the occasion. It contains ten pieces by booksellers, librarians and authors describing their experiences on past World Book Nights. The e-book will be available free online at for two weeks beginning April 22.

One of the contributors—Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them—will be appearing at P&P on April 22 at 7 p.m. to moderate a discussion about the book-giving project. Simultaneous events will be held in 14 cities, including Seattle, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and New York City, where givers will have opportunities to speak about their experiences and meet other World Book Night participants. We encourage everyone to attend.

The physical books to be distributed include a mix of recently published works and established classics. In selecting them, a conscious attempt was made to provide gender, ethnic and geographical balance. Here’s the list:

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Diane Ackerman); Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Jesse Andrews); Zora and Me (Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon); Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain); The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown); The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky); After the Funeral (Agatha Christie); The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1 (John Flanagan); Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford); The Lighthouse Road (Peter Geye); The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell); Wait Till Next Year (Doris Kearns Goodwin); Catch-22 (Joseph Heller); The Dog Stars (Peter Heller); Hoot (Carl Hiaasen); Pontoon (Garrison Keillor); Same Difference (Derek Kirk Kim); Enchanted (Alethea Kontis); Miss Darcy Falls in Love (Sharon Lathan); Bobcat and Other Stories (Rebecca Lee); Young Men and Fire (Norman Maclean); Tales of the City (Armistead Maupin); Waiting to Exhale (Terry McMillan); Sunrise Over Fallujah (Walter Dean Myers); Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson); The Botany of Desire (Michael Pollan); The Raven’s Warrior (Vincent Pratchett); Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs); When I was Puerto Rican (Esmeralda Santiago); Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple); Wild (Cheryl Strayed); Presumed Innocent (Scott Turow); Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein); This Boy's Life (Tobias Wolff); 100 Best-Loved Poems (edited by Philip Smith).

--Brad and Lissa

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