World Book Night

World Book Night logoI recently received an email which began:

Dear Giver

Congratulations! You have been chosen as a World Book Night giver and the book you will be giving away is The Player of Games which is your 1st choice. We’re sorry to have kept you waiting for so long to find out but we hope you’re pleased.

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks, 1st Edition cover

I am of course delighted, and will report back here about my experiences. World Book Night is a great idea. It is, as it says on the official website, a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of people gift books within their communities to spread the joy and love of reading on April 23. In 2012 World Book Night will be celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and USA.

The site explains in more detail:

25 titles are specially chosen and printed in their thousands in World Book Night editions. Givers apply to give away a particular book (you get a first, second and third choice) which they must commit to give away to those who don’t regularly read to share and spread their love of reading. Each Giver receives 24 copies which they pick up from their local bookshops and libraries – the very heart of our reading communities – in the week before April 23.

The greatest reading journeys start when you put a book in to someone’s hand and say ‘this one’s amazing, you have to read it’ and by applying to be a giver you can help World Book Night give that experience to a million new readers on April 23.

It is difficult to quantify the value of reading on people’s lives, especially given the shocking statistics in the UK that outlines that one person in six struggles to read and write. Poor skills compromise health and well-being, confidence and employability. World Book Night’s charitable mission is to advance the education of the public by assisting in the promotion of literacy and the celebration of books and reading by creating unique moments which focus attention on adult literacy. By focusing on the enjoyment and engagement of reading we aim to reach and inspire those who have never discovered the value of reading.

Why April 23?

April 23 is a symbolic date for world literature. It is both the birth and death day of Shakespeare, as well as the death day of Cervantes, the great Spanish novelist. It is in their honour that UNESCO appointed it the international day of the book and that we choose it to celebrate World Book Night.

It is about 23 years since I have read The Player of Games, but I remember it as the most thrilling of Iain M. Banks science fiction novels. Over the intervening years I have read almost all of Banks books. I have read more of his novels than any other writer except Stephen King. I am going to reread it soon and will post about my thoughts about how it stands up now, and about why I chose it from the 25 titles available.