Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Book Night 2013 or How My Mother Made Me Talk to People...

When I filled in my application to be a giver for World Book Night this year all I was thinking was that it's a pretty epic idea and as a person who loves to read and hopes to bring their child up to love books, encouraging people to read is something I should definitely be supporting. Only later (like, two days ago) did I actually think about the practicalities of giving out the books. 

I don't think I've mentioned before that I suffer with social anxiety. As a teenager, I suffered really quite badly with it (I used to drink a lot in order to be able to be in social situations at all - inevitably that led to the situations becoming a lot worse than they would otherwise have been, but there we go. We learn from our mistakes.) Since then I've improved a massive amount, mostly due to working in retail which has made me get reeeeallly good at small talk, and although I quite enjoy it now, walking up to strangers and talking to them is still not something I can do without freaking out majorly first. I really don't know how this didn't occur to me until I was writing my name and pick-up point in the front of 20 copies of The White Queen by Philippa Gregory on Saturday night. Maybe I have greater faith in my recovery than I realise? Anyway, I've basically been having a minor panic attack the past day and a half, which was only calmed by repeatedly telling myself that I could just leave the books on benches and not actually have to talk to anybody at all. I think I must've told myself that at least 50 times. So that was my plan. 

At about 11am my mum and sister arrived from London - the plan was that in the case of rain/awful weather they would look after Benji while I ran around town leaving books on benches, ninja style. However, the weather was gorgeous, so they decided they should come too. I had only left one book on one bench before my mum spotted an old lady at the bus stop and said 'Oh, that lady looks like she wants a book. Go give her one! You have loads of experience with old ladies! You're not scared of her!' (I should add that a previous job entailed a lot of working with old ladies, so yes, I am used to them). After much coercing by her I went over to said old lady pretty much just to shut my mum up, and she was lovely. At first she didn't want to take a book, because she doesn't read anymore. I told her that that was pretty much the point of the operation - to find people who don't read and give them books, and that if she decided she really didn't want to read the book she could always pass it along to somebody else. Then she asked about World Book Night and I was totally full of facts and things, and then we had a chat about the book ('Oooh the one thing I do like is a bit of historical writing!'), and I went on my way feeling surprisingly pleased with myself. 

I gave all my books out in under an hour and I only left two on benches in the end. I will say that the vast majority did end up going to women, but in my defence the only two people who turned down the offer of a completely free book were men. I was slightly offended by the people who refused. I stressed that it was completely free, no strings attached, and when they still refused part of me wanted to chase them down the road waving the book going 'it's a FREE BOOK! Who turns down a FREE BOOK?!' but I didn't, because I'm a mature adult and stuff. And also, it was too hot to run. So there we go. I know it's not technically World Book Night yet, but my husband works silly shifts and I have no babysitting capacity, so it had to be today, and all in all it was a huge amount less stressful than I expected. Yay for free books and all the lovely ladies who happily accepted copies of The White Queen :-) I'm happy this evening because I feel like I've helped brighten up some people's days, and won a little personal victory as well. 

I want to know about your experiences of World Book Night now, as this was my first year really being involved and I'm so happy I did it! How have other people found it?


  1. Well done you! That would be the hardest thing for me, the fear of being told to sod off by some grumpy person, so KUDOS to you for facing your fears and getting in there with your small talk and WBN facts! I love that your mum made you talk to people, that's EXACTLY what my mum would do... :D

  2. Good job! I found it really hard last year as I was approaching non-readers and they just weren't interested! As it was my favourite ever book Pride and Prejudice I took it rather personally! Ended up in local cinema giving them with the line 'better than the film'!

    1. Yeah I have to admit I did kind of avoid some people because I sort of thought they wouldn't be interested... Maybe I'll do better with that next time! And I did use The Other Boleyn Girl movie to sell the book a bit too :-p

  3. Glad you had a good World Book Night experience! I panic quite a lot in social situations, so I appreciate it can be tough - but I'm glad you got to speak to some nice people and hand out your books. It's good to know people who don't normally read are benefiting from this, and I read somewhere that a certain portion of the books go to care homes and prisons and things, which I thought was pretty awesome.

  4. I'm going out in about an hour (5pm Chicago time) and have some of the same fear as you. And it's raining here, so no leaving books on benches, I'm afraid.

  5. Wow I'm so impressed. I was a giver for the first time this year but I gave to people at my work, so I had already met them before. Maybe next year I can pluck up the courage to give to complete strangers.

  6. I'm waaaaay proud Bex. I mean, I'm still leaving mine on benches, totally, but still. Proud! Also, I know NO FACTS about WBN! I mean, other than that it's to encourage reading and stuff. I am the worst book giver ever, I do believe!

  7. I love your post! I think many of us struggle in one way or another with talking to strangers, most if us readers anyway, and the idea of leaving books on benches "Ninja style" made me smile. Also, I totally get being offended by people who said no. They must be crazy! I think the idea of something totally free is just too good to be true for them. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I love how we grow in this process as givers.