Celebrate Shakespeare's 450th Birthday with the Third Annual World Book Night US

Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 11:10
Libraries, bookstores, and bookworms to celebrate World Book Night with special events and a nationwide 500,000-book giveaway
World Book Night 2014 logo

While celebrating William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, libraries, bookstores, and readers around the world will also take part in World Book Night on April 23.

World Book Night began in the United Kingdom in 2011, when the World Book Night nonprofit organization brought together a collection of book publishers who absorbed the printing cost, and authors who waived their royalties, to create special paperback editions of popular novels. Volunteer givers then handed out these free books around their communities.

April 23 was an especially auspicious date to pick for the project, being Shakespeare’s birthday, the UNESCO International Day of the Book, and the day of Miguel de Cervantes’s death.

World Book Night was first celebrated in the US in 2012, and it picked up momentum quickly. Last year’s World Book Night US saw about 500,000 books handed out in 6,200 towns and cities.

The 2014 book list includes popular titles like Stephen Chobsky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Garrison Keillor’s Pontoon, and 35 other titles, which can be found here.

The books are meant to be delivered to likely nonreaders around the community, especially to “those who may not have access to printed books for reasons of means or geography,” according to the World Book Night website.

This year, World Book Night assigned the most givers to Clinton (Iowa) Public Library (CPL), where 41 givers will  pick up 820 books to give away. Assistant director Beth Mosher attributes the wave of support to the library’s cooperation with local Clinton Middle School and the multiple givers who plan to use the event to promote the middle school students’ reading for pleasure over the coming summer months. “They can be reluctant readers,” Mosher tells American Libraries, worried that kids who don’t enjoy school-assigned reading may be turned off by the idea of reading on their own time. “We’re hoping these books can help them get into it.”

CPL’s World Book Night will also include food served by local Boy Scouts, an acoustic guitar performance from a local musician, and video screenings by the library’s genealogy department. The library will be giving away books at the library itself as well as sending givers out with their assigned boxes.

CHRIS FRANCIS is editorial intern at American Libraries.