World Book Night is coming to the U.S. in 2013 with the imprimatur of James Patterson and Ann Patchett. The bestselling authors are serving as honorary chairs for the single-day book giveaway in which half a million books will be distributed for free.
That day is planned for April 23, organizers announced Thursday. Included in the announcement are the titles of 30 books that will be specially printed for the giveaway, including Patterson's "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life," as well as works by Margaret Atwood, Tina Fey, Mark Twain and John Green. "The House on Mango Street" by Sandro Cisneros and "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho will be available in both English and Spanish editions, and Los Angeles is represented by Walter Mosely's classic tale of crime in the Crenshaw district "Devil in a Blue Dress."
World Book Night is imported from Britain, where publishers have gotten together to give away millions of books and hold a celebration of reading in London. America is larger territory, but major cities including New York and Los Angeles participated this year in the inaugural World Book Night in the U.S.
The program began in Britain in 2010 as a complement to World Book Day, on which schoolchildren are given tokens for free books. World Book Night books are generally geared toward adult readers, with just a few for kids or teens, even in countries like the U.S. that don't have the corresponding daytime events.
On U.S. World Book Night, 25,000 volunteers sign up to give away 20 copies of one of the available books. Organizers have chosen a diverse list of titles, hoping that each volunteer will be able to walk up to a stranger and say, "I loved this book, I hope you will to." Volunteers must be 16 or over and can sign up online.
The giveaway has been a cause for concern in England, where some booksellers say that the free books undermine their business. And authors have forgone royalites on these editions of these books so that they can be made available for the project. Yet World Book Night organizers have shown their giveaway can increase book-buying. As the drug-dealing cliche goes, the first taste is always free.
The books that World Book Night volunteers will be using to hook new readers are:
"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho, in English and Spanish editions
"Bossypants" by Tina Fey
"City of Thieves" by David Benioff
"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" by Mark Twain
"Devil in a Blue Dress" by Walter Mosley
"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
"Favorite American Poems" by various authors
"Girl With a Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevalier
"Glaciers" by Alexis M. Smith
"Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
"The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros, in English and Spanish editions
"The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
"The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan
"Look Again" by Lisa Scottoline
"Looking for Alaska" by John Green
"Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris
"Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" by James Patterson
"Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
"Montana Sky" by Nora Roberts
"Mudbound" by Hillary Jordan
"My Antonia" by Willa Cather
"The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith
"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster
"Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham
"Population: 485" by Michael Perry
"Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward
"Still Alice" by Lisa Genova
"The Tender Bar" by J.R. Moehringer
"The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan