Folks, April 23 is Monday. I’m really excited.
This is the first year that World Book Night will be celebrated in the United States. Up to now, it was a celebration in the United Kingdom. In my little small corner of the world, Murphy/Wylie, Texas, there are 20 book givers. The two biggest congregations of book givers in Texas are Houston and Austin.

If you recall from an earlier posting, I applied and was selected to be a book giver/volunteer for World Book Night. On April 23, each book giver in the U.S. and U.K. will give away, free, yes, no charge, no cost, did I say free?, to encourage people who either read very little or don’t like to read at all to try one more time. It could be that the person has just not had the right book to spur that interest in reading.  No obligation on the part of the recipient, other than to read the book.

A World Book Night giver and his book

Each selected book giver chose their book from among 30 books. You can see the complete list of the books at worldbooknight.org. There are some truly great books on the list, including The Hunger Games, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Kite Runner, The Lovely Bones, Friday Night Lights, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, among others.

During my application process, I was impressed. There was truly a selection process and there was a good chance I would not be chosen. Write an essay about why reading is important to me, explain how and where I would give my books away, and just why did I want to be part of this. I had to choose my book. I read synopses of all the books and chose to give away The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. When I read the synopsis, I was impressed. A story about a young girl in wartime Berlin who loves to read so much and so strongly that she steals books to read them. Sometime later, I discovered that The Book Thief is young adult fiction.

There was a lull of a few weeks after I submitted my application before I learned that I had been selected. Frankly, I was really happy to be chosen. Really happy!

Again, there was email communication periodically to keep us book givers up to date with the latest news about the upcoming event. This past Thursday, at my local library there was a reception for the local volunteer book givers. Quite a few came to the reception and we shared information about how we learned about World Book Night, what books we had chosen and why, and where we planned to give our books away.

I got my special printed copies of The Book Thief and on Monday, April 23rd I will be one of thousands of volunteer book givers handing out these books across the U.S. As you go about your business on Monday, don’t be surprised if you find someone wearing a World Book Night pin approaches you with an offer to give you a free book. If you are approached, take the book and read it. But don’t let it stop there. After you finish the book, pass it along to someone you know that you think will enjoy the book. If you do, the goal of this effort will be reached.

I know this has been said a million times, and is perhaps a cliche, but I believe it to be very, very true: No one finishes a book the same person as when he/she started, whether filled with a new understanding of life, or just happier for the hours lost in a good story.

I can’t wait till Monday and I hope you are blessed with a new, free book, too.

Last year, our friends Joe and Deb invited Patti and me to join them for the Master’s golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia. We drove over, met them and had a great time. It’s the second time I’ve been to the Masters, which used to have the moniker of the “hardest ticket in sports to get.” I love golf and it’s my favorite place to watch golf. To this day, it is one of the superlative golf courses in the world. Imagine 500+ acres of golf course and not one weed on the course. Just unbelievable.

So, while we were at the tournament, we heard that the Master’s was going to have a drawing for tickets for the 2012 tournament. There would be two drawings — tickets for a practice round and tickets for a regular day of the tournament.

I went online, crossed my fingers and entered. Well, the deadlines for both sets of tickets came and went. I got the obligatory “thank you for entering, but you are not a winner today” email. No practice round tickets and no regular tournament tickets. Oh well. Don’t look back!

One of my other passions is books. There are a few websites I check regularly for the latest about my favorite authors, information about publishing, writing, reading and the ongoing fight between ebooks and regularly printed books. I can tell you when my interest started — when I was a kid and I read Swiss Family Robinson for the first time. While being involved in a shipwreck at sea holds no romance to me, finding an island where I could build this fantastic tree house and have the run of the island could be a dream come true.

I was checking the website for Square Books, one of my favorite book stores in America. It is located on the courthouse square of Oxford, Mississippi, which is also the home of the late writer William Faulkner. It is a very quaint bookstore, with creaky wooden floors, walls loaded with autographed photos of writers, and tables of autographed books. The store routinely has regular author readings and signings. Oxford is also the home of John Grisham, who is featured prominently on posters and whose books adorn the tables.

So, I check their website this time and I see an intriguing ad. The ad read: World Book Night — April 23, 2012 — Apply here.

I clicked on the site and learned the following:

  • Volunteers apply to hand out books to those who admittedly read very little or don’t reach much at all — not everyone is selected
  • If you are selected to be a volunteer, you choose from among 30 books for the one book you want to hand out — free
  • Part of the application process means that you look at these 30 books and decide your first, second and third choices as the book you want to give away
  • You have to write an essay about why you want to do this and, more importantly, where you would hand out your books
  • If selected, you will receive a congratulatory message in early February, telling you a little about next steps
  • Then those selected will receive another email in late February, telling you which book you will be handing out and where to pick up your 20 copies.

By picking up the books in late February, those selected will have time to read the book chosen for them before April 23rd. Cool.

After reading a little further, I found out that this is a mammoth undertaking and takes place each year on the same date in the UK. This is the first year that the US will participate as a country.  The goal is to encourage and turn those who read very little or not at all into more avid readers, and most folks just need “the right book” to get the started and excited.

I was hooked; I applied and had fun writing my essays.

So, in early February when I got the notice that I had been selected, I was really charged. In my essay, I said that if I was chosen to hand out the books, I would likely go down to the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building, a huge tourist landmark here in Dallas, and hand them out to the tourists there who read very little. It just seemed a bit ironic to me to hand these free books out at a schoolbook depository. I also said I would hand some out at a local DART metro station.

So, for now, I’m just jazzed that I know where I will be on April 23rd, but am awaiting word on the book that I will be giving out. Among the many books that individuals could choose from include The Bee, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Book Thief,  The Hunger Games, Because of Winn-Dixie, Zeitoun, A Reliable Wife, Q is for Quarry, The Kite Runner, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Things They Carried, Bel Canto, Housekeeping, The Lovely Bones and Just Kids, among others.

As we get closer to the end of the month, I will let you know whether I got my first choice – The Book Thief — or my second or third choice.

So, maybe I didn’t get tickets to the Masters, but I do get the chance to hand out free books and, perhaps, spur an interest in reading for someone. I suppose I will be all the richer for not getting the tickets, but becoming the volunteer.

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