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World Book Night returns to the US

After reading celebration World Book Night debuted in America for the first time last year, it will be held again this April.

By Staff Writer / November 14, 2012

A volunteer distributes books as part of World Book Night.

Luke Macgregor/Reuters

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World Book Night will be held in America for the second year after kicking off its first US celebration last April.

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During the event, volunteers give out certain titles to friends, family, and people they meet on the street when they stand on street corners. The event was founded by UNESCO and started in the UK and Ireland in 2011, coming to America and Germany for the first time in 2012. World Book Night is celebrated on April 23 because the date is also William Shakespeare's birthday. In the four countries combined, more than 2.5 million books were given out by 80,000 volunteers last year. The honorary chairpersons for this year's event are "State of Wonder" author Ann Patchett and writer James Patterson, whose children's book "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" will be one of the titles to be distributed.

"What better way to spread a love for reading than to inspire passionate readers to go out into their communities and share copies of their favorite books with those who don’t regularly read?" the organization's website reads. "Giving is an incredibly powerful part of our culture – and culture, art, and a writers’ talent are all themselves ‘gifts’."

The titles that will be given out by volunteers are selected by a panel of librarians and those in the book business, and those who distributed books in the last celebration can suggest books to be considered. This year, novels that will be distributed include "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisnero, "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and "My Antonia" by Willa Cather, among other titles. Nonfiction picks include "Bossypants" by Tina Fey and "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis. Cisnero's book and the novel "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho will also be available in Spanish.

"We received a few strange stares, a couple of 'no thank you's, but generally our audience was accepting of Strange Ladies Bearing Free Books," 2012 giver and Scholastic employee Shanella Ramiall wrote on the Scholastic website. "We were asked for more information by several people and I got the opportunity to explain in detail what World Book Night is and why we were giving the books away. Overall it was an amazing experience, even for this bookish introvert."

Books given out as part of the celebration have sometimes experience sales bumps after the give-away, with titles such as "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" by John Le Carré seeing sales triple after being distributed during the 2010 World Book Night.

Last year, it was noted that, in a book industry that's frosty towards its competitor Amazon, the book giant is one of the few booksellers that wasn't asked to sponsor the event, despite the participation of companies like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. For the record, Amazon is missing from the 2013 World Book Night website's list of sponsors, though Barnes & Noble is again included.

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