World Book Night US: Washington, Michigan, and New York attract the most volunteers

As World Book Night approaches again, a list of rankings shows where volunteers – who give away free books on April 23 – are most heavily clustered in the US.

Luke Macgregor/Reuters
A volunteer gives out books in London during World Book Night.

As World Book Night approaches, the organization behind World Book Night US has released a list showing which US cities have the largest number of volunteers handing out books.

The event, which came to the US for the first time in 2012, is being held April 23 and centers around volunteers who give free copies of books to family, acquaintances, and people they meet on the sidewalk. A particular list of titles is selected each year (this year's list includes picks like Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”) and volunteers sign up to participate. April 23 was chosen as the official date because it’s also the day on which playwright William Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated. The event began in the UK and Ireland in 2011. Last year volunteers in the US and Germany participated as well.

World Book Night US combined two lists when ranking participation. One ranking calculated the amount of givers by city or town per capita, while the other lists the amount of givers by region per capita. 

When calculated by city or town, St. Louis, Mo. has the highest number of volunteers in the US, followed by Wichita, Kan. at number two. Louisville, Ky. and Salt Lake City, Utah are close behind them at slots three and four, respectively.

But those figures don't tell the whole story, says executive director Carl Lennertz. “Doing it just by pure number and by individual towns and cities didn't capture the full picture of where the most givers are," he explains as reported by independent bookstore industry newsletter ShelfAwareness. "Yes, the five big cities top the list in order of population, but then it begins to follow along the lines of both very involved bookstores and libraries, as well as places with community-minded citizens and/or a population in need.”

When calculated by region, an area delineated as West Seattle Sound, which includes Bainbridge Island, Kitsap, and the Olympic Peninsula, tops the list. The portion of Michigan that includes Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo comes in at number two, while the section of New York consisting of Buffalo, Rochester, Oswego, and Brockport is at number three. An area titled “Los Angeles beach towns” is ranked at number four.

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