World Book Night: the most popular books and which Broadway show is getting involved

World Book Night, the celebration of reading which includes the distribution of free books, has arrived.

Luke Macgregor/Reuters
A volunteer hands out titles for World Book Night in London.

World Book Night – the celebration of the birthdays of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes that finds volunteers handing out free books all over the world – has arrived.

The event is being held in America this year for the second year in a row. Germany also held its first Book Night last year, while the UK and Ireland kicked off their celebrations for the first time in 2011.

On World Book Night, volunteers hand out free copies of any of 20 pre-selected books to friends, family members, and strangers on the street, all in an attempt to get the public reading. A committee of librarians and those involved in the bookselling business choose the titles to be distributed each year, and for 2013, the books being handed out include titles as varied as “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis; “Bossypants” by Tina Fey; “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood; “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova; and “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Joining in the 2013 celebration will be a Broadway show. At tonight’s performance of the current Broadway revival of the musical “Annie” – which tells the story of a plucky orphan living during the Depression – books will be given to each audience member with a ticket. The books' recipients will be encouraged to pass them along to someone who isn’t necessarily drawn to reading. The three books chosen for distribution at "Annie" – “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster; “The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan; and “Looking for Alaska” by John Green – were picked because they were viewed as titles capable of luring in wary readers.

Naturally, however, different titles appeal to different types of readers. In St. Louis, bookstore worker Katie Stepanek of The Book House told the St. Louis Dispatch that volunteers who were coming in to pick up books to distribute were most often asking for “Good Omens” and “The Lightning Thief.”

Volunteers took to Twitter today to express their happiness about the celebration.

“This rainy day is PERFECT for giving out books on @wbnamerica !” Twitter user @Rosie527 tweeted. “What better kind of day to start reading!! So excited!”

User @jenriosburns tweeted her support for her fellow participants.

“Cheers to all my fellow @wbnamerica volunteer #book givers,” she wrote. “Have fun spreading the love of reading tonight!”

According to World Book Night’s website, hundreds of kick-off events and celebrations of those who are giving out books will be held today all over the world.

Wondering what’s going on in your area? Check out World Book Night’s events page.

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