NEW YORK -- You won't need to visit a store or library Monday night to see a book change hands or receive a free copy yourself.
Thousands of towns and cities around the country and beyond are participating in the second annual World Book Night, when some 2.5 million free books are expected to be donated, whether at a children's shelter in Texas or a crisis center in Tampa, Fla. Among the works being given are Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games," Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," Michael Connelly's "Blood Work" and Leif Enger's "Peace Like a River."
"It's premium company, this list, and I'm glad and lucky to be on it," Enger said. "It also feels like a challenge. The idea is to entice people back into reading – to mesmerize, to sweep them up, to remind them of the thrill of the open page."
"World Book Night feels so magically old-fashioned," Alexie added.
World Book Night was originated in 2011 by managing director Jamie Byng of Canongate Books, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. This year marks the first time that the U.S. will be participating, along with the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. Although some British booksellers complained last year that such a mass giveaway could hurt sales, World Book Night is being supported by the leading U.S. publishers and by the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independents.
"One of the things I love is how this isn't just happening in New York and California," said Carl Lennertz, executive director of the U.S. branch of World Book Night. "The whole country is involved."
Stores from Oswego, N.Y., to Hilo, Hawaii, will be helping out, but World Book Night will reach well beyond traditional channels, into military bases, prisons, ballparks and ferries. A church in Denver will give copies of Ann Patchett's "Bel Canto" to a nearby magnet school for refugees and immigrants. Vernon Legakis, a surfer in Santa Cruz, Calif., will seal copies of Patti Smith's "Just Kids" inside Ziplocs and hand them out at Monterey Bay. Attendees of a "Hunger Games" screening at Windsor Theatre in Hampton, Iowa, will receive editions of Collins' million-selling novel.
A librarian, Megan Goins, will travel New York City to distribute Junot Diaz's Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," from the Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem to Brooklyn's Weekville Heritage Center, where an early free black community lived.
"I am a librarian, so naturally, I was thrilled to find this opportunity," she said. "Literature production and dissemination are my hobbies."