Saturday 5th March was World Book Night. It’s purpose was to celebrate great writing, the power of books and the pleasure of reading. To help achieve this 40,000 copies each of 25 books were specially printed to be given away free to the general public. That’s one million extra books put into circulation. It’s hoped that these books will be read, enjoyed and then passed on or shared with others. The titles given away covered a wide range of tastes and included Killing Floor by Lee Child, Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes and Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.
I went to a special event at the Birmingham Library Theatre to mark the occasion. It featured a discussion on reading and writing between authors Mike Gayle (My Legendary Girlfriend), Catherine O’Flynn (What was Lost) and RJ Ellory (A Quiet Belief in Angels). The three writers covered many topics.
Mike told us how a light went on in his head when he came across Adrian Mole as a teenager. Here was a character with whom he totally identified and it was at this point that Mike began to realise the power that words could wield.
Catherine described her childhood longing to be a detective, fuelled by an Usborne book she was given as a youngster that was filled with advice on clues and suspects and methods of detection. She took to sitting outside her local bank and noting down car registration plates in case there was ever a big robbery – to her disappointment there never was.
Roger Ellory told us about a favourite book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This is based on the true story of the 1959 murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote was a friend of To Kill a Mockingbird author, Harper Lee and she went with him to Holcomb to dig out the story behind the murders. Apparently, there is a theory that both of these books were written as a collaboration between the two authors and each put their name to one book. They both became bestsellers and neither writer ever published anything else.
Everyone at Saturday’s event went home with free books to read and pass on. I received Seamus Heaney’s New Selected Poems 1966 – 1987. This is not a book I would ever have chosen myself but maybe that was the purpose of World Book Night – to encourage those that never read to pick up a book and to push enthusiastic readers into trying something more challenging. I’m going to give it a go!