A Night to Remember

Laura Stockwell

Thursday 3rd March brought to 2011 the annual celebration of World Book Day, and I was eagerly awaiting its arrival. However, for me, this years event was overshadowed by my excitement for a brand new event to be held on Saturday 5th March – World Book Night.

World Book Night was the first event of its kind, and has been described as the ‘most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland.’ From Saturday 5th onwards, one million books have been distributed to members of the public around the UK and Ireland by 20,000 specially selected ‘givers’. Altogether 25 carefully chosen book titles, including Alan Bennett’s ‘A Life Like Other People’s’, Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’, and John le Carré’s ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,’ will make up the huge one million book giveaway. The idea of World Book Night was developed by book publisher Jamie Byng, who came up with the concept during the World Book Day Conference in 2009. It has taken two years to take form, but finally World Book Night has arrived!

I am very privileged and grateful as I was selected as one of the ‘givers’ for World Book Night. As the presenter of Subcity Radio’s show ‘TheBookClub’ I was selected to give away 48 copies of the book of my choice to listeners of the show and students from Glasgow University. For my giveaway I chose Toni Morrison’s incredibly moving novel ‘Beloved’. After reading this book during the Summer, I selected this book because I believe it should be read by everyone. The novel tells the life story of character Sethe, and how slavery has affected both her and the family before and after her. It is an incredibly emotive read that forces its reader to face up to issues one would most like to forget, but in the end leaves us with an unforgettable feeling of hope. I can not recommend it highly enough.

As part of this wonderful giveaway of literature, I will be leaving copies of ‘Beloved’ all around the University, just waiting to be discovered. Keep your eyes peeled! If you find one of the many copies I have left around the University, I hope you enjoy it. My first request is that you treasure the story as much as I do. My second, (and this is a tough thing to ask I know!), please pass on your copy of the novel once you have finished. This is a story which must be passed on and shared among readers far and wide. So once you have finished with it, pass it on to a friend or family member, or you could even leave it somewhere undiscovered to be found by another mysterious reader. Hopefully, the books journey can continue past the final pages and touch the lives of many more people.

Thanks to my role as a ‘giver’ in World Book Night, I was offered the opportunity to go to the launch party of World Book Night on Friday 4th March. With a line up including Alan Bennett, Rupert Everett, Margaret Atwood and a host of other famous authors, I could not refuse! There was however, one small problem; the event was taking place in London’s Trafalgar Square. With only a week’s notice to the launch party, I must admit I thought it was going to be an impossible trip, but, after a searching for funds and an 8 hour night bus to London, I found myself in Trafalgar Square come Friday eve. Was it worth it? Without a doubt YES! Despite being in an extreme state of exhaustion and stood in the bitter cold of London town, World Book Night 2011 Launch was an event to remember – for all the right reasons! The event was compared by Graham Norton who introduced us to 12 very lucky ‘givers’ who shared their experiences with the novel of their choice. This was followed by an hour and a half of talks by some of the most important figures in British Literature today. Talks from Alan Bennett, Margaret Atwood, Rupert Everett, John le Carré, Philip Pullman, as well as celebrities like Suggs and Boris Johnson, made the evening one of variety and emotion. Each reader selected their favourite novel, either from the list of 25 or not, and proceeded to read an extract from that. For me the most memorable were Alan Bennett’s reading from his book ‘A Life Like Other People’s’, John le Carré’s ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,’ and Boris Johnsons’ reading about being hungover – perfect entertainment for a Friday night! The evening has been called ‘the biggest single literary event in history’ by the Telegraph, and I feel very privileged and lucky to have been part of such a moment in literary history.

World Book Night is not something to be celebrated just by the book-lover. It is something to be celebrated by each and every person. Reading is something to be enjoyed by all, it has no boundaries. I urge you to seek out a copy of ‘Beloved’ around the University, and remember to pass it on! The journey of reading is one that never ends, and for some people discovering this book may be the beginning of there journey. I hope each and every one of you who finds a copy enjoys your emotional journey across its pages. And for those of you who don’t find a copy, pick up the next book you see and read it. You never know, it could be the turning point in your journey.


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