LJ Q&A: Carl Lennertz on World Book Night—Plus the 30 Books You Need To Know About

LJ‘s Manager of Special Projects, Barbara Genco, sat down with Carl Lennertz, the mastermind behind the American Booksellers Association’s (ABA) Indie Bound Program, to talk about his newest project to match books and readers‚ World Book Night.

LJ: What exactly is World Book Night (WBN)? When and where did it begin?

Lennertz: World Book Night is a campaign to giveaway a million books, all across America, all on one day‚ April 23, 2012. We will enlist 50,000 volunteer book lovers to go out into their communities and each will give away 20 copies of a book they love.

We are asking folks to seek out non-readers or light readers, as well as those without easy access to books. They will go to nursing homes and hospitals, as well as places like coffee shops or malls, even high schools.

We are choosing 30 books, 40,000 copies of each will be printed in special, not-for-resale World Book Night paperback editions. Fiction, non-fiction, and YA. We are looking for a mix of the literary and the commercial. We want quality and accessibility as well as gender and ethnic diversity. One of the books will be in Spanish. We are also choosing books and authors from around the country. We want books that will connect with a wide audience of new readers.

WBN was successfully launched in the UK in 2011. Supported by publishers, bookstores and libraries, it is intended to be an annual event. The UK and US will have different lists of 30 picks, but we both share the philosophy of promoting reading, having an exciting list of titles, and outreach to underserved and new readers.

Is the term world descriptive or aspirational?

Both. There is as already interest from Germany, Australia and more. The UK team, a wonderfully generous group, has brought in an experienced marketing person to help with the international brand message as this grows. And it will.

When and where will it all happen? Why April 23?

April 23 is already World Book Day in some countries, notably in the Catalan region of Spain. They chose the date based on Cervantes’ death date, as well as Shakespeare’s birth and death dates.

Where? Everywhere, I hope. Wherever they feel comfortable going and where they will find new readers.

Who’s footing the bill?

The publishers, Barnes & Noble, and the ABA have put up funds for a basic budget. And we are looking to many sectors for pro bono work: social media, traditional PR, and the biggie, donations of paper and printing time for the millions books.

Are any library leaders or associations already involved?

Mary Ghikas of ALA [American Library Association] has been a terrific help, with great advice, the offer of a spot at ALA Midwinter to give a talk, and by putting me in touch with several librarians to vote on the books. We hope for a continuing partnership with ALA, libraries, and librarians!

Why should librarians, libraries and library users be part of this event? How can small branch, school, or college library participate?

On a greater level, this is about getting more people to read, so that’s good for libraries. And, there will local and national media coverage about reading and authors and libraries and bookstores, so that’s good. And, the bookgiver might be going to a library (if you opt-in) to pick up their box, so that’s good.

And, we want librarians to be bookgivers themselves!!

And especially, we hope libraries will promote WBN picks from their own collections! In the UK, stores did displays and sales soared! People always want advice on what to read. This is the converted reader aspect of WBN, secondary to our main mission, but this is still all good.

How can my library become a distribution site?

There will be an opt-in process that we will coordinate with ALA.

What does being a book giver actually entail?

Getting your box of books and going out somewhere in the community and enthusiastically giving away a book you love!

How can I sign up to be a book giver?

Prospective volunteer bookgivers should go to www.us.worldbooknight.org and register their name, top three book choices (from the list of World Book Night picks), and describe how and where they intend to give their books away. (Shipping will be handled by Ingram.) 50,000 volunteers will be chosen based on the information provided. Easy peasy!

[Note: The 30 U.S. World Book Night titles for 2012 were announced today. From the announcement:]

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Ballantine)
  • Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger (Da Capo)
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (Beacon Press)
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (Tor)
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
  • Blood Work by Michael Connelly (Grand Central)
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Riverhead); a Spanish-language edition, La breve y maravillosa vida de √ìscar Wao (Vintage Espanol), will also be made available.
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick)
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (Vintage)
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (Grove Atlantic)
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (Algonquin)
  • Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (Berkley)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead)
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (Ballantine)
  • The Stand by Stephen King (Anchor)
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Perennial)
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (W.W. Norton)
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner)
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (Mariner)
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (Perennial)
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Atria)
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (Picador)
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Back Bay)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Broadway)
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco)
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Scribner)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

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