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The Gift of Escapism: World Book Night 2012

Books, they just keep on giving

Written by . Published on November 15th 2011.

The Gift of Escapism: World Book Night 2012

THERE’S no doubt about it, most of us tend to embark on a lifestyle or career that leaves little time for curling up at all, let alone curling up with a decent book. If anything, the end of the day triggers the click of the TV remote and the uncorking of a wine bottle.

With these two components in motion there is little urge to reach for the dust-collecting books from last Christmas. The intention is usually there and yet the drive is lacking. For this reason, World Book Night 2011 was launched in a bid to familiarize the country with the benefits of reading. After last year’s success, World Book Night is currently in motion for April 2012. So, it’s time for everyone to jump on the bandwagon and reacquaint themselves with their own imaginations.  

The Shadow of the Wind teaches that ‘every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens’, which is exactly the message that World Book Night wishes to instill upon the masses.

Reading can often seem like a chore, especially with phrases such as ‘I should probably catch up with some reading’ flying around, deeming it on a par with housework or gardening. Struggling to finish a book is usually the result of choosing the wrong sort of book in the first place. Reading is an incredibly personal pastime. Rather than go through the tiresome process of trial and error, go on the recommendation of someone you trust.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind is a great place to start. The gothic novel, and its sequel, Angel’s Game, celebrates and fictionalizes the spiritual effects of a single book, as well as the idea that a book serves to unite the souls of whoever reads it. The right book for the right person should result in a kind of epiphany – reading is a kind of duty we owe to ourselves. Denying yourself of a good book is like denying your brain of fuel. Not only that, reading is often something we grow into when we start to take ourselves a little more seriously. It’s never too late to become a ‘book person’.


It sounds a bit cheesy, but there is something undeniably humbling, if not slightly haunting about the idea of someone reading a book that someone else has given them to read. The receiver reads with awareness that their emotions and reactions to a story or character bear the shadow of the previous reader. Recommending someone a book enables that person to experience the same emotions and even understand what makes the other person tick. For that reason, reading is a shared experience as much as it is a personal one. When we see a book we’ve read perched on someone’s bookshelf, we automatically feel that we must have something in common.  

The Shadow of the Wind teaches that ‘every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens’, which is exactly the message that World Book Night wishes to instill upon the masses. The true worth of a book is found in the amount of people who can relate to it. Take David Nicholls’s One Day for example. The book is by no means a literary masterpiece and yet it has become one of the most cherished and passed around books of the decade. The reason being that it echoes real life so closely. Nothing is more reassuring than a book that makes us feel special and normal at the same time.

The fact that we have eBooks, like the Amazon Kindle, suggests the importance of sparking a wider interest in reading. Bookshops have even started selling books that contain not pages, but memory sticks that store eBooks. The idea is to keep bookshop sales up whilst embracing the demand for digitalized reading.

Having said that, nothing can replace the way a book feels when it’s propped up in your lap, pages curling under a restless thumb, inconspicuous speckles of tea and cake crumbs lurking in the creases. It makes such a nice change from staring at a screen. Almost like having a real dog rather than a robotic one, it’s easier to become emotionally attached. We are much more likely to bond with the author and their characters when we’re holding a printed product of their imaginations in our hands, rather than a glaring, impersonal mirage of the real thing on a screen. A book lasts forever; it doesn’t rely on batteries and complex technology. It relies on a single imagination, and so is wonderfully simple.

World Book Night is designed to remind the public of the benefits of reading an actual book. Despite receiving criticism last year for potentially crippling bookshop sales, by giving away a million books for free, the aim is to eventually boost sales, in the same way that a taster for a product might do. How does it work? Basically, successful World Book Night applicants choose a book they love from a selection of 25 of the most current popular books, to give as a gift to 24 people.

The reading experience of World Book Night applicants becomes a priceless gift to others. This year, the books of choice range from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife to Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice. Yes, you might have seen the film versions, but there is no excuse for failing to understand the inspiration and original ideas behind the films. The film, after all, is just a single interpretation. World Book Night gives us all the opportunity to broaden our minds.

The fact that these books are available at no cost, to give away to people we care about, reasserts the idea that reading is a necessity, and an example of how the mind of an individual can help reconnect the minds of the people closest to us.




World Book Night is currently in motion for April 2012




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