I was pleased and honored to participate in the first ever World Book Night USA on April 23, 2012. The purpose of WBN was to give away half a million books across the US on one day, inspiring under-represented readers to give a book a chance. Publishers printed out and donated special edition WBN books (25 different titles selected by a panel of book experts) and courtesy of UPS, mailed them to bookstores across the nation, where 25,000 volunteers like me picked up the books and delivered them to a pre-determined destination of our choice.
I chose to give away copies of Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” a collection of inter-related short stories inspired by the author’s service in the Vietnam War, which had a monumental impact on me when I read it many years ago. The book, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, catalogs a litany of “things” that O’Brien’s fellow soldiers carried with them on their missions, both tangible (grenades, guns) and intangible (guilt, fear, anger).
When deciding where I should donate my books, I was struck by the notion that the young men who served in the Vietnam War (women weren’t serving in combat at that time) shared something in common with the young men (and women) currently incarcerated in Juvenile Detention: they all carried “things” with them that profoundly affected their lives. My hope was that by reading about the sacrifices our brave soldiers make every day to protect our freedom, the Juvenile Detention detainees would perhaps realize they could take The Things They Carry and make better choices with their lives when they are released.
So now that I have delivered my books and fulfilled my duties as a World Book Night volunteer, what are The Things I Carry from this experience?
I carry the thrill of the pickup party hosted by my favorite children’s bookstore in San Diego, Yellow Book Road, where we were encouraged to share our book choices and giving destinations with other volunteers.
I carry the elation of knowing I have the power to affect the lives of up to 20 people who may have never had the opportunity to read an author like Tim O’Brien.
I carry the gratitude of all World Book Night organizers, from Carl Lennertz, Executive Director, to the publishers who printed and donated half a million books, to UPS who donated delivery services around the country, to the WBN committee who put such meticulous thought into choosing representative titles, to the bookstores and libraries that distributed the books locally, to the thousands of volunteers who participated, and everybody in between who played a role in this amazing program.
I carry the humility to know that there but for the grace of god, I could have been an under-represented reader had I not been fortunate enough to have been exposed to books at an early age.
I carry the passion that drives me every day in my personal and professional life to spread the joy of reading.
I carry the knowledge that books can and do change lives every day.
And last but not least, I carry the anticipation of participating in World Book Night USA 2013. If you missed the train this year, make sure to sign up now to receive updates for next year at: http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/about-world-book-night
I’d like to hear from you. What things did you carry from your experience with World Book Night?
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