More World Book Night Thoughts

 If you were to recommend some music or a film, for example, to someone without a clue, would you recommend The Vengaboys or Saw 4? In a sane world I am guessing no, you’d pick something interesting and nuanced, a real giant in the field, in short one of the best.

(Before I go on, please don’t think i’m a literary snob, i’m not, I enjoy my fair share of poorly written stuff (Leo Kessler, Guy N Smith, etc) and light reads (Stephen King, M.C Beaton, et al) like anyone else, I just find it exasperating that people don’t read the magnificent gems of books that are out there and which are too many to mention in this post. Having said all that, this may seem like a rant anyway.)

Last years WBN was interesting in many ways, but more than a year on, i’m still left wondering who these nights are actually aimed at?  The WBN official site says ‘World Book Night is a charity dedicated to the promotion of literacy and the celebration, sharing and enjoyment of reading amongst teenagers and adults’. So far so good, then ‘givers share the joy and love of reading with millions of non or light readers’.

So fair enough, let’s get these non readers into the wonderful world of books, but what of the people already reading light fiction? The books pictured (from last years list) are mainly commercial fiction and are light reads.  Apart from some wonderful modern classics (Love in the Time of Cholera,  All Quiet on the Western Front), i’m hard pushed to note anything of excellence, that I would have recommended to our novice from paragraph one, or indeed that pushes the reader of fiction to explore other more challenging books.

I watched the BBC programmes and sure, they have to tread a fine line and get the ratings up, but where is the sense in doing a programme celebrating the three most popular genres (thriller, crime and romance), when that’s the core market anyway. Any non reader is likely to gravitate to these genres or be encouraged by a reader of bestsellers to start there anyways. So why not put in a programme with a bunch of famous people explaining why the classics and modern classics are awesome and people should give them a whirl if they want well rounded characters who aren’t just there to react to the latest plot twist. And not just something to be associated with work bacause they read similar books at school.

So to this years book list (see previous post), admittedly, it seems a bit more varied genre wise. The Stand Out books for me being The Remains of the Day and A Tale of Two Cities and I may even get around to reading The Road before next years list comes out as well. Sadly the BBC aren’t doing anything (that I can see in the TV Times) but never the less I predict a good reading year on this blog,  see what I did there? (Like the BBC I claim not to advertise (but do anyway). (I have nothing against the BBC.)).

8 Replies to “More World Book Night Thoughts”

  1. There might be a list, but that doesn’t stop anyone from taking the initiative and giving away a book that they believe in as well, giving away our own books, rather than letting them languish on the shelves seems like a good initiative to me and one I’ll be practicing since there is no WBN here in France, but plenty who read in English. Interesting how different the two lists are.


    1. Fair point Claire, I am always buying books for people to read, because i can’t bear to pass on my own copy as I worry I won’t get it back (i’m banking on myself having taste that appeals to others of course!). I wonder if they will extend WBN to other countries, I sense a campaign coming on….


      1. I see that Germany is participating, I am sure France will catch up. I remember that attachment to books, I used to suffer from it, though not any more – my favourites come back to me one way or another – only for me to give them away again 🙂 if I lend a book now, I actually give it away in my mind, so that its return is more of a surprise than an expectation. I love to pass on a great read – one I loved of course, my favourite this year was ‘The Snow Child’, so well written and imagined.


        1. I just checked out The Snow Child, and it sounds really fascinating. I recently read a book called Wasa-Wasa which has similar elements in it and I can imagine curling up on a cold winters night with The Snow Child, already I am looking forward to the cold seasons. I like how you give your books away in your mind, I may have to apply the same thing when I big up a book and then realise i may have to lend it out reluctantly.


  2. I gave away The Road on World Book Night, which is an excellent read, and almost certainly the easiest way into McCarthy. Despite having read eight of the titles the (undeniable) literary snob in me would have shrank from giving away many of these.

    Tale of Two Cities is by no means my favourite Dickens, but, even so, it stands out amongst these novels as a quality read. But would it be encouraging to the non- or light reader? I can’t imagine the success rate would be very high.

    WBN sent me a survey to fill in after the event and I reluctantly conceded that I was happy with the composition of the list. (With a small proviso that it is too insular, and we should encourage more works in translation, but that’s a whole other point.) What I eventually felt was that these are popular books that the majority of readers are reading, and therefore these will have the highest success rate in enticing new readers. Hm. But I don’t have to like it!

    (By the way, I haven’t read Remains of the Day, but it is on my list…)


    1. Thanks for your comment! One thing that annoys me about McCarthy is the lack of speech marks, in fact it is used by some of my friends to rile me up, because they are the sort of people that do that.

      You’re right Tale of Two Cities isn’t the most accessible of Dickens’ works, of the five I have so far read, I think Hard Times if anything would depress people enough to never read him again. There is a cartoon caption in last fortnights Private Eye showing Dickens complaining of having had a terrible day because he’d only written sixty pages, that says it all about his writing style.

      It’s a fair point about the popular books being more sucessful and reader friendly, I think my passion took over, on reflection having people read is great but giving them that step up to more literary books would be ideal for WBN, perhaps one of the shorter Garcia-Marquez books for instance or a Calvino, which happily ties in with your translated work idea.

      I look forward to your thoughts on The Remains of the Day, when you get around to it, although, from perusing your fine blog I suspect your ‘to read’ list is very long.


      1. I’m waiting to find a second-hand Remains of the Day which doesn’t have a film tie-in cover. I know it’s shallow to fuss about the cover, but I really hate ‘the book of the film.’

        Nobody Writes to the Colonel would be a good Garcia Marquez, or Calvino’s Invisible Cities… To get one of these on the list would probably take a concerted book-blogger campaign, but stranger things have happened.


        1. I to, share your hatred of book/film tie ins. It may sound a bit snobby but I prefer people to know that I read the book first, or at least wasn’t inspired by the film to get the book, I got my copy from WH Smiths, which is a rare thing for me to find anything of note in there these days.

          It seems we have a very similar taste in literature, this pleases me. If you fancy kicking off a campaign about these books nearer the time, I shall be your happily be your ‘wingman’.


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