Sunday, June 1, 2014

World Book Night, Year 2

I was ecstatic to be selected for the second year in a row to be a Book Giver on World Book Night and to once again give away one of my favorite novels: Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. Below is my review originally posted on Goodreads:

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it a crime that I am a newly-ordained librarian and I fully admit to judging books by their covers? Probably. However, that is the exact reason I chose to read this novel: I love(d) the cover.
Add in a librarian friend's recommendation that she thinks I'd love the story because of its epistolary format (which is masterful, in my opinion, I must add), and voila! Jumped to the top of my to-read list.

Throw in consistently-outstanding character development, an enviable back-story, a missing-persons mystery, as well as facts and journeys to Antarctica, a magical place you don't tend to hear a whole lot about, and you've got yourself a prize-winning, 5-star novel. 

One of my favorite lines in the book happened to be a parenthetical statement: "This is why you must love life: one day you're offering up your social security number to the Russia Mafia; two weeks later you're using the word calve as a verb."

I mean, right?
The interweaving points of view, the humor, and the quirky characters inspired me to start writing again. Thank you, Maria Semple. I can't wait to read your debut novel, "This One is Mine."

I will end this review with another underlined quote, a P.S. if you will:
"My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like, I'm going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I'm about to kick the shit out of life."

View all my reviews

This time there was no same-name city, wrong state situation box location mix-up (see last year's post: World Book Night). I chose to pick up my box from City Lit Books, a wonderful, independent book store in neighboring Logan Square. They were so kind (both via e-mail and in person when I excitedly picked up my box) and even hosted a reception for all of the Chicago-area givers who used their store as a flagship. Unfortunately, I was out of town and missed it, but I heard it was a lot of fun with great conversation.

This year WBN had a lot of new and exciting features for Givers:
* 3 free audiobooks from
* a free ebook 
* an essay contest

Below is the essay I submitted for the contest, but you get the pleasure of seeing the visual version, which includes a photo of everyone who got a copy of Bernadette, as well as a short video clip of two girls who called me a "librarian evangelist."

The Librarian Evangelist

"My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like, I'm going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I'm about to kick the shit out of life."
–Maria Semple, Where’d You Go Bernadette

The night before World Book Night, I inched my way towards one of the stoplights at the 6-corner intersection in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Through my windshield I watched a woman attempting to sell StreetWise magazines, a publication that supports and employs Chicago’s homeless community, to hurried passersby in front of a Starbucks. I cringed every time someone ignored her, which was every time.
Twenty-four hours later I approached the same intersection, this time on foot, with a backpack decorated with Book Giver paraphernalia and full of free copies of one of my favorite novels: Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. 

While walking down Milwaukee Avenue I gave away my first copy to a woman who couldn’t believe the book was free, then to a man walking his dog. 

The third copy went to two girls who said they were roommates and that they would share one copy so I would have more to pass out to others. 

As I crossed North Avenue, I was encouraged to see the same woman from the day before standing there with her stack of StreetWise. I regretted leaving the house without any cash but asked if she would like a free book to read. She seemed hesitant at first, but after I told her about World Book Night and insisted I wanted nothing in return, she took one, shyly smiled, and thanked me in a quiet voice.

I rounded the corner, intent on passing out some of the copies to commuters entering and exiting the Damen el station. I excitedly waved a few of them in the air, while announcing: “Free books! Take your mind off your commute!” No smiles. No eye contact. No takers. I approached a woman unlocking her bike, but she said, “I don’t have time to read! I have two 3-years olds at home!” and a man sifting through a trashcan, who replied, “I would love to read, but I can’t carry anything with me.”
This caught the attention of two girls, leaving a coffee shop next to the station, who waved me over to ask what I was doing. They each enthusiastically took a copy, asked how to become volunteers next year, and deemed me a “librarian evangelist,” after I said I was a librarian always looking for creative ways to get people excited about reading. I will continue to embrace that hilarious title with pride. 

A few steps further south on Damen I asked two more girls, who were walking together, if they would like a free book. While I was talking with them, I noticed that a group of girls inside a bar called Blue Line were watching us, curious about what was happening outside their booth’s window. Soon after, one brave soul ran out onto the blustery sidewalk, asked how she could acquire a book for herself and her friend, who was giving me the “thumbs-up” sign from inside. The best part of this interaction occurred when the girl from the bar said she needed a new book to suggest to her newly-created book club, said she would use Bernadette, and invited the other two, who had been strangers two minutes prior, to join the club! They all exchanged contact information, while I went on my merry way, eager to meet the second half of my recipients. 

            I crossed the street to stroll through Wicker Park and came across a group of teenaged boys. When I asked, “Do you guys like to read?” one of them stopped, a smile creeping across his face. He returned my high five, after I expressed my excitement that he answered “Yeah,” and didn't seem to care that his two buddies had already continued walking on without him. 

        Then I encountered a family visiting Chicago all the way from Germany. The son blushed when he said he’s “not a big reader,” and I said, “Then you’re a perfect candidate!” Eventually I convinced him to take a book, and he kindly said, “I wish you luck!” after I revealed once again that I’m a librarian and when they asked, “Where?” I said, “Nowhere yet, but I actually have an important interview tomorrow!”

            The next three books went to a woman in scrubs, a mother with her young son who said she’s trying to keep up with his impressive reading habit, and another woman, who, due to the train clamor overhead, thought I said I had written the book. I laughed and said, “I wish! But you should still read it. It’s a great, well-written story with a cast of quirky characters.”

            At a nearby bus stop I gave one to a girl coming from her yoga class, rushing to catch the approaching bus, who still happily posed for a photo. When the bus rolled up, I gave another copy to a young musician carrying a guitar, who thanked me in a British accent as he boarded the bus. 

I then stopped in a local Thai restaurant called Penny’s Noodle Shop to order carry-out for later and left knowing one of their servers now has some new reading material to indulge in during his slow shifts. 

My last book went to a couple with an adorable baby standing underneath the blue line tracks. After I described the plot of Bernadette, he joked, "Oh is this like the sequel to Gone Girl? Gone Mom?" A perfect way to end my second year as a Book Giver.

                        *           *           *

Two weeks later I crossed paths with the StreetWise seller again and said, "Hi! Did you get a chance to start the book?" She recognized me then, smiled, and quietly replied, "I haven't read a lot yet, but I like it so far!"
As a future librarian and proponent of free access to information, World Book Night satisfies that inner desire to connect with my community through literature and spread the love of reading one person at a time. I look forward to being a giver again next year for round three! 

(end of submitted essay)

For anyone counting, you may be wondering: She only mentioned 19 people! What happened to the 20th book? Congrats on being observant. The answer: My dear friend, Lindsay, who's been wanting to get back in the habit of reading, is now the proud owner of book #20, after I accidentally left it behind due to changing my mind about in what I was going to carry all of them.


Ann Schroeder said...

I love this post! This was my third year as a book giver. I can't imagine anything more wonderful than turning someone on to reading. I feel like reading saved my life as a young person. Yay librarians! (There are two in my family.)

alyse said...

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Ann! That's awesome that you've been a giver all 3 years! I think I applied too late the first year they did it, but the past 2 years have been awesome, and I hope to do it again next year :-)
Glad to hear "librarian" runs in your family ;-)