I’m a Book Pusher 2: WBN 2013

24th April 2013

Last night I joined over 25,000 people in the United States who were giving away books for World Book Night. In its second year, World Book Night is a collaboration between publishers, authors, and booksellers (as well as donors) to spread the love of reading. Thank you so much to the World Book Night organizers for allowing me to be part of such an amazing event. Check out my thoughts from last year.

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After a mad dash home from work and a dozen texts between me and my mom (who was a giver this year, too), I feverishly began making bookmarks as I did last year to pass out with my book – Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. Because I’m trying to get back into my gym routine, I decided not to skip but instead bring a copy to my Zumba instructor, a guy with a wicked sense of humor. He said he was actually familiar with Sedaris because he had been in a production of The Santaland Diaries, so I knew it would likely be a hit.

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Hot, red in the face, and sweaty from Zumba, I met my mom in the parking lot of the park where we handed out books last year. In the minutes I was waiting for her, I turned to “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” and proceeded reading and laughing until tears were streaming down my face. In it, Sedaris describes his younger brother, the one his parents were too exhausted to discipline in the same manner as David, going from warnings of “Don’t smoke pot” to “Don’t smoke pot in the living room” in about a decade. Full of obscenities but absolutely hilarious, the story is gold. My mom walked up and asked why I was crying. As I tried to explain, tears streaming down my face and still laughing, she listened, but I don’t think I quite got across to her the extent of the bad language…

She and I headed toward a fire station – her brilliant idea – and we spent a pleasant time visiting with the firemen and getting a tour of the station. She even climbed up into the truck while I snapped a few photos. She was handing out a volume of American poetry in large print, a vastly different type of book and honestly, an easier sell to most.

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Mom checking out the fire engine. We passed on putting on the uniforms.

After enjoying a visit with the firemen and seeing the obvious pride they take in their work, we headed to the gym, my not-so-smart idea. Duh. People are working out. It’s difficult enough to approach people, and approaching them while they’re hot and sweaty didn’t seem the best idea. We had discussed going back to the hospice center where we gave last year, but today was 6 months to the day that my grandmother died there, and strange though it was that we’d been there to give out books just months before her arrival there and her death, neither of us felt like going.

On to the grocery store! It was overcast today, and not many people were out and about, so we decided the grocery store might be perfect. We checked with the manager at the grocery store near my house, and she ok’d it. Not only did she ok it, but she also wanted a copy of each of our books. She explained that she does like to read but that just having finished school, she was ready to read for fun.

We gave out a few books, with one guy even opening the book of poetry and reciting it to us as his girlfriend laughed from the car. Everyone was appreciative and excited once they got over the wariness of a stranger coming at them with a book.

So a friend has another friend on FB who posted about getting one of our books. She didn't know we were passing them out but knew enough to ask if it was me. It was!

So a friend has another friend on FB who posted about getting one of our books. She didn’t know we were passing them out but knew enough to ask if it was me. It was!

Mom and I then headed out to the entrance, and only then did we realize our problem. Mom’s giving away mostly wholesome, all-American poetry. I’m handing out a book that drops the “f-bomb” more frequently than a Real Housewife and uses the word “turd” – a word I cannot believe I just typed and that I’ve never used. So mom’s talking up her book of poems to little old ladies and turns to me: “And she has a book of essays!”

I’m trying to give her “the eye” to tell her this might not be the right fit, but oblivious to my discomfort, we hand one of my books over to an unsuspecting elderly Indian lady in traditional garb.

“Mom, I don’t think you realize just what this book (shaking it a bit) has in it,” I said after the lady walked away.

“Is it vulgar?”

“Well, it’s not exactly Best Pastoral American Poems,” I said.

So we changed our tactic. We had an unspoken agreement. Women with young children or older people in professional clothes got the poetry book. Who ended up with my book? I don’t know that I can describe it. You just get a sense about people. I’d open with an explanation of what World Book Night is, describe the book, and then offer it up.

“If you’re easily offended or don’t like bad language, it might not be for you,” I said.

“It’s racy,” my mom said.

I don’t know about you, but racy is a word I reserve for lingerie or 50s movies such as Peyton Place, but it did the trick. People grabbed at it. So beware. If you were in the Kroger parking lot in Beaumont today and got Me Talk Pretty One Day, I don’t want any complaints. You’ve been warned: it’s racy.

  • It sounds like you had a lot of fun! I’m definitely signing up to be a giver next year.

    I laughed out loud at Sedaris being described as “racy.” Hahaha!

    • Hahaha! Me too. Mom cracks me up…

  • What a perfect example of everything World Book Night is meant to be!

    • ๐Ÿ™‚ Such a great, great night.

  • Julie Merilatt

    I had so much more fun this year than last!
    Don’t forget to drop your link in my comments Jenn!
    http://julzreads.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/world-book-night-2013/

    • Well you didn’t have to work this time! I’m so glad you had such a good experience.

  • Fantastic day, fantastic event! I’m so glad to have been a part of it this year ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Wasn’t it fun? I just love the whole event. Just wish my area would be a bit more involved.

  • If someone came up to me and gave me a free book I would be elated. Marvellous idea!

    • I know! Same here.

  • Charlie

    Great post, Jenn, and it sounds like you had a fun evening. Kind of hope the fact you had to be careful with your book means those you chose will read it (and of course your mother’s too). Maybe the elderly lady will have a laugh – did she get the poetry book, too?

    • I hope so too! And yes, the lady got both books. She was highly skeptical, but I’d love to be a fly on the wall if she picked up the Sedaris…

  • This post made me smile so much! It seems that you guys had a lot of fun giving out the books. I’ve thought about doing World Book Night for the past couple years but I’m sort of shy around new people and so I’ve been way too intimidated to do it! I love that you picked “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” I’m obsessed with Sedaris. His books make me laugh so much and I am so looking forward to reading his latest. I just need to get my hands on a copy now!

    • It can be intimidating, but somehow the enthusiasm plus the giving away of a favorite book made it much less scary. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I love this post! “Racy” is a very interesting description of Sedaris’ work ๐Ÿ™‚ it’s so lovely that you and your mom do this together.

    • Haha! I thought so. And yes, we had a good time.

  • Love it!! Also looooove the tweet that you found!!!!

    • Isn’t that cool? I love when stuff like that happens.

  • Julianne – Outlandish Lit

    Ahhh this is awesome!
    My friend participated in giving out books, but he didn’t finish and just gave me two copies to pass out to people. The only problem is I haven’t read the book before (devil in a blue dress), so I don’t know what I would say to people about it if they ask. Maybe I’ll just give them the book then run. That would be tweet-worthy.

  • Pop Culture Nerd

    I love your reports, Jenn. This makes me consider doing it next year, despite being somewhat mortified at the idea of having to approach strangers in the street. Then again, it’d be a good excuse to meet hot, stripping firemen! (Yes, I meant stripping, not strapping.)