Getting a read on World Book Night
BY JO-ANN GREENE, Books Editor
"Spreading the love of reading, person to person," Barry L. Russell claimed a table at Isaac's Pickle Bar downtown last Tuesday evening, World Book Night.
He offered free copies of Ray Bradbury's 1951 science fiction novel "Fahrenheit 451" to bartender Nick Dower, beer drinker Rich Stewart and other patrons.
The city resident -- participating in a book giveaway spearheaded by authors, publishers, booksellers and librarians -- was among 25,000-plus volunteers handing out a half-million paperbacks in the U.S.
Though he's not an avid reader himself, Russell said he sees the value in reading and liked the idea of localizing an international effort. (WBN was also celebrated in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany.)
A week earlier, he picked up 20 specially produced paperback copies of the Bradbury's book at the Franklin & Marshall College library. Boxes of various books were also sent to Aaron's Books in Lititz and Eastern Lancaster County Library in New Holland, where other online-registered book givers claimed them.
Russell chose his title from among 32 options, having remembered it from his high school days. Maybe actress-comedian Tina Fey's "Bossypants," another option, would have been more popular, he conceded, but he values the statement Bradbury makes about freedom and privacy, especially in a city known for its many surveillance cameras.
The bar seemed to Russell like a good site for an effort targeting nonreaders or light readers. Who goes to a bar expecting to read a book? he asked.
"I'm not academic by any sense of the word," book recipient Stewart confirmed, adding that stories he's heard in barrooms "are more interesting than anything I've read in my life, except the Bible."
(Maybe bars don't attract readers, but they have been known to appeal to writers. Stewart mentioned he's working a book of barroom "rambles," preliminarily titled "As the Barstool Turns.")
WBN book recipients will find on the last page of all editions information for contacting the nonprofit organization and reporting their reading experience. Russell was also encouraging recipients of his books to visit his Facebook page and let him know what they think of the book.
Russell said he had fun and is planning to participate in WBN next year, "but maybe make a party out of it and get some others to participate."