Tag Archives: world book night

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The hardest thing about kindness; my reflections of World Book Night 2015

A recovering alcoholic, a mother and son, a man on his way home after a shift at work. These were some of the people I watched walk away from me, into the distance, staring at a book I’d just handed to them. On a strangely balmy spring evening in Oldham town centre the reaction of those who took a copy of David Almond’s Skellig was the same; they would turn the book front and back, trying to make sense of my odd act of generosity, as they literally headed into the sunset.

I thought I would be proud. Instead, I felt powerless. From seconds before being an ambassador of the novel who spoke about World Book Night, the joy of reading and my own reflections on Skellig I became the guy left behind, standing on the street corner, watching. Hoping. Maybe the hardest thing about kindness is the letting go.

At that moment I became irrelevant, even though I was the World Book Night volunteer. So did David Almond, even though he was the book’s author. All that mattered was that copy of the book and the person holding it. For all I know each recipient could have waited until I was out of view and tossed it into the bin, or left it closed and untouched at the bottom of their bag. But World Book Night’s organisers, authors and volunteers dedicate themselves to hoping they didn’t.

Whatever the outcome, this south Manchester lad also felt some strangely proud of Oldham that evening. This was a town I had a negative impression of when growing up but today it has come to play a great role in my life.

People of all ages and backgrounds could be seen, making use of a new Metrolink, an excellent library, a local swimming pool, a concert hall. All live side by side in a place which over the years has had its fair share of troublemakers wishing they didn’t. Maybe it was the weather but on a quiet, random Thursday night I watched the town flourish in its own understated way.

For more about Skellig, a wonderful, touching book that can move adults and children alike, click here. More information about World Book Night can be found here.

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…because everything changed when I read Fever Pitch

The website of this week’s World Book Night is flanked by the words ‘because everything changes when we read’ (see more in my post below). Having decided to donate Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch as a Community Book Giver, the strap line resonated when I made my choice. More on that idea shortly, but what happened when I tried to donate a brand-new book to a total stranger?

As Fever Pitch is about football, I went to the Trafford ‘Soccerdome’, where I play five-a-side with mates every week, to find someone who had lost the habit of reading and was willing to briefly hear me out. Nearly twenty people said sorry, they had plans, and I suppose all World Book Night volunteers had to take account of everyone’s busy lives.

Alastair with his new book

Alastair with his new book

But after half an hour, someone who was early for his game gave me the benefit of the doubt. Alastair told me that apart from a handful of autobiographies last touched some time ago, reading was not on his radar. A 27-year-old builder surveyor, he said that whenever he did kick back, distractions on his iPad would take over; a familiar story, I suspect.

At first Alastair couldn’t understand why I was just giving him a book, but he seemed genuine when he said he would give it a go. I told him I hoped Fever Pitch is a memoir he would relate to.

Published in 1992, its timing was impeccable, evaluating the state of the game just as it was about to reinvent itself into the polished product it is today. Some even go as far as saying Fever Pitch set the scene, became the self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m not so sure about that, but this is a book about our national game and our national fabric, our history and our future, and I think it should be treasured.

For me, the best of all was that Fever Pitch and its engaging style inspired me to read fiction, including some of Hornby’s novels, and I have never looked back. It could take Alastair’s reading in one of several directions. I wish him all the best.

Click here for some coverage of World Book Night, which took place on Wednesday, and here to find out how you could get involved next year.

I intend to blog every other Friday. If there’s anything you want me to discuss in future posts feel free to get in touch.