“Hi there! In honor of World Book Night, I’m giving away free novels. Are you interested in reading?”
This usually got puzzled stares, but I repeated that a dozen and a half times as I strolled around Moab with my armload of bestselling novels. The older the person was, the more skeptically they looked at me, and the more I read on their faces something like “Nothing is free. I know you are part of a cult and this is just a hook.” Soon I realized that I had to hold the book up and point to the words NATIONAL BESTSELLER on the front cover in order to allay their fears. No; this was a bona fide unconditional giveaway.
Major publishers from around the world donated money to underwrite this second-annual event. The idea is simple: take book lovers willing to donate their time, and publishers willing to print and donate good books, match them up, and create a book give-away with no strings attached. BRILLIANT.
I signed up online to become a book Giver, and selected my favorite novel from among the thirty choices. Twenty copies of Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River were sent to my local bookstore for me; I picked them up and schemed how to get them into the hands of light or non-readers. Where would you look for these folk? Not at the library or the sushi bar. I tried the laundromat.
The first man accepted my book, delighted, and exclaimed “You’re a wonderful lady!” I assured him the book would be a good read, and crossed the street to McDonald’s. Three men waiting in line all accepted books from me after the requisite explanations, along with the instruction to pass it along to someone else when they were done with it.
Strolling Main Street, a nurse excitedly took one, saying she couldn’t wait to read it and knew exactly who would get it after her.
A cashier at the gas station looked thrilled to be offered one. I think it’s been eons since she’s gotten anything free.
My favorite of all: an old pick-up truck with two women sitting in it eating sandwiches. The rolled-down windows beckoned me and I strolled up with my last books, inviting them to be recipients of a bestselling novel. The driver looked away and said, “I don’t read well. It’s been so long. But I’d like to read…” Smiling earnestly, I set a book on the door frame. “Ma’am, this book is perfect for you. Try the first chapter. Take it slowly, just a few pages at a time. I think the story will catch you up, and you’ll be surprised at how it draws you in. Soon you’ll be halfway through, and then done. And then… give it away, okay?” She looked intently at me, wanting to believe that what I said was true. And then she took the book, with a half smile on her face. Her passenger reached over and asked if she might have one.
It was incredibly rewarding to just GIVE AWAY BOOKS with no ulterior motive. I headed home, my box empty, heart full of joy.