One of the ways of looking through the grim promise of cold, ice and snow still to come is to focus on events due to happen when the days are getting longer and, in theory at least, warmer and brighter. April 23rd is a landmark date for me, a date when, normally, you can guarantee that the weather has taken a turn for the better and that Spring has really won the battle over its Wintery predecessor. I say ‘normally’ because I do still vividly remember queueing on the last Saturday in April, outside The Other Place, in the days when it was still first come, first seated, with the snow mounting ever higher round my boots and icicles beginning to form on the end of my nose.Normally, then, April 23rd is my day of triumph. It is, of course, also Shakespeare’s birthday and, as we are remind this morning, World Book Night.
I haven’t taken an active part in World Book Night since the year of its inception, mainly because short of standing in the local High Street and handing out books to unsuspecting passersby, I have found it difficult to identify a local community who would welcome the gift in the numbers in which givers receive them. The communities to which I belong are, by self-selection, already readers and, as the idea is to expand the reading population, to hand them out there would seem to be self-defeating.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me taking an active interest in what books are selected each year and this morning’s announcement of the fifteen books chosen for 2016 is interesting, if only because it seems to me that it is rather more ‘populist’ than it has been in the past. There are, for example, four first class crime novels on the list, including Sharon Bolton’s Now You See Me and Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin. Both of these are the first novels in compelling series and this would make them an excellent choice if what you are aiming to do is encourage the recipients to read on after World Book Night is over. In terms of local interest, however, if I was to apply this time round I suppose I should go for Jonathan Coe’s early novel, The Rotter’s Club. This is set here in Birmingham and is a wonderfully accurate description of what it was like to grow up in the city in the 1970s. No-one who was living here at the time could fail to recognise the landscapes, environmental, social and political, that Coe describes but a friend of mine was actually at school with the author and he says that in addition the small details are precise in a way that only someone who actually lived through the experience with Coe could possibly appreciate.
You can find the full details of the list and descriptions of all the books on the World Book Night website. If you are intending to apply I would be really interested to know which book you would choose and the type of community to which you would gift it. Perhaps that would give me some ideas as to how I could get involved myself this time round.