After much angst and changes of direction, Time To Read has now decided on its focus for activity for this year. Reading Places will promote all sorts of travel writing, in the broadest sense. We will promote books which support travel to far flung parts of the world, but we also promote books to the armchair traveler: those books which transport you to other countries, real and imaginary from the comfort of your own front room, or, let's hope, the garden deckchair. I am currently spending much time researching fiction set in other countries to pair up with the more self-evident travel guides and directories. So yes, I am still searching for a, so far elusive, novel set in Fiji. Any ideas anyone? In the meantime I have just finished reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen which I have been waiting to do since its release last autumn. I loved it. Like The Corrections its an absorbing read about the complex relationships between people in an introspective middle-class American family. So much is familiar and at the same time I wanted to scream at them for not communicating better with each other. The bits that really grabbed me though were set in a lakeside summer-house which, both Patty and Walter at various times retreat to. This seems to be a recurring motif in American Literature, from Thoreau's Walden to the most recent novels I have read. In both Freedom and the very bleak Caribou Island (David Vann), the need for a lakeside retreat is obsessive. And yet in neither of these is "retreat" really possible. The outside world really can't be avoided.
Everyone who took part in WBN seems to be rating it as a success. Although it will be impossible to know how many of the books given away on Saturday are read, certainly the spirit in which they were given and received seems to have been very positive. I was at a charity for homeless people , where, not only were they eager to receive books, but also wanted to know about them and were keeen to find out more about what was being given away. Picture shows giver David with some of the "receivers".
Warrington Libraries had 2 success stories, not only getting books given away at a Wolves RUFC match but also inspiring comedian Sarah Millican to announce WBN and encourage people to pick up books from library staff at the interval. Janet said The books went so fast we couldn't believe it!
Sarah from Salford took books and staff to The Lowry and said Just wish I'd had more books! They all went in about an hour! Five hundred!
I was in a meeting in London yesterday with some publisher representatives. The feeling at that was also that it had been successful in creating a buzz about books. I suppose they will be eagerly looking for an upsurge in sales now. We need to feedback our thoughts on the whole scheme which was hugely ambitious. Some of the glitches were probably inevitable in a project of this size. It will be important to hang on to the core purpose which was to get books into the hands of more people and enthuse them about reading.
Its almost here. Tomorrow sees the first World Book Night and a million books being given away. The organisation must have been a logistical Everest but certainly we have lots of books in Manchester and have seen a long list of other book givers so there should be lots of books "on the streets".
Lots of library services are organising events. The latest I have heard of is a Quiz Night at Wallasey Central Library on the Wirral. See www.wirral.gov.uk to find the details on the libraries' pages.
I shall be at The Mustard Tree which we hope will be featured on the BBC 2 World Book Night programme just before 9pm.
Jane was the co-ordinator of Time To Read, a partnership of people working in public libraries in NW England, to develop the audience for reading.
She retired in August 2015 and is now very busy doing other things.