My husband alerted me to the opportunity to give free books away to people. “You love books,” he said, stating the obvious. “You should do this.” My first reaction was negative. I didn’t want to apply for something and then be soundly rejected – I hate being rejected. But when I read through the website and looked at what World Book Night was all about, I had to agree. I really should do this. I am the person World Book Night seeks! Me me me.
So, I took a look at the book choices, and a few sprang out at me right away. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a favorite, and it had what I wanted: chapters that could be consumed as short stories. But isn’t this book taught to exhaustion in most schools? Then The Kite Runner appealed to me. I liked the idea of having a novel set in Afghanistan. Americans are not the greatest world historians, you know. And this novel gives a lot of background to the conflicts we jumped into all those years ago. Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake is another favorite of mine, but it can be confusing for reluctant readers because it does a good bit of shifting in the narrative. And since I wouldn’t be teaching the book, just handing it over in good faith, I wanted a book that had a fighting chance to be read through.
And then I saw it: The Things They Carried. Not only could the chapters be read as short stories, but it deals with another war with a longer history than our meddling (What do you mean the French influenced Vietnamese cuisine?). It also has some commonly avoided topics like suicide, depression, and soldiers returning home with unclassified trauma. Also, I have taught the book a few times, and I figured I could write up a little “Here’s Why I Chose this Book” paragraph to include inside the cover.
My original plan was to arrange to give the books away to a group at the high school. Maybe I’d do a mini-lesson with one of the chapters; maybe I’d just talk about what I love about the book. Perhaps I’d even plan an introductory lesson to provide context for the book. This grand scheme was not to be, but the daydream was quite pleasant.
So, now I’m recruiting people I think could benefit from the novel’s themes and style. My teenaged next-door-neighbor and her friend are in. And I have a few acquaintances and friends I think would benefit from reading the novel as well. However, because I was counting on my daydream coming true, I didn’t plan well enough in advance and I don’t want to just throw books at people and shriek, “You look like you need a great soldier’s story in your life! Read it!” And there is pressure, too! Apparently some people are super creative about finding readers. Also, I want to find the target audience for World Book Night: Reluctant and/or Light readers. I have a few ideas in the works, but I’d love your suggestions!