"There are worse crimes than burning books. Not reading them is one of them."
I thought about opening the blog with a quote from my book (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury) but I came across this quote last night and thought it was not only relevant to the book, but also to how I feel about books as a whole. (In the ensuing photos you will see a copy of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist...this was the book my friend Anne was giving out!!)
Prep work before heading out!
Firstly. Wow. This is, simply put, an amazing thing. The first looks people give you when you ask to leave books with them is funny (I bet they think there are strings attached...you just reassure them it's about the love of the books, not about anything else!) and then the feeling you walk around with after is amazing.
I won't lie. I picked an easy way to get into this for a first timer -- go somewhere you know! Anne and I talked and decided it would be an amazing idea to go to my favorite local coffee shop (I've been going to it since my "freshman" year at USM -- I was technically already into college for a year and a half...but that's not part of this story!) so off we headed to the Gorham Grind.
We grabbed a couple of hot Rocket Fuel's (the specialty drink of the Grind) and waited for the owner to return from an errand so that we could give the books directly to him to have in the shop (books get borrowed from there all the time and then returned...as we later discovered). After talking about WBN to him and as we were getting ready to leave, we heard him already letting a local regular know about the event (way to jump on board!!!!) and so I gave her a copy of the book to take home to her daughter after telling her more about what WBN is. She left with a copy of Fahrenheit 451, a letter on what WBN is, and promised me that she would have her daughter read it and then, in the spirit of the day, give it out to someone else. Anne had started up a conversation with the woman in line behind the lady I was talking to, and she left with a copy of Anne's book! Also of mention here (and Anne will know what I'm talking about) - there was more than one laugh shared about graveyards and witches...and people looking at us funny!
So off we trekked and happened upon a local Bed & Breakfast just up the road. We pulled in, knocked on the door, and had a great conversation with the owner and her husband about the books, and WBN, and I think at first she thought we were pushing something -- we just assured her that it really was for the love of the books/reading and nothing more. Her and her husband both seemed thrilled to have copies to place in the rooms. Another copy given! This isn't so hard and everyone is loving it!
Researching while riding along, I found a retirement home in South Portland close to where we were going, so we stopped in and left copies for not only the residents, but their families as well as the nurses who worked there. We weren't sure if they would let us (a huge "No Solicitation" sign hung outside and to be honest, we were told not many of the residents would be able to read them) but with some explanations and smiles, we left copies in their hands.
I'm also just going to throw it out there that Anne is brilliant. She mentioned dropping off a copy of my book at the Fire Station -- because it's about book burning and firemen. Why didn't I think of that? haha! So we stopped in at the South Portland Police & Fire Station...but the dispatcher told us there wasn't anyone in the firehouse, but would love for us to leave copies for them. So we left copies of Fahrenheit 451 and a copy of The Alchemist. (And I'm planning to save a copy to take to the Brunswick FD on my way home tonight!)
We took a short break to pick up Anne's kids and regroup for the afternoon. Unfortunately Maine got hit with 30-something degree weather AND rain...we weren't looking hopeful for the rest of the afternoon, but we didn't want to give up! So out we went into the drizzle and into Portland. Where we finally ran into two "no" answers!? From the two hospitals of all places. Oh well, keep trying!
I ran into a lovely woman in Monument Square who was very excited to receive a book and promised to pass it along when she was done with it. Most people we'd spoken to had already made this promise, so I am hoping that these books get some serious love!
We knew we wanted to leave something at the Preble Street Teen Center. We met a lovely girl who worked at the teen center who seemed THRILLED that we wanted to leave a book with her...so much so that we left multiple copies for all of the teens and workers to share. Between her reaction to the books and the reactions I saw at the Preble Street Center (the center for adults)...I know that I have to do this every year. Somehow. The workers at Preble Street were just as excited...we had seen that some other givers had already left a copy of their book they were giving, and when we told them our books they were super excited - and we even had two people come right over and start looking and asking if they could take one.
I only had a couple copies of my book left at this point which I already knew I wanted to give to the Brunswick Fire Department, and Anne had a couple left -- she was telling me she wanted to give to the mail delivery person (she had given one to her kids' school crossing guard earlier that morning as well!) so we set out for celebratory drinks and snacks at a local grill pub. On the way we ran into a man who asked us what we were doing because he had seen us walking around and when we explained what it was about he asked if he could have a book and Anne obliged!
So off to the pub we headed and had a couple celebratory beers and some fries and spinach dip...recounting the day and just having a blast. I know that I can't speak for her, but I absolutely want to do this again -- I was talking to a friend later who said to me: "your work today will have a lasting and positive effect on humanity" and while I hope with all my being that this is true, my hope for this particular moment, on this particular day is that at least one (if not all) of the people that we gave these books to will read them, love them (or honestly...hate them if that's the case...any reaction to the book is a good thing no matter if it's positive or negative...in my opinion of course), and learn something about themselves, and then share these books with those around them.
World Book Night started out as something I heard about when I was flying across the country for work (while reading Fahrenheit 451 coincidentally...which is why I chose it)...and I just wanted to do it because I loved books...but over the course of the day it became something a little bit more...it was almost a self-discovery as much as it was sharing with those in the community. Seeing someone's eyes light up when you give them a book is something that warms my soul no matter what. And if this is the way that I am making an impact on humanity, I guess I couldn't ask for a better way to do it.
Fahrenheit 451 despite being written in 1953, long before the age of television, cell phones, internet, and social media, will always remain a valid piece of literature. It's almost a siren of what our world will become if we were to, as they say, "burn the books"...There is no way to absorb, learn, or teach without the written word...and this is why the book will remain relevant for years to come. So share your books with your friends, neighbors, children...or the random stranger on the bus next to you. It's literary karma ;)