On Monday, I participated as a giver for World Book Night, giving away copies of Little Bee to perfect strangers. I'm not going to lie, I was completely panicked at the outset of my mission. What had I been thinking, agreeing to distribute books to strangers? Why did I think this was a good idea? I hate strangers. I hate talking to strangers, approaching strangers, and certainly interrupting strangers' otherwise normal Monday evenings. I could have - and probably should have - come up with some more clever, a sign that said "Free books!", a trip to a place full of people I know (the office lunchroom could have worked)... but I didn't.
And so I found myself on Monday evening with 20 copies of a perfectly lovely, perfectly delightful book, and despite my nerves, was determined to give them all away. And I did. I started at a gas station, catching people while they waited for their tanks to fill. Then I moved onto the grocery store (I needed milk), and gave my last few copies to the staff of a smoothie shop. I was, in hindsight, somewhat foolish to be so nervous. Once people realized I wasn't actually selling anything (by the end, I had a pitch that had some key phrases in it: "free book," "no hitch," "not selling anything," "all yours," "love of reading"), most were extremely grateful to be receiving a free book.
I had one woman -- and only one -- give me a flat-out "No," and four who turned me down only because they'd already read the book (one of these even turned around and helped me convince yet another woman that it was a fantastic story, and that she should read it, especially because it was free).
Will I do it again, if I have the opportunity? Absolutely. I'll be more prepared next time around -- both because I have a better idea of what to expect, and because I won't leave myself with no plan again -- and hopefully find people even more excited to receive a free book. And in the meantime, I feel good that I got to be a part of something so much larger than myself and my 20 books, an event that really helped spread literature around the world. And I'll sleep easier after seeing how many people were excited about free reading material -- perhaps the book isn't really dying, after all.