Amidst the excitement of Fairtrade Fortnight, there emerges the glowing brilliance of World Book Night. March 5th, 2011. It not only promotes reading, which here in the Oxfam Bookshop we LOVE to do, it gives away free books! What is not to love??

Around the UK and Ireland, a million books will be given away by the volunteers! They have picked out 25 books to give out, and I have no idea how that committee decided on their selections.

On their website they say, “The book give-away will comprise 40,000 copies of each of the 25 carefully selected titles, to be given away by 20,000 ‘givers’, who will each distribute 48 copies of their chosen title to whomever they choose on World Book Night. The remaining books will be distributed by World Book Night itself in places that might otherwise be difficult to reach, such as prisons and hospitals.” And you can sign up to be a giver of one of these titles on the website! Sounds pretty amazing.

Personally, I have only read about a third of the books James Naughtie and his associates have picked. And some I might not be so willing to distribute. However, they have got some real gems in there!

All Quiet on the Western Front is not only a brilliant tale of WWII from the perspective of a young German boy, but it was the inspiration for a great film. Everyone should get a copy of this excellent novel, and not just for the literary value. Its unique German perspective can lend a less harsh view of the ordinary German during the war, something some of us might forget.

While The Life of Pi is a good book, it is not a gripping and action-packed read. I think it’s definitely not one to buy on tape, and certainly not one to listen to on the road when you’re tired and trying to stay awake. You might just come-to about to drive off the side of the road. Don’t take that to mean I don’t think it’s worth the read, because I really do. It is a wonderful book. But keep it just that, a book to read while sitting firmly and safely on the sofa.

If you haven’t read it already, then you should definitely pick up a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Mark Haddon tells the tale of an intriguing murder, but from the unique perspective of an autistic youth. His amazingly accurate portrayal of the autistic thought patterns and curious behaviours truly give the reader a window into his character’s mind, and that of autistic people everywhere. Maybe its because I know an awesome little boy who struggles with the same differences, but I really enjoyed this book. I think everyone should try to get this novel.

Now, in high school back in Texas my English Literature teacher had us each choose a book to read for one week of the course, out of three possibilities. I don’t think I could have chosen worse when I picked out Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Because I had already read The Red Pony, and I wanted to be different from those who chose 1984, I decided to give the ghost story a try. Maybe she should have given us a short description of each book first. That would have been nice. Maybe she wanted some of us to gain a more in depth perspective of the 19th century slave’s life. Somehow I don’t think many slaves suffered from their own child’s haunting. Though as the woman killed the girl herself I can’t say I blame the girl for being a bit miffed. To be honest, I just didn’t find the story very entertaining. I know a lot of people want their books to be full of thought-provoking themes and strong messages, and I do as well. However, this book seemed to go out of its way to be strongly shame-inspiring and anger-provoking. And it didn’t even have a gripping style or much to bring the reader out of that odd state of mind. So if you like to feel that way after reading a chapter or two, go for Beloved. I just don’t think I would recommend it to all of Britain.

Some others of the novels chosen for this World Book Night are rumoured to be amazing. And I know from other books of his, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is definitely going on my list to read! His style is engaging and his storylines beautiful. Margaret Atwood seems to again use reflection as a literary tool to inspire curiosity and a dual sense of time within her novel of The Blind Assassin. If it is at all like The Handmaid’s Tale, I know I will be pleased. Another intriguing title is the spy thriller by John le Carre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Ever since I was young, spies and their exciting adventures have thrilled me, and this novel promises to do just that!

If any of these books inspires you to join in with World Book Night, I’m glad. Feel free to come by Oxfam today to see what we have on offer. I know there is a bunch of good stuff just sitting on the shelves waiting to be found! There are a couple of Margaret Atwoods, A Mark Haddon, and a Cloud Atlas (another book on the list for tonight). And if you have your own suggestions, the World Book Night website has an option to suggest books for next year’s celebrations. So get involved!