On 5 March a million books are to be given away for free under the banner of a celebrity-endorsed charity calling itself World Book Night. The participating publishers will each deliver several palette-loads of books to drop-off points across the country, whence 20,000 volunteer ‘givers’ are expected to collect forty-eight copies each and distribute them to their friends. Or they’ll not bother to do that and try to sell them on eBay instead. Or they’ll mean to give them away but get bored and irritated and just throw them in the bin. A further 40,000 copies are to be distributed by members of World Book Night staff in prisons, hospitals and places ‘that might otherwise be difficult to reach’.
The book list, chosen by a panel of celebrities, comprises twenty-five well-known titles that range from the autobiography of a TV chef to the story of a tramp. The selection includes, among other things, novels by Philip Pullman, Muriel Spark and Margaret Atwood, poetry by Carol Ann Duffy