World Book Day sees people give away books. Photo: Creative Commons

Book lovers around the world are planning to give away millions of books on April 23 – and they are looking for Berkeley readers to help them.

The event is called World Book Night and its inaugural event in Great Britain in March of 2011 was phenomenally successful. Tens of thousands of people handed out a million free books to those who might not necessarily have ready access to them. The idea was for people to share their love of reading and ignite a similar passion in others.

Now World Book Night has expanded around the world to Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and the United States. The goal is for one million books to be distributed in each country.

“It will be like Halloween on an intellectual level,” Anna Quindlen, an author, essayist and the honorary chairwoman of World Book Night in the USA, said in a press release announcing the event.

Independent booksellers in the Bay Area have embraced the idea.

“It’s such a cool idea because it expands the currency of the printed book,” said Ann Leyhe, a co-owner of Mrs. Dalloway’s,  a bookstore on College Avenue, which is participating in the event. “It expands the number of printed books going from reader to reader.”

To make the event successful, organizers are looking for 50,000 people who can give away 20 books each. The volunteers will not have to pay for the books; publishers are donating them and authors are giving up their royalties for the occasion.

But people who want to be involved must sign up by February 1.

To be accepted, participants must describe the kind of place they will give away books. Organizers are looking for people who will go into hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, food pantries, pubs, malls and other places where new books are at a premium. Some of the questions on the application ask: Which book would you give away and why? To whom? And where?

Mrs. Dalloway's bookstore on College Avenue is participating in the event. Photo: Nancy Rubin

There is a choice of 30 titles to give away, including popular books like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Volunteers specify which book they want to give away, sign up on line, and pick them up at a participating bookstore. Mrs. Dalloway’s, Diesel Books, Books, Inc., Book Passage and other independents will be involved.

Personal recommendations by friends are often what motivates people to pick up a book, and World Book Night does this on a grander scale, said Leyhe. It’s called “word of mouth,” in the book business.

“You choose the book. So you should have a personal relationship with the title. You just don’t hand something to someone else,” said Leyhe.

Sign up here to volunteer on World Book Night.
World Book Night’s Facebook page.

Here is a list of books available to give away. They have been donated by publishers, printers, and the authors:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Blood Work by Michael Connelly

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; a Spanish-language edition, La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao, will also be made available.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Stand by Stephen King

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Just Kids by Patti Smith

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...