anthony freda

On April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday, 25,000 volunteers will fan out across cities and towns in all 50 states to each offer 20 strangers a new book. These so-called “givers” will choose their books from a list of 30 that includes Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (in English or Spanish), Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and James Patterson’s Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life.

Now in its second year, World Book Night U.S. is a spinoff of a U.K.–based program that began in 2011. WBN U.S. director Carl Lennertz says the event is a collaboration among publishers, booksellers, the American Library Association, printers, paper suppliers and the authors, who forgo royalties on the special editions produced just for this event. Patterson, who is also serving as an honorary co-chairman this year, says, “In my experience, when people like what they’re doing, they do more of it. That’s the genius of World Book Night — it gets people reading by connecting them with amazing, enjoyable books.”

Givers get loose instructions to find people they deem in need of assistance— i.e., nonreaders or those who lack easy access to reading material because of distance or economics. The volunteers then dispense the half-million books, one at a time, at hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, shelters and food pantries, as well as on military bases, municipal buses, reservations and in bars. So, if on April 23 someone taps you on the shoulder before handing you a book, you’ll know why.

Complete List of Books

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

La Casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros; translated by Elena Poniatowska

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 

El Alquimista by Paulo Coelho

Bossypants by Tina Fey 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova 

Looking for Alaska by John Green 

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham  

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan 


The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; illustrated by Jules Feiffer 

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer 

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley 

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson 

Population 485 by Michael Perry

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman 

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 

Montana Sky by Nora Roberts

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline 

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris 

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith 

Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain 

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward 

Favorite American Poems in Large Print edited by Paul Negri