Hey! Have you read this one yet?
If you are out in public Wednesday night, there is a chance someone might try to give you a free book — a classic, a quirky young adult title or maybe a novel by a regional author set on the shores of Lake Superior.
World Book Night is an annual event — purposely held on Shakespeare’s birthday — during which volunteers around the country pass along free copies of specially printed books to people in their communities. Locally there are about 75 volunteers signed up to push books in the Twin Ports area.
There is no catch.
“We want to get books out into people’s hands,” said Sally Anderson, owner of the Bookstore at Fitger’s, one of the local Book Night hubs.
About 35 titles were selected for inclusion in this year’s event, including the latest by Peter Geye, a Minneapolis-based author who has set two novels on the North Shore. He will give a reading and book signing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Bookstore at Fitger’s.
World Book Night launched in 2012, and about half a million books are distributed each year, according to its website.
“You take the book and you go give it to people,” Anderson said. “You just walk around the streets; you go to a bar; you go to the mall, and you give people a copy of the book and you say, ‘I hope you will read it. I hope you’ll get enjoyment out of it like I did.’ ”
Local book pusher Claire Kirch, a Midwest correspondent for Publisher’s Weekly, has been involved since the start. Last year, she passed out Michael Perry’s “Population 485,” billing its author as “The David Sedaris of Wisconsin.”
She targeted bars in Superior and was able to average about a book a minute.
This year she will pass out Geye’s “The Lighthouse Road,” which she also nominated for inclusion in this year’s event.
“(Geye’s) accessible to readers,” she said. “Even people who don’t read regularly would get into it. The northern Minnesota angle and the historical research and the local color — it’s such a vibrant backdrop to the novel.”
She has a game plan for an easy way to unload 20 copies.
“I wanted a book that was set in northern Minnesota so that I could walk around the Lakewalk and give books away and say, ‘This book is set here. This book is set on Lake Superior.’ ”
“The Lighthouse Road” is set alternately in the 1890s and 1920s: Thea Eide is a Norwegian immigrant working as a cook for lumberjacks in northern Minnesota — despite not knowing the language. Her son Odd’s story is set about 30 years later with a similar backdrop. He’s fallen in love with an older woman, a mother-sister figure, and has plans to start a new life with her.
The novel was a follow-up to Geye’s debut, “Safe from the Sea.”
Geye said he didn’t know his publisher, Unbridled Books, was lobbying for inclusion in World Book Night.
“I was pretty thrilled,” he said. “I’ve looked at the program from the sidelines and thought what an amazing thing it is. It’s about the coolest literary program out there. There’s a certain level of prestige, but the coolest thing to me is truly that all these people who wouldn’t ordinarily read books are reading books.”
Some of the other titles picked by local volunteers include “Zora and Me” by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon; “The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown; “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller; “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs; and “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein.
The 35 titles get a special reprinting by publishers, a soft-cover edition that is not available for resale.
If you go
What: Peter Geye reading, signing
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Bookstore at Fitger’s, 600 E. Superior St.
World Book Night: Wednesday