As something of a seasoned bookworm, one can only begin to imagine how excited I was to attend the last night’s World Book Night event at London’s Southbank. Now in it’s third year, World Book Night is held annually on the 23rd of April; a significant day in literature given that it’s both the birth and the death day of Shakespeare. A celebration of both reading and books, World Book Night encourages those who don’t read regularly to do so through the sharing of stories.
Marked by hundreds of literary events across Britain at libraries, village halls, pubs and local book clubs, the event at London’s Southbank was a star-studded affair with the creme de la creme of the literary industry on hand to read various extracts from some of the world’s best-loved literature.
Opening the talk was Jude Kelly, the artistic director of the Southbank Centre, who gave thanks to both the givers and receivers of the half a million World Book Night titles that have changed hands this year. She then introduced Hardeep Singh Kohli, writer and broadcaster, who was to be our host for the evening. Clearly passionate about the world of books and the act of reading, Hardeep spoke enthusiastically about both World Book Night itself and the authors who were taking part.
While I can’t claim to have read all of the chosen novels for this year’s World Book Night – indeed I’ve read a shamefully low three out of the twenty picked – there is certainly an eclectic mix and something to suit all tastes. From young adult to classic, to contemporary and military fiction, the people behind World Book Night go to great lengths to ensure a varied selection of books, and such was evident at last night’s event.
The readers include both poets and authors, and being in the presence of such esteemed writers as Rose Tremain, Tracy Chevalier, David Nichols, Jojo Moyes, Victoria Hislop and Sebastian Barry was an unforgettable experience. Both Mark Haddon and Graeme Simsion, who wrote Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Rosie Project respectively, really stood out when reading extracts from their books, and were both engaging and humourous speakers. But perhaps the biggest treat was seeing the amazing Charles Dance reading an extract from damage by Josephine Hart – as a huge fan of Rebecca, I was quite in awe of seeing Max de Winter in the flesh.
It was an incredible event and a real joy to witness so many people so fervently passionate about the power of books.
I’m going to close on one of the most poignant things that Hardeep said during the event which was thus: ‘I’m glad to be part of a generation who’ll be remembered by the exchanging of books rather than the closing of libraries, and the sharing of passion rather than the diminishing of arts funding.’