Cases of new books await distribution at River Road Books, above. Soul Kitchen, below, will serve as a giver site. (Click to enlarge)


Book fans know that when they fall in love with a story, their immediate reaction is to tell someone so they, too, can fall in love with it. Remember how you first heard about The Hunger Games or Fifty Shades of Grey? Word of mouth is the spark that starts the fire and, sometimes has the ability to ignite a full force blaze that’s pretty hard to ignore.

That’s this concept that inspired World Book Night, a campaign designed to introduce the joy of reading to those who can’t afford or are perhaps even a little intimidated to pick up a new novel.

Launched in the United Kingdom a year ago, World Book Night is now coming to the United States, with some 5,000 towns and cities expected to give away almost half a million free books. Among those bibliophilic volunteers are River Road Books in Fair Haven and Red Bank’s own pay-what-you-can JBJ Soul Kitchen. Here’s how it works: publishers of 30 specially-produced paperback titles have agreed to make up to 20 copies of each available to stores, individuals and organizations that wish to give them away. For free. All the books are to be handed out Monday night.

When she and her partners heard about the event, “we laughed about it at first,” said Laurie Potter of River Road Books. “We thought, ‘how are they going to accomplish this?’ But it’s been so well organized.”

And when Potter reached out to get Soul Kitchen involved, manager Ryan Timmons knew it would be right in tune with the overall community mission of the restaurant, he tells redbankgreen.

“We’ll hopefully be able to stock a couple of our cubbies and run it as a book exchange for our in-need guests,” he said, referring to a large, bookcase-like shelving structure that dominates one wall of the Monmouth Street restaurant. “I’m not looking to just take 300 books and give them out, I want 50 people to come in, take a book, return it and take another one,” he said.

“This restaurant gives us an opportunity to talk and meet people; that’s all it’s here for, ultimately. The goal is to put people together.”

Potter says the titles were carefully chosen to allow some variety, and include provocative books that the volunteers are passionate about and would be excited to give out. “Books that could really impact your life, that could maybe turn you into a reader,” she explained.

The list of page-turners includes H.D. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. All the authors have waived their royalties to help make it happen.

While River Road Books is the designated pick-up location for local distributors, anyone in the community had the opportunity to go online and register to become a giver. These givers will then be able to bring their books to nursing homes, prisons, VA hospitals, etc.

“They’re not meant for resale; they’re only for this occasion,” Potter said.