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Read and Ye Shall Find

Santa Cruz prepares to spread the love of reading on World Book Night 2012

On April 23, tens of thousands of people will pass books out to strangers at bus stops and parks, in homeless shelters and jails, on ferry boats and the subway. In Santa Cruz, one man will paddle out into Monterey Bay to give books to fellow surfers waiting to catch waves.

The goal is to spread the love of reading by passing out one million books to light or non-readers in celebration of World Book Night. First launched in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night 2012 will also be celebrated in the U.S., Ireland and Germany.

“One of the biggest threats to bookstores, libraries, and democracy at large, is the fact that people are reading less,” says Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz. “There is so much distraction in the digital age that reading among all demographic groups is going down. World Book Night was created to celebrate books and the culture of books, and to try to get more people to start reading.”

Thirty titles will be given away in the U.S.—the selected books range from “The Poisonwood Bible” to “The Hunger Games”—with special editions printed specifically for World Book Night. To accomplish the goal of dispersing one million books in a day, publishing houses have agreed to donate the books, and authors have agreed to waive their royalties. Printers, shippers, and everyone across the distribution line have come together to send the books to designated pick-up locations throughout the nation.

At a local level, Santa Cruz booksellers and librarians, the entire City Council, and 30 members of Santa Cruz Writes will be participating as book-givers, as well as many more individuals in the community.

The local bookstores Bookshop Santa Cruz and Capitola Book Café will each host pre-World Book Night parties, where book-givers can come pick up their books and share stories of who they plan to give them to, the title they chose to distribute, and why. Bookshop Santa Cruz’s pre-launch party will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, and Capitola Book Café’s pre-launch party will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 19.

“For a bookseller, the idea of handing out books to people who might be excited about them is just about the best thing,” says Protti. “You can literally change someone’s life by putting a book in their hands.”

She plans to pass out “The History of Love,” which is one of her favorite novels. Because it has a multi-generational plot, Protti will visit a senior center to give away books with her daughter.

Vernon Legakis, the local surfer who plans to paddle out and give books away at Cowell Beach, has chosen “Just Kids,” a non-fiction book that chronicles the author’s relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the late ’60s and ’70s.

“I feel like that would be a good choice for people,” says Legakis, who sells books at Bookshop Santa Cruz when he’s not surfing. “The art world and the surfing world are connected. A lot of people associate reading with dull school texts they were forced to read. But there is so much to read and appreciate. I feel like this would be a bridge for people who don’t read that much.”

To keep the books dry, Legakis plans to protect them in Ziploc bags. And if conditions aren’t good for surfing on April 23? He says that he is happy to pass books out at the Lighthouse instead.

He adds, “Books are a conversation between authors and characters, and between authors and readers—so I hope this will start a conversation.”

Bookshop Santa Cruz will hold a pre-World Book Night party at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 17 at 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 423-0900. Capitola Book Café’s pre-World Book Night party is from 6-8 p.m., Thursday, April 19 at 1475 41st Ave., Capitola. 462-4415. See page 50 for a list of April Author Events.

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