Entertainment & Arts

World Book Night: One million books to be given away

Image caption Alan Bennett's A Life Like Other People's and Nigel Slater's Toast are among books being given away

One million books will be given away free in the UK and Ireland on 5 March for the inaugural World Book Night.

Some 20,000 volunteers will hand out 48 copies each of their favourite book from a 25-strong list. A further 40,000 will be distributed by organisers.

Would-be volunteers apply through the event's website, choosing a book from the list which features Alan Bennett, John Le Carre and Margaret Atwood.

Atwood said the love of writing and reading were "huge gifts".

Patrons of the event include Damon Albarn, Damien Hirst and JK Rowling.

Fellow patron Antony Gormley said that "when the joy of giving and receiving is added to the fruit of the imagination, something big, lovely and generous can happen".

"A book allows us to hold the experience of another in our hands and absorb it in our minds," the artist added.

"And this brilliant idea enables this to happen in ever-widening and deepening circles of considered and connected life."

World Book Night chairman Jamie Byng said: "There are few things more meaningful than the personal recommendation.

"Having one million books given to one million different people on one night in this way is both unprecedented and hugely exciting."

Volunteers have until 4 January to apply to become a book-giver.

The 20,000 people selected will be invited to take part in parties and celebrations on World Book Night, which is being supported by BBC Two.

The BBC's arts editor Will Gompertz said in his blog that the initiative had not been universally welcomed.

"Some booksellers are aghast that the big publishers are giving away the very product they are struggling to sell," he said.

Books on the list include Atwood's The Blind Assassin, Bennett's A Life Like Other People's, Nigel Slater's Toast, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and Yann Martel's Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi.

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