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World Book Night Pre-Party at Atomic Books

April 17, 2013

April 23 is Shakespeare’s birthday and, in a twist like that of Jefferson and Adams both dying on July 4, the day that the Bard and Miguel de Cervantes both died. Partly for these reasons it is also World Book Night, a celebration of the pleasures of reading. Each year a consortium of librarians and booksellers chose a dozen or so titles that “Givers” will take out and share with their communities.

Atomic Books is a supplier of books for the Givers. “This is Atomic’s second year doing this (it’s only the 2nd year it’s been done in the US),” Rachel Whang, one of the store’s owners says. “We got into it because there was talk about something like a Book Store Day (like Free Comic Book Day or Record Store Day). This isn’t quite like that (I think we need to get one together still), but it’s still an interesting project to try to get books to people who may not have access to them and to celebrate books and reading in general.”

The Givers will pick the books up at Atomic  tonight, April 17 at 7 P.M. at the bookstore’s World Book Night Pre-Party, which will feature a group of local authors each reading from one of the selected books.

I am generally against proselytizing, but I make a big exception for reading, where I am a proud evangelist, so when Whang asked if I was interested in joining in, I immediately asked to read Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, because I think that this book of Twain’s is one of the ultimate expressions of the American spirit, and part of a long line of books I love that date back to Apuleius’ Golden Ass and up through Kafka’s Metamorphoses (books about people who wake up transformed). 

I thought it would be worthwhile to ask the other writers, via email, about the books they chose to read from. Kathy Flann, author of Smoky Ordinary, wrote: “The House on Mango Street was one of those books opened new possibilities. For one, the chapters were economical and poetic and almost dreamlike — concentrated like short stories I was learning to write. A novel could be written this way? And I loved the way the form and content contrasted. Here was this gritty, difficult, adolescence. By rendering fragmented, beautiful moments in it, [Sandra] Cisneros makes it all the sadder.”

And Jen Michalski (who blew us away with her reading at CityLit Festival last weekend) had this to say: “Reading My Antonia [by Willa Cather] in my twenties, as nonrequired life reading, was a revelation—I loved the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder but, as the grandchild of Polish/Russian immigrants, I didn’t connect with the Ingalls’ Midwest experience. My Atonia is a perfect summation of all my literary yearnings—Bohemian immigrants, the strong-willed, vibrant Antonia among them, who settled in Nebraska prairie.”


Benn Ray, co-owner of Atomic Books, reads from The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Jamie Watson, Collection Development Coordinator for the Baltimore County Public Library, reads from Looking for Alaska by John Green

Davida Gypsy Breier, publisher of Xerography Debt, reads from The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.

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