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Nationwide book giveaway launches tonight

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Half a million new books by 30 contemporary authors will be given away today during the World Book Night initiative. 5,800 towns and cities, from Alaska to Puerto Rico, from Hawaii to Maine, will play host to 25,000 volunteers who are determined to turn non-readers or light readers to the pleasure of reading.

Each approved volunteer was able to pick one of thirty books, ranging from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. After filling out a form stating their intentions, volunteers recieved 20 books that have been shipped to drop points at local book stores. Everyone from distributors to printers to UPS to a dozen publishers and their authors, who are waiving royalty rights, contributed to make it happen.

The inaugural giveaway is modeled after World Book Night in the UK in 2011. Ireland, UK, and the US are participating today, which has been hailed as World Book Day by Unesco. Check out its facebook page.

The grassroots social media campaign, which got a boost from the USA Today back in December, has been building in the US since September. Prominent participating bookstores include Unabridged Bookstore in Lakeview, Open Books in River North, and Anderson's in Naperville, among many others. Volunteers will be venturing out to nursing homes, senior centers, food pantries, subways, bars, diners, schools and countless other places to turn people onto books.

Tonight I'll be shadowing a group from Open Books downtown for the Chicago Tribune; The Printers Row Literary Journal will run a feature on the event and the organization next weekend. It's an impressive collective, all based on passing along a love of literature.

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