The Great Jo Fletcher Books Giveaway

Presents aren’t just for Christmas, so the lovely folks at Jo Fletcher Books have turned their authors into elves, with sacks of books to give away. At least four are already handing out a book a week so I’m going to hold off on mine until next month, when the flood of free fiction starts to ebb and it really does feel like the holidays are over. Until then, join in the fun with:

Naomi Foyle (@naomifoyle)

Lynda Hilburn (@LyndaHilburn)

Snorri Kristjansson (@SnorriKristjans)

Karen Lord (@Karen_Lord)

Mazarkis Williams (@mazarkis_w)

This is not an exhaustive list of elves – I gather there are at least four more slinging books hither and yon. Do keep an eye on the @JoFletcherBooks Twitter feed for even more opportunities to win. I understand that the books will ship from JFB HQ in London to wherever you are, so far-flung followers, this is your chance.

I have to mention how much I like the serendipity of the fact that this flurry of book-giving will probably culminate, quite coincidentally, sometime around World Book Night on 23 April. I’m not a giver this year, but I remain a huge fan of the event. The mission is to give literally hundreds of thousands of free books to people who normally read very little or not at all, in return for nothing more than the promise that they will read their new book themselves and pass it on to others when they’re done. And the hope that they will discover the joy and the power of reading, and do it more.

So … snag yourselves a book or two if you can, read and enjoy and share. Aren’t we lucky to live in a world where people want to give us books?

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World Book Night: one amazing story

World Book Night is well under way. I did my bit early, taking my two dozen copies of Good Omens to the local college where library staff had assured me that the student population were not, in fact, regular readers beyond what was necessary for coursework. So I expected it to be a bit of a struggle. But in the end it wasn’t; I teamed up with a fellow giver, and, armed with free books and lots of chocolate, she got them to spend time with a delusional shopaholic while I persuaded them that the end of the world, as imagined by Messrs. Pratchett and Gaiman, is incredibly funny. I left a couple of young guys already nose-deep in their books, and came home happy.

But I am left with a sneaking suspicion that it may have been too easy. I’m delighted to have shared the books where I shared them – it’s true that no one we spoke to had read either book before, and I doubt that many of them are avid readers in general. But I don’t think the books they got today are likely to change their lives. The same can’t be said for another giver, whose story was posted  on the WBN blog. I won’t steal her thunder; please click the link to read. All I’ll say is that it’s left me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

A very moving Givers story.

Good Omens

The good times continue to roll. My last post chronicled my delight at being on the receiving end of literary luck; now I get to be a giver. A book giver, to be precise, on April 23, in celebration of World Book Night. I applied months ago, along with many tens of thousands of passionate readers in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the USA. Emails were sent to the successful applicants last night. And I do feel truly privileged to have been selected. For a reader, writer and lover of story, this is my kind of community work.

World Book Night prints special editions of 25 great books which volunteers then give away, preferably to non- or light readers. The objective is not only to pass the adventure and excitement of reading on to people who currently don’t spend much time with books; but to do so in a way that makes them ambassadors in turn, passing their WBN books on to others and to others and to others. There’s even an online registration portal that can track the journey that each of the gifted volumes takes.

I get to give away 24 copies of my first choice, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It is a fantastically funny, witty, wicked take on the age-old (and frequently rather tired) tale of ponderous powers locked in a battle of good vs. evil. But there’s nothing turgid or trite about this version. In this one the angels and demons, formally avatars of opposition, turn out to have far more in common with each other than with their ineffable and absent bosses. The deep and imponderable mechanisms of apocalypse are about as reliable as a cheap watch. And humanity, supposedly no more than pawns in their grand game, manages to give a pretty good account of itself.

Good Omens is a bravura collaboration by two great writers at the height of their powers. Gaiman’s feel for character, and his gift for not just retelling but subverting mythology to suit his own satirical ends, mashes up wonderfully with Pratchett’s mastery of the comic fantasy form. The plot spins at a dizzying pace through a series of mounting crises, charting the course from mistake through disaster to catastrophe, leaving you with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach about what might be about to happen – even as you laugh out loud. It is that rarest of things, a comic horror novel.

And I get to share it! I get to go up to perfect strangers on the street, or in the pub, or waiting for a bus and say, Excuse me. I’ve got a great book here, and I’d like to give it to you. No thanks, you’ve had a rough day? Believe me, it’ll cheer you up no end. D’you believe in God? The Devil? Either way, you’re going to have fun with this. You think books are boring? Really? Let me read you the first page.

I’m looking forward to it with an almost evangelical intensity. Is being able to give a great book to new readers a good omen for a new writer? Better believe it.

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

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