The Reading Agency has revealed full plans for World Book Night 2021 with writer, TV star and literacy advocate Sandi Toksvig as the 10th anniversary event's lead ambassador.
Run in partnership with Specsavers, the annual celebration of reading takes place on 23rd April and this year features appearances from Kazuo Ishiguro, David Nicholls and Kate Mosse.
This year’s theme, “Books to Make You Smile”, is a response to the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, highlighting the proven power of reading and the benefits it brings to wellbeing.
To mark its 10th anniversary this year, World Book Night will be hosting virtual events, book giveaways, online activities, exclusive releases and promotions. Over the past 10 years, The Reading Agency has distributed over 2.8 million books, with 245 titles by 205 authors distributed by more than 90,000 volunteers and organisations across the UK.
Celebrations on World Book Night itself will be marked by an event streamed live in partnership with the British Library, hosted by Toksvig and featuring authors David Nicholls and Bolu Babalola, plus World Book Night founder and Canongate c.e.o. Jamie Byng, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Before the event, the Reading Agency is inviting the whole nation to join the #ReadingHour from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., when everyone is encouraged to spend time with a good book, alone or with others, reading in any format they want and wherever they like.
Celebrations on the night itself will also include a virtual event hosted by the British Library, featuring Nobel Prize-winner Ishiguro in conversation with Mosse, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ishiguro, who was a World Book Night author in 2012, will be discussing his new novel Klara and the Sun (Faber) as well as the wider impact of his writing on readers.
Toksvig said: “This year marks the campaign’s 10th anniversary, and it feels more important than ever to celebrate the power of reading to inspire, entertain and challenge. We all could do with some light relief from reality which is why this year’s theme "Books to Make You Smile" is so perfect. It’s great to have the support of Specsavers on this vital campaign, which has teamed up with The Reading Agency as it pursues its mission to improve lives through reading."
Karen Napier, c.e.o. of the Reading Agency, added: “We’re hugely excited to celebrate the 10th anniversary of World Book Night with such a fantastic array of events. Given the challenges of the past year, our theme feels particularly resonant, and we're immensely grateful for the support from authors, publishers, bookshops and libraries to help spread the proven power of reading. We plan for this year’s World Book Night to be the biggest and best yet, and look forward to celebrating the Reading Hour with people across the country, ahead of what we’re sure will be a brilliant event at the British Library – which is sure to make us all smile!”
The Reading Agency has also commissioned a new collection of short stories exclusively for World Book Night 2021, Stories to Make You Smile, published by Simon & Schuster. The commissioned book is edited by writer and Quick Reads editor Fanny Blake, and features contributions from high-profile comedians and authors Richard Madeley, Jenny Éclair, Helen Lederer, Mark Watson, Eva Verde, Vaseem Khan and more.
It will be released on World Book Night, with 3,000 copies of the book being given out to customers through Specsavers competitions and giveaways, a free e-book version available to download on the day, and the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville and Adjoa Andoh available for pre-order now.
The Reading Agency will be giving away 100,000 books in various formats, twice as many as last year. With a focus on wellbeing and mental health, the 2021 book list features Pam Ayres, Stephen King, Jack Monroe, Nina Stibbe, Jane Fallon, gal-dem, Kit de Waal and more. In addition to the book list, The Reading Agency and Canongate will be distributing 10,000 copies of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig to 10 library authorities. Alongside print books, the Reading Agency is giving away 6,000 free audiobooks.
A partnership with Bookshop.org is also planned, with authors sharing their reading recommendations for World Book Night and beyond. Waterstones will also be partnering with The Reading Agency, supporting the #ReadingHour on social media and offering prize giveaways.
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