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Lauretta Nagel, owner of Constellation Books on Main Street, displays some of the titles "book givers" will be picking up to distribute on World Book Night.
Lauretta Nagel, owner of Constellation Books on Main Street, displays some of the titles "book givers" will be picking up to distribute on World Book Night. (Susan C. Ingram/Staff photo , Carroll County Times)

"The idea is that it's a book that you're really behind - so you can promote it. You tell people 'You really have to read this, it's awesome.' "

That about sums up the sentiment behind World Book Night, which touches down on Main Street in Reisterstown this weekend.

Lauretta Nagel, owner of Constellation Books, signed up to be a book pick-up point for the international effort that was launched by UNESCO last year to get books into the hands of people who normally don't read, or don't have easy access to books.

World Book Night was celebrated in the UK and Ireland last year and spread to the U.S. this year, where book publishers, distributors, UPS and other sponsors got together to support the massive free book giveaway.

Basically, people sign up to be volunteer "book givers," or "book pick-up points." Through the World Book Night website, people choose their top three favorites from a list of about 30 best sellers and classics. Twenty copies of one of the chosen titles are shipped to the pick-up location, including book shops and libraries, for each book giver.

The book givers promise to take their books to a location on the evening of April 23, and give the books to people who normally wouldn't have access to books. Such locations may include homeless shelters, nursing homes, VA hospitals, prisons, mass transit stops, and other places.

Nagel began hearing buzz about World Book Night on Twitter and Facebook last November and decided it was a good cause to promote and participate in.

This weekend, April 21-22, people will come to her shop to pick up their boxes of books to distribute on Monday night, April 23, World Book Night.

Nagel said she has about a dozen book-givers signed up, who are picking up titles including, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie; "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins; "Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini, and "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," by Rebecca Skloot.

"The idea is to hit populations that don't have access to a lot of books," Nagel said.

She bought about two dozen of the recommended books to display in her shop. She also signed up to be a book-giver and chose Alexie's book, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," to distribute at area nursing homes, a shelter and the VA hospital.

Perhaps it's not surprising that Nagel, a bookseller and book lover, would want to help get more books into people's hands. Especially those who don't often get the chance to read. But that's not her only reason.

"Society is so drawn to computers and video games and TV that we moved away from books and having a variety of books available. A lot of book stores go under and for some it's hard to find a library branch," she said, "Access to books can make or break a kid, and it can help an adult change the course of their lives. And by reading you keep your brain flexible. You keep your intelligence going. And besides - it's fun!"

Of course, the books being given away on Monday are old-fashioned, hard-copy, printed books, which is fine with Nagel.

"Even though e-books are taking off, I don't think printed books will ever go away," she said.

This year more than 5,000 U.S. towns and cities are participating, with a half a million free books set to be distributed, according to the World Book Night website.

Nagel plans to participate again next year.

For more information, go to http://www.us.worldbooknight.org.

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