PORT ANGELES — They come today and tonight, bearing gifts: gifts to whisk the unsuspecting stranger off to another place, another life.
In other words, these givers will give away books.
More than 25,000 such givers are heading out across the United States and Europe — and 85 of those are representing Port Angeles in World Book Night, the one-stranger-at-a-time giveaway.
World Book Night [www.USWorldBookNight.org] is funded by the American Booksellers Association and various publishers, and is designed to put free books — novels, poetry, nonfiction — into the hands of people who might not otherwise own them.
World Book Night’s organizers chose a kaleidoscope of 30 titles for the project, from Tina Fey’s Bossypants to Willa Cather’s My Antonia to The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
So Alan Turner, owner of Port Book and News, and April Bellerud, owner of Odyssey Books, both Port Angeles bookshops, seized the opportunity to serve as conduits for the endeavor, signing up givers and distributing the boxes full of books earlier this month.
Port Book has 50 volunteer givers out there today, including Turner himself, who will take David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens out to City Pier.
“That’s where the kids hang out,” said Turner.
Odyssey Books staffer Angela Smith, meanwhile, will give away copies of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 at the William Shore Memorial Pool.
That’s just one of her stops, in fact, as she makes the rounds among her four children’s after-school activities today.
Smith also will hand out Looking for Alaska by John Green, a story of a teenager who doesn’t feel like he fits anywhere.
Smith has a book-giving companion in her husband Erik; they’ve done some trading with other givers at Odyssey and loaded the car with a few other titles, including Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.
“We just think it’s an amazing opportunity to give books to the community,” Smith said.
Deborah Morgan-Ellis and Gary Heaton of Port Angeles are part of a small team of givers who meet Monday nights for a study group at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
They’re planning to fan out, books in hand, to Serenity House and Healthy Families of Clallam County shelters and housing.
Other givers will go out to LaPush and the Quileute Tribal Center, said Turner, adding that that’s probably the westernmost place on World Book Night’s U.S. map.
Altogether, volunteers from Port Angeles are equipped to give away 1,700 books, which impresses Turner.
“This takes some effort, putting yourself out there, approaching strangers,” he said.
This is Port Angeles’ second year as a World Book Night participant; Turner said he saw a 10 percent increase, from 45 to 50, in givers from last year to this year. In 2014, he’d like to see the giver number top 100.
“This small town,” he said, “can be really proud of its giving spirit.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.