One true story from World Book Night


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The Independent Culture

A month ago, Daniel Bramley was behind bars reading Martina Cole's The Take, a novel about a father who has just got out of prison. Tomorrow, just days after his own release, the dad-of-three will return to Northallerton prison to leave copies of the book for other inmates to enjoy.

The 35-year-old, released from his local North Yorkshire prison last Thursday, is one of 20,000 "givers" taking part in the second World Book Night (WBN), for which one million free books will be handed out across the UK and Ireland. While Mr Bramley was inside, his mum Maggie, a library volunteer living in Pica, Cumbria, filled out an application for the crime fiction fan to distribute copies of The Take – one of 25 titles being given away tomorrow.

"Ironically, it's about a guy that comes out of prison, and whose wife has been left at home with three young children, but prison obviously hasn't cured him and he goes further off the rails, and his newborn son follows in his footsteps and it leads to a life of crime," said Mr Bramley, who served seven-and-a-half months of a two-year sentence for criminal damage – his "first and last" conviction. "I'm not going to go the wrong way; I'm going the right way forward."

Although he had enjoyed reading as a child, the mechanic stopped when work and fatherhood came along. But while in Northallerton, he worked in the prison library and found it relaxing to read to help pass the time. "If you are reading a good book that you enjoy, you get into the story and temporarily forget where you are really," said Mr Bramley, whose partner Joelle Mitchell participated in WBN last year.

Reading has changed him, he claims, and he is determined to keep it up. "As opposed to going out for an evening and maybe having two or three hours in the pub or whatever, I would quite happily sit at home with my feet up and read a book," said the dad to eight-month-old Kian; Evie, five; and Ellie, eight. "Now I spend a bit of time reading with my two daughters... It's nice to help them, and obviously my son when he's old enough to read."

Like other WBN "givers", who include comedian Stephen Fry, Mr Bramley will hand out 24 copies of his chosen book to whomever he wishes. A further 520,000 books will go directly into UK prisons, hospitals and schools in disadvantaged communities. Last year, 'givers' handed out 960,000 books and 40,000 went to prisons.

WBN founder Jamie Byng, who will give out David Peace's The Damned United (about football manager Brian Clough) at Wormwood Scrubs prison in London tomorrow, said the change in distribution reflected the fact the charity had always wanted to take books into places they would otherwise be less likely to reach. The organisation is collaborating with English PEN, which promotes the freedom to write and read, on a series of visits to prisons by authors armed with copies of WBN books.

There will be hundreds of events marking WBN across the UK, with authors including Cole and Small Island writer Andrea Levy giving readings at a main celebration at the Southbank Centre in London tomorrow night. The mass giveaway is also launching in Germany, where 33,333 people will distribute one million books, and the United States, where 25,000 givers will hand out 500,000 books. Mr Byng, managing director of publisher Canongate, says the concept is "snowballing" and he is confident at least 10 countries will participate in 2013.

But first he needs to concentrate on this year. Today, he is running his first London Marathon to raise money for WBN and is handing out a copy of each of the 25 WBN titles, which include Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, after each mile. On the final mile, he will give away a copy of one of his favourite books, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

Last year, some independent booksellers criticised the inaugural WBN for giving away books, claiming it could have a damaging effect at a time when bookshops were already facing tough competition from online retailers and supermarkets. Mr Byng said he was sympathetic to the fact booksellers were struggling but claimed it was wrong to say WBN would make things harder for them. He said sales of the titles given away last year rose on the back of the scheme.