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9 Ways to Celebrate UNESCO World Book Day

By Sara Button

Apr 22, 2020

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Books are the stars of the show on April 23, UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day.

Photo by Jeffery Cross

Books are the stars of the show on April 23, UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day.

In 1995, UNESCO’s General Conference declared April 23 to be World Book and Copyright Day. Here are some of the best ways to honor it this year.

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At AFAR, we don’t need much of an excuse to celebrate books. They’ve inspired us to travel the world, and even when we can’t physically travel, they can transport us to new and beloved places. In other words, we are totally on board with UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright DayEvery April 23 marks the international celebration of books and reading, and the designated World Book Capital puts on special events and initiatives to last for the whole year (the 2020 World Book Capital is Kuala Lumpur). Here are some of our favorite ways to honor books this year, whether you take part on the big day or find something that piques your readerly interest for later—either way, yay for books! 

Join AFAR’s new book club

At the beginning of April, we introduced AFAReads, a monthly online book club for you, the world’s best travelers. You can join in on our conversations about each month’s pick on our Goodreads page; this month we’re reading E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View. And for World Book Day, we’re hosting an AFAReads movie night starting at 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 ET on April 23. You can check into our Goodreads chat with fellow AFAReaders during your home viewing. 

Read It: Bookshop.orgProject Gutenberg
Watch It: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes

Attend a virtual story hour

No matter how old you are, sometimes it’s nice to have someone read to you. Kids and kids at heart have plenty of ways to listen to live storytelling online this World Book Day. Sicilian-born, U.K.-based drag queen Alyssa Van Delle hosts Drag Queen Story Time ($13/person) through the newly launched Airbnb Online Experiences. She’ll bring classic and LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books to life for your group, and the hour is replete with witty banter, sing-alongs, and games. Or tune in stateside for a free livestream of Drag Queen Story Hour, which takes place regularly and encourages creativity and self-expression. The New York Public Library is uploading its online story times, too.

Thought-Provoking LGBTQ Books to Read on Your Upcoming Adventures

Make a literary-inspired cocktail

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We may be stuck at home, but this isn’t Great Gatsby’s Prohibition. Why not pair your favorite book with some booze? Tim Federle’s Tequila Mockingbird is perfect for word nerds who want to mix up a drink and do some punning in the process. With cocktail names like “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margarita” and “A Rum of One’s Own,” you’re sure to find a beverage to your liking. 

To make happy hour more interactive, sign up for this Tequila Mockingbird Airbnb Online Experience ($25/person). Host Sam guides tipplers through the history of gin, vodka, and rum and teaches participants to make a cocktail for each, inspired by titles like Treasure Island and writers like Jane Austen.

Solve a mystery

Sometimes the most rewarding stories are the ones that require the use of our “little grey cells,” as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot often said. Interestingly, mystery novels often are deeply rooted in a sense of place, be it the Australian Outback or central Warsaw. Aspiring gumshoes should read our recommendations for which travel-y mystery to start with.

Read a book in translation

Maybe you’re working on improving your foreign language skills but you’re not quite ready to tackle a whole book in its original language. That’s where the often overlooked work of literary translators comes into play. You may not be able to read Tamil, but thanks to translator Kalyan Raman, you can still venture to rural south India with author Perumal Murugan; Portuguese may be out of reach, but Eric M.B. Becker brings Mia Couto’s Mozambique to you. Here are our picks for the best books in translation to read this year. 

Your Year in Travel Reading: 12 Books by Female Novelists From Around the World

Support an indie bookstore

Of course, the best way to celebrate books is to buy one! Independent bookstores are struggling right now, and though not all of them have the capacity to fill orders, many do—and there are still other ways to support your local independent bookseller. Whether you place an order through Powell’s Books in Portland or tune in to Birchbark Books & Native Arts’ Facebook page for an author reading, our favorite independent bookstores in the United States need your help.

Attend an online literary event

While in-person author signings and writer interviews may not be taking place in person as they were supposed to, the literary community still has plenty to offer bookworms. Some small indie bookstores are running events through the web, like Pittsburgh’s White Whale Bookstore, which is doing a poetry reading on April 23 for National Poetry Month in partnership with a local journal, Pretty Owl Poetry. Local public libraries are getting in on the livestream game, too. For instance, also on World Book Day, Leon County Public Library is conducting a Zoom Q&A with sci-fi author Jeff VanderMeer. Check your local independent bookseller and local library for possible literary events.  

Studies have shown that intellectual activities like reading books improve our health and lower our risk of dementia.

Enroll in a writing workshop

Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” The internet is a treasure trove of writing resources, and modern connectivity means you can learn from some of the world’s best writers at the pace you want. Care to learn from the likes of Judy Blume, Margaret Atwood, and R.L. Stine (where my millennials at?)? Through Masterclass, you can.

For those who’d prefer a one-day, focused class with other working writers, check out the write-in options at the Writers Grotto. And if you’re finally ready to write your memoir, the nonprofit Creative Nonfiction Foundation offers online writing classes specializing in the art of—you guessed it—creative nonfiction. 

Make your own book

Remember the delight of pop-up books when you were little? How their colorful, three-dimensional elements brought an even deeper sense of wonder and whimsy to your reading time? Now you can make your own at home, with the help of Kit, a crafty Airbnb host in California. Her new online class teaches you how to create your own whimsical pop-up book ($16/person) in just an hour using items you probably have around the house. Take that, boredom!

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