Support Writers at Risk this World Book Night

Send a book to one of PEN’s writers of concern around the world in celebration of World Book Night (23 April 2013).

To mark last year’s World Book Night, I pledged to send copies of my WBN title – Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief – to writers at risk around the world, and asked fellow givers to do the same.

Among the writers I chose to send books to was detained Turkish academic and political scientist Professor Büsra Ersan.  A few weeks earlier, having already spent five months in prison, Büsra had been formally charged with ‘leading an illegal organisation’ and ‘making propaganda for an illegal organisation’ and the Public Prosecutor who issued the indictment had demanded that she serve between 15 and 22 ½ years in prison. PEN was in no doubt that the charges against her were in violation of her right to free expression, and I was keen to do whatever I could to support her.

Shortly afterwards, I received a postcard from Büsra: not only had she received my copy of The Book Thief, but was in the process of reading another World Book Night title, Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, sent by fellow WBN giver Sarah Baker.

I sent off my last World Book Night edition of Dodie Smith’s book, glad to help, but to my surprise, I received a postcard back.  Professor Büsra Ersanlı had taken the time to write to me.  I think it’s the most touching postcard I’ve received and it’s sparked not only a further exchange of cards (our love of local landmarks knows no bounds!) but hopefully more discussions of life and literature between us.

Sending a book to someone via English PEN helps them promote the freedom to read and the freedom to write.  It’s an incredibly easy process and it’s not only hugely appreciated by those who receive your books, but can spark off so much more.  Why not pass on a book you love?  A small gesture can make a real difference.  I’ve seen that.

(Read the rest of Sarah’s guest blog here)

Büsra has since been released from prison pending trial and is certain that international pressure was instrumental in bringing about her release. Sending a book is, as Sarah said, a small gesture, but one which can have a real impact – serving as a non-confrontational way of reminding the authorities that the international community has not forgotten, as well as providing a much needed moral boost and distraction for the recipients.

There are still countless writers detained in Turkey and elsewhere around the world who desperately need our support. So to mark this year’s World Book Night, I will again be sending my WBN title – Jackie Kay’s beautiful autobiography Red Dust Road – to writers at risk around the world, and hope that other givers might consider doing the same.

If you are a World Book Night giver and are interested in sending a copy of your WBN title to one our cases of concern, please do get in touch. And even if you’re not signed up to be a WBN giver, there’s no reason you can’t get involved in this scheme – although you’ll have to source any books you’d like to send yourselves.


We are asking WBN givers who are interested in sending books to PEN’s cases of concern to email the following details to

  • Title of your WBN book;
  • Number of copies you would like to send.


  • Participants are expected to cover the postage costs of sending the books overseas;
  • Participants are requested not to publish or circulate the addresses of our cases of concern;
  • Participants are recommended to send a brief note with your book, explaining the purpose of World Book Night and your connection with English PEN;
  • Participants are asked to include a return address so that the recipient can respond if they are able to do so. If you would be more comfortable using the English PEN office address, please feel free to do so. (English PEN, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3GA)

More posts on World Book Night

Support Writers at Risk on World Book Night

World Book Night reaches Turkey

World Book Night reaches Turkey – part two

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

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