Coffee is great, but so is literature.
That's the message Bogart's Books and Coffee in Millville wants to send, when it participates in World Book Night April 23, the anniversaries of Cervantes' death, and Shakespeare's birth and death.
Bogart's is the first place in New Jersey to sign on to the worldwide effort to get non-readers to try reading, said book store manager Katelyn Phillips, 26, of Clayton. Phillips graduated from Rowan University in 2010 with a literature degree.
She's on a mission to get some of the store's regular coffee customers to enjoy a great novel.
"I've made the joke plenty of times in here: I think people don't know we're a bookstore. They think we just have coffee," Phillips said. "This is why I went to school. To talk about literature all day."
She chose "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Dominican author Junot D�az, who grew up in New Jersey, from a list of books the nonprofit World Book Night in the USA could provide for free. The group is mainly made up of major U.S. publishers, and grew out of a similar effort in Great Britain.
So when some of her coffee customers come in on April 23, she's going to hand them the book and say, "Try to read it. See if you like it," she said.
The book is about an overweight, somewhat geeky New Jersey high school student obsessed with falling in love and with science fiction and fantasy novels. He is also dealing with the complications of being from another culture - the Dominican Republic - and with the curse brought upon the aboriginal people of the Americas by Christopher Columbus.
It is Diaz's first novel, and it won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. For Hemingway fans, the title is a nod to his short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." Diaz teaches writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
"I read it in my senior thesis course in college. It is so quirky and cute, with so many pop culture references," Phillips said. "I'm hoping to snag people with it."
The World Book Night organization only provides 25 copies, so Phillips won't be able to paper the town with the novel, but she'll target folks who say they haven't read a book in a long time.
"I'd love adults to get into it," Phillips said of the book. "It will make them laugh, and think about what it's like to be in high school and be the outsider. I'm so excited about it."
Phillips holds as many literary events as she can at the store. She also leads a book club called "Much Ado About Classics" that meets 2 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month at the store. Recently the group read Kafka's "Metamorphosis." They'll read Jane Austen's "Persuasion" to talk about April 1, and Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" for May 6.
For more information visit www.worldbooknight.org or call the store, which sells mainly used books, at 856-327-3714.
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