Bright and early on the morning of the announcement of the 2014 National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation teamed up with the Uni Project – a pop-up reading room that serves New York neighborhoods for the Great Book Giveaway. The two organizations brought together authors Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler to Manhattan’s Washington Square Park for a competition to see which author could give away more books in 30 minutes. In the end, the clear winner was literature, Handler suggested. Shivering line-waiters, undeterred by the frigid 24° temperature, happily walked away with free copies of all the finalists for this year’s National Book Award as well as galleys and finished copies of Handler’s and Gaiman’s most recent books, donated by the authors. Long after the books were gone and the event was scheduled to conclude, Handler and Gaiman greeted everyone in line as it stretched to the end of the park. Scroll down to see our photos from the event.
A series of fortunate book-lovers check out the bookshelves provided by the Uni Project before the authors arrive.
An ocean of people to the end of the lane snaking through Washington Square Park.
The authors have arrived! “Who would write such nonsense and then sign his name under it?” Gaiman exclaimed, reading a blurb on the galley of Handler’s latest, We Are Pirates. “Oh, it was me.”
Handler recommends National Book Award finalist John Lahr’s biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. “Spoiler alert!” Handler warned. “He’s gay!”
Near the park’s Garibaldi statue, Gaiman shared a memory of wife Amanda Palmer performing as a living statue for him in that spot, “and that’s when I knew I was in love,” he said.
Gaiman fans (from l.,) Amber Ross, David Santarelli, and Chloe Giroux pose with their new books.
Gaiman signs for shivering attendees.
Author Tim Manley poses with Handler, who handed him a copy of Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman.
Handler offered to pose for pictures. “And by pictures I mean photographs, not oil paintings. We don’t have time to pose for so many oil paintings.”
As time – and books – dwindled, Handler and Gaiman took to the line, taking pictures and giving hugs.
“Your books were so important to my childhood,” a fan told Handler. “I’m sorry,” he replied.
The line lingered for well after the planned-for half hour. The beanie pictured here appropriately stated “It is too f***ing cold.”
Gaiman and Handler looked on as Uni Project founder Sam Davol folded the pop-up library’s shelves into a box.
Great Book: “Or was it?” Handler signed.