World Book and Copyright Day 2020: History, significance, theme and quotes by famous authors

World Book Day, celebrated by UNESCO and other related organisations, is the global celebration of books and reading material observed in more than 100 countries. Also known as World Book and Copyright Day, it is an occasion to promote the joy of books and the art of reading. April 23 was selected by UNESCO to pay homage to renowned literary figures including William Shakespeare, Miguel Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. During the UNESCO General Conference, Paris in 1995, this date was finalised to honour authors and books worldwide.

World Book Day 2020 Theme

Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO sums up the theme of 2019 through these words; “Books have the unique ability both to entertain and to teach. They are at once a means of exploring realms beyond our personal experience through exposure to different authors, universes and cultures, and a means of accessing the deepest recesses of our inner selves.”


The idea to observe World Book Day was first conceived by Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andres as a means to honour the renowned author, Miguel de Cervantes (best-known for Don Quixote), first on his birth anniversary, October 7, followed by his death anniversary, April 23. UNESCO then decided that World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on April 23 annually, since this date is also the death anniversary of prominent authors such as William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.

However, there is a plot twist in this historical fact. As per historical coincidence, both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date April 23, 1616, but not on the same day. Back then, Spain followed the Gregorian calendar, while England followed the Julian calendar. As per the Gregorian calendar, Shakespeare died ten days later after Cervantes did, i.e. on May 3.


World Book and Copyright Day is celebrated worldwide to recognise the scope of books as a link between the past and the future, along with being a cultural and generational bridge. UNESCO and organisations representing publishers, booksellers and libraries select the World Book Capital for a year to maintain the celebrations of books and reading. For the year 2019, Sharjah, UAE had been declared as the World Book Capital. Kuala Lumpur has been officially recognised as this year’s UNESCO’s World Book Capital (KLWBC 2020), with an online launch celebration on April 23.

The day has become a platform for people across the globe, especially the stakeholders of the literary world including authors, publishers, teachers, librarians, public and private institutions, humanitarian NGOs and the mass media to come together to promote literacy and help everyone get access to educational resources.

Here are some quotes on books by famous authors throughout history which all book-lovers in the present day can enjoy and share with their friends and social media communities:

“I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

– Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

– Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

– Neil Gaiman in Coraline

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

– Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesake

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

– Haruki Murakami in Norwegian Wood


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“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

– Stephen King in On Writing

“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.”

– Salman Rushdie

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book.”

– J.K. Rowling


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“Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin

“I love books. I adore everything about them. I love the feel of the pages on my fingertips. They are light enough to carry, yet so heavy with worlds and ideas. I love the sound of the pages flicking against my fingers. Print against fingerprints. Books make people quiet, yet they are so loud.”

– Nnedi Okorafor in The Book of Phoenix

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

– C.S. Lewis

“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”

– Benjamin Alire Sáenz in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

“Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack”

– Virginia Woolf in Street Haunting

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

– Toni Morrison


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Toni Morrison was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She wrote 11 novels, many of them touching on life as a black American, in a glittering literary and award-laden career that lasted over six decades. She won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 for her 1987 novel #Beloved. Set after the American Civil War in the 1860s, the story centered on a slave who escaped Kentucky to the free state of Ohio. The book was later turned into a film starring Danny Glover and #OprahWinfrey. Morrison received numerous other accolades including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. In 2012 then President Barack Obama presented #ToniMorrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2016 she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. On her birth anniversary today, here are some of her most memorable quotes. #Books #Bookstagram #ToniMorrisonQuote

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“Happiness. That’s what books smells like. Happiness. That’s why I always wanted to have a book shop. What better life than to trade in happiness?”

– Sarah MacLean in The Rogue Not Taken

“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic.”

– Arundhati Roy in The God of Small Things

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

― Oscar Wilde

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”

― William Styron

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

Then fill the shelves with lots of books.”

― Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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