In May 2013, Penguin Group (USA) unveiled their first mobile bookstore, the Penguin Book Truck. Combining the book carts of old with the ever-popular food trucks, Penguin hopes the truck will be “bringing the writer to the reader.” The truck planned appearances at several literary events across the country, such as Shakespeare in the Park in New York City and Tom Sawyer Day in Hartford, Connecticut. Fans of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath can also look forward to the Book Truck’s road trip, following the journey of the beloved Joad family, as depicted in the novel.
The truck’s journey began at the Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, with twelve stops planned along Route 66 West, stretching to its final destination at Weedpatch Camp in Arvin, California. The remaining ten stops consist of libraries, museums, universities and other historical sites, including the Route 66 Museum and California State College.
The truck is not only a mobile bookstore, but also home to the Penguin Book Cart. Adopted from a similar cart used by Penguin in London, the US model can be found in public recreational locations near the truck’s location. You can check in with the truck and push cart to see the planned routes through the end of 2013. Fans can also check out the truck’s own Twitter and Facebook pages for the latest news and details on up-and-coming locations.
While the truck is well underway in its first year of operation, the idea did not start here. In 2010, Penguin had a Mini Cooper, dubbed the Penguin Car, painted their trademark bright orange and decked out in Penguin’s logo. When the car’s marketing purpose proved successful, it became obvious that a single car could not hold enough books. The company soon came up with a clever solution, and designs for a truck modeled after popular food trucks began. The London-inspired pushcart brought the final addition, making up the team to undertake the excursion around the country.
Beyond simply bringing books to readers, Penguin has also held author signings. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, joined the book truck’s expedition on September 7 in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Along with her works, the truck also featured Gilbert’s personal favorites in their classics section. Fans were able to meet the author at two venues—The Book Garden and Two Buttons—while enjoying live music.
The Penguin Book Truck’s intent is to encourage a love of reading and interaction with literature, not to be competition for bookstores, as some concern people have opined. Contrary to this supposition, Penguin (USA) has declared support for bookstores as well as denying any competitive intent towards bookstores, allowing the assumption that the book truck is just a method of trying something new and literally getting the word out. For now, Penguin has released a list of truck stops into February 2014 on their site, a trip that fans hope will extend both in time and scope.
Did You Know?
The traveling Penguin Book Truck is not the only celebratory event marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath publication. There is an entire festival dedicated to Steinbeck and his works—and it happens every year. The National Steinbeck Center hosts a yearly festival to celebrate the works of the author, with events that include concerts, film, poetry, walking tours, book signings and discussions. Next year’s festival, scheduled for May 2—4, 2014, will be the thirty-fourth the center has hosted, and will include events unique to the program. The program for this special festival is already up online: “The Journey,” taking place in October of 2013, covers the route of the Joad family, as outlined in the book and also followed by the Penguin Book Truck. Because this trip will be lead by musicians, artists and writers conducting interviews along the trip, the 2014 festival will be used to showcase their discoveries. The festival will also host outreach to schools, libraries and museums in order to promote the reading of The Grapes of Wrath. The Center also hopes to promote their international segment, titled the “International Fringe Fest,” that has been hosted in places including Amsterdam, Jerusalem, Cairo and Berlin.