Friday, April 11, 2008

Reading Group Guides

I enjoyed this essay on the Reading Group guides found at the end of the book from last week's NYTBR.

It reminded me of many discussions about said guides over the years, particularly at Avon. Back then, I was the only one in a book group, and I remember explaining to the publisher (an individual with decided ideas and little tolerance for those of others unless they were rock stars he had admired growing up) that whether or not people actually use the guides, they are influenced by their presence when selecting books for their groups. He did not want to copy Ballantine's concept - perhaps admirable but shortsighted. It was not long before everyone was doing it.

I think if the publisher is really trying to grow the author it is likely they will pay for someone to create the questions (which, as seen in the article, may be incredibly obvious or absurd but may be thought provoking) so I was surprised to see that for a while author Julia Spencer-Fleming was somewhat plaintively asking readers on her website if they'd be willing to create one for her! It seemed odd to me that St. Martin's wasn't willing to organize this, and failing that, why couldn't she do it herself? I am a huge fan of her books, and even got distracted while studying for the bar exam when someone at B&N thoughtfully gave me one that was hot off the press. Knowing that JSP is a lawyer herself, I sent her an amusing letter thanking her for giving me a few hours of pleasure during a miserable three months; however, she did not reply, simply added me to her mailing list! Oh well, I am still a fan, and eagerly awaiting I Shall Not Want, coming in June, although I recommend that new readers begin with In the Bleak Midwinter.

Happy Third Birthday to my godson, Nicholas!

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