Archive for the ‘Review Sources’ Category

A Reading Life Revealed

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Pamela Paul who oversees all of the New York Times book coverageincluding the Book Review, was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday, ostensibly to talk about her new book My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues (Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co.; OverDrive Sample), but most of the interview focused on her day job.

Explaining the differences between reviews in the daily paper and the Sunday Book Review, she says that the daily reviews begin with the critic, who chooses which books to review. For the Book Review, the editors choose the books, but more importantly who will review them. Trying to imagine who New York Times readers would most want to read on a particular book is the  most creative and “delicious” part of the process, she says, resulting in pairings such as Bill Clinton on Bob Caro‘s fourth book on LBJ, or Michael Lewis on former Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s memoir.

As to her own book, it’s based on Paul’s reading diary which she dubbed “Bob,” or “Book of Books.” What titles shaped the most powerful book review editor in the country? A large diet of Nancy Drews and frequent trips to the library to make up for a home not filled with books. As we noted earlier, prepub reviews were strong, with LJ saying, “Titles about reading and books abound, but this memoir stands in a class by itself. Bibliophiles will treasure, but the addictive storytelling and high-quality writing will vastly increase its audience.”

Libraries ordered the title very lightly. All that we checked are showing active holds lists.

LitHub’s Book Review Aggregator

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016


Lit Hub, the website created in 2015 by Grove Atlantic publisher Morgan Entrekin and two partners to bring together “smart, engaged, entertaining writing about all things books,” has just re-launched their Book Marks section (not to be confused with the magazine Book Marks, which is still in print, but no longer updating its online book review aggregator).

When it debuted six months ago, Book Marks was tagged the “publishing equivalent of Rotten Tomatoes,” compiling reviews from over 70 consumer sources and assigning a letter grade to any book that got reviewed three times or more.

After taking criticism for the letter grades, the site has switched to a four-tiered system that characterizes reviews as Rave, Positive, Mixed, or Pan, explaining that the letters “did not convey the nuance of the reviews, and a book with a dozen middling reviews could wind up with the same grade as a book with ten raves and two pans. The grades also appeared to be a subjective assessment by Literary Hub, rather than cumulative measure of reviewer opinion.”

As Rotten Tomatoes itself demonstrates, assigning values is not a science and the Book Mark‘s new system still has some problems. For instance, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time is ranked as positive with 41 reviews, a mix of rave, positive and mixed reviews as well as single pan (for the curious, that one comes from The Millions and some might consider it more mixed than a pan). On the other hand, Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe is ranked as a rave with only 3 reviews, two raves and one positive.

Nevertheless, Book Marks is useful for many things, such as staying up to speed on titles getting review coverage, through its sections on new books, the most talked about books, the best reviewed books, the most reviewed books, and breakdowns by category (nine for fiction, 19 nonfiction).

It is also a quick way to learn more about specific titles, through review excerpts (found by clicking on each book cover) and links to the full reviews. 

We have added Book Marks to our links at the right of the site, under “Consumer Media, Book Coverage.” 

NYT Cuts Back Metro Section Coverage

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Just two weeks after sending a memo to staff denying a NY Post story that the paper is in the midst of weighing cutbacks that include “ending the print edition of its Sunday magazine, folding the Metro section, making the weekly book review section online-only and leasing out space in its Midtown headquarters,” comes news that the story was at least partially true.

An Aug. 2 email to NY Times staff stated that the Metro section is cutting back and will no longer review restaurants, theaters and cultural events beyond the city borders. The story is reported by what may seem an odd source, the Hollywood news site, Deadline. Their concern is focused on the impact on regional theaters. Deadline quotes from the memo:

… we will publish our final reviews and features in the New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut editions on August 28. The Metropolitan section as it appears in New York City will still be published and circulated throughout the region, but it will no longer include zoned content.

The story notes, “The move also has heightened anxieties on the Times culture desk that reassignments or cuts in the department’s full-time staff are imminent.”

The move also raises concerns about whether more changes will come to country’s last remaining standalone newspaper book section, beyond the recent announcement that all book coverage, including daily and Sunday, is now consolidated under Pamela Paul,

N.K. Jemisin, Book Reviewer

Friday, August 26th, 2016

9780316229296_62f5aThe author of the Hugo winning The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin, has been in the news lately for her take on the current state of publishing and her reaction to winning “the Oscars” of her genre, but since last December she has also been sharing her views on Science Fiction and Fantasy in the NYT book review column “Otherwordly,” a bi-monthly roundup.

While the paper often assigns high profile authors to review high profile titles in the Sunday Book Review (Michael Connelly just reviewed Caleb Carr’s newest for example), Jemisin’s role is a bit different as she gets space to comment on a range of books within her genre specialty.

What kind of reviewer is she? A very precise, demanding, and appreciative one; a critic writing with vibrant engagement who is not willing to let much slide. What kind of reader is she? Based on her reactions to the works covered thus far, one that is interested in meaningful content rather than plot, values beautiful language, and appreciates in-depth characterizations.

For example, in her opening column she tries to figure out what China Miéville’s This Census-Taker (PRH/Del Rey) is all about, jumping from one possibility to the next before concluding, “This is a novel in which the journey is the story — but for those readers who actually want Miéville to take them somewhere, This Census-Taker may be an exercise in haunting, lovely frustration.”

Similarly, of Keith Lee Morris’s Travelers Rest (Hachette/Back Bay) she says the story is “not fresh” and thought “It’s beautifully written … Beautiful writing just isn’t enough to save any story from overfamiliarity.”

When a work does capture her fully, she gives it a rare “highly recommended” vote, as she has done for Andrea Hairston’s Will Do Magic for Small Change (Aqueduct Press), calling it a “beautifully multifaceted story … with deep, layered, powerful characters.”

All The Birds In The Sky (Macmillan/Tor/Tom Doherty), Charlie Jane Anders also impresses. She says it is “complex, and scary, and madcap … as hopeful as it is hilarious, and highly recommended.”

Below are links to her columns thus far:

December 28, 2015
February 23, 2016
April 19, 2016
June 17, 2016

NYT Consolidates Book Coverage

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

A recent NY Post story has us on high alert for possible changes to the last standalone newspaper review section in the country, the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

The Post claimed management was considering turning it into a digital-only publication, a change that has signaled the death knell for other such publications. The NYT editor in charge of a “strategic review” of the paper immediately dismissed that as “crazy talk.”

Pamela Paul, NYT Photo Credit: Earl Wilson, The New York Times, April, 2012

Pamela Paul, NYT
Photo Credit: Earl Wilson,
The New York Times,
April, 2012

But there was something afoot. Yesterday, the NYT announced that  all book coverage, including Sunday and daily book reviews, as well as publishing news, will now be under the direction of the Editor of the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Pamela Paul.

Until now, daily reviews and the Book Review have been separate, with separate reporting structures and approaches, making them virtually sister publications. Daily coverage is handled by a group of three regular critics, Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner and Jennifer Senior, with occasional contributions by Janet Maslin who retired last year.

On the other hand, the editors of the Sunday section do not act as critics, but as assigning editors, selecting titles to be reviewed and selecting writers to cover them. In some cases, the reviewers are celebrity authors, like Michael Connelly who reviews Caleb Carr’s new book on the cover of this week’s issue. In other cases, they are scholars or authors of similar books to those under review, a practice that has been regarded as open to both professional jealousies and back-scratching.

In a memo to staff about the change, NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet calls Paul “one of our biggest stars.” That star has had a fast rise at the Book Review. In 2011, she was named the Children’s Book Editor. Just two years later, she took over as Editor, when Sam Tanenhaus left to become a writer-at-large.

According to the memo, Paul will be responsible not only for book coverage, but for recommending changes in direction. It appears that shutting down the Book Review is off the table:

It will be Pamela’s job to think about how our coverage should change and, of course, how it should not change. (We will, for instance, maintain our Sunday Book Review. It is hard to imagine the paper without it.) Above all, we believe we have a significant opportunity to expand the audience for our books coverage.

Also off the table is shutting down daily coverage:

And I want to make clear that under Pamela’s leadership, books and book reviews will be a consistent and significant part of The Times’s daily culture report.

One change is already in the works, under a single reporting structure, coverage can be coordinated to decide “which books are so important they deserve both a daily and a Sunday review” rather than that happening, as it has to date, by coincidence.

There is still reason to be concerned about the NYT‘s book coverage. Consolidation rarely results in expanded coverage. Most often, it goes the other direction.

The NYT Book Review
May Go Digital-Only

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

UPDATE: Please note this, from the comments section, which gives some hope:

The story in the Post was completely debunked by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., The New York Times Publisher. In an email to staff today he wrote: “…The New York Times Magazine and our Sunday Book Review are two of the most successful and popular products in our very powerful arsenal. We will not cease producing them in print.”

Also, the New York Times‘s David Leonhardt tweeted the following today:

At the end of June, Politico said that Leonhardt was “overseeing a sweeping strategic review by a team of seven Times  journalists known as the 2020 Group.” They quoted him saying, “The Times has changed enormously in the past few years, but it still hasn’t changed enough,”


In another gloomy indicator of the lack of value newspaper owners place on book review sections, the New York Post reports that the NYT may discontinue the print edition of the Sunday Book Review, publishing it online only.

It is just one of several possible cost-cutting measures under discussion. Others include ending the print edition of the Sunday magazine and folding the Metro section.

The NY Post reports that the potential cuts are in response to a fall in print advertising and the continued shift of readers to digital sources. Back in April, the paper reported on the financial troubles of their much larger rival (but did not mention the Book Review as being under scrutiny), causing Vanity Fair to take a dim view of the story and NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet to dismiss it on NPR as nothing more than “cheap guess work.”

However, Vanity Fair admitted in an update to their story, that “A portion of the Post‘s report was validated … as the Times said it was closing its print production and editing operations in its Paris bureau … About 70 staff members will be laid off or relocated.” The journalism site Poynter reported in July that “At least 49 journalists at The New York Times have accepted a standing buyout offer from newsroom leadership and will leave the paper in the coming months.”

If the changes to the Book Review do occur, they will follow a long sad march of such contractions.

In 2007 author Michael Connelly wrote about “The folly of downsizing book reviews” in a story in the LA Times, which had just merged its own standalone book review into the Sunday Opinion section. In his piece, Connelly recited the litany of shuttered or reduced book review sections at newspapers across the country, including the Raleigh News & Observer, the Dallas Morning News, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Connelly was looking at an already reduced reviewing landscape. In 2001, Salon published a story titled “The amazing disappearing book review section.” At that time the San Francisco Chronicle was cutting back, following in the footsteps of many other papers, Salon noted “The Seattle Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Boston Globe have all put their papers on a diet by cutting back on book reviews.”

Since those stories were published, the Washington Post also abandoned its standalone review section, Book World.

The NYT Book Review currently publishes as a stand-alone pull out section each Sunday that includes dozens of reviews. If it becomes digital-only, it is likely, based on the experience of other such moves, that the number will decline.

This, of course, is part of a larger problem facing newspapers, a subject John Oliver addressed in his HBO show this week:

Interview with the Interviewer,
Terry Gross

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

terry-04For 40 years, the host of NPR’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross has connected listeners with the people that fascinate her, many of them authors.

In celebration of that anniversary, The New York Times Magazine turns the tables on  Gross, interviewing the interviewer.

In a story enhanced by several photos (our favorite; Gross as a young woman working an enormous 70’s tape deck), writer Susan Burton offers an ode to NPR’s iconic questioner, reviewing her history and career trajectory, and discussing her acuity as an interviewer.

In particular Burton stresses Gross’s depth of knowledge on the subjects she discuses and her ability to create an intimacy with those she interviews, calling her our “national interviewer” and saying:

… think of it as a symbolic role, like the poet laureate — someone whose job it is to ask the questions, with a degree of art and honor. Barbara Walters was once our national interviewer, in a flashier style defined by a desire for spectacle. Gross is an interviewer defined by a longing for intimacy. In a culture in which we are all talking about ourselves more than ever, Gross is not only listening intently; she’s asking just the right questions … she’s deft on news and subtle on history, sixth-sensey in probing personal biography and expert at examining the intricacies of artistic process.”

This American Life‘s Ira Glass, no slouch as an interviewer himself, tells Burton:

There’ve been times when I’ve relistened [to an interview], just to hear the order of the questions and to figure out what was planned and unplanned. Like a magician sitting in on another guy’s act for two nights so he can figure out the trick, to steal it … [it is] not surprising that she loves jazz artists and stand-up comedians so much. She’s their journalist peer.

Being interviewed by Gross is a frequent fantasy of those who eventually make it onto her show and the process of talking to Gross is “a wish not for recognition but for an experience. It’s a wish for Gross to locate your genius, even if that genius has not yet been expressed. It’s a wish to be seen as in a wish to be understood.”

As an example, Burton highlights Gross’s 2011 interview with Maurice Sendak. The conversation turned to his death and Sendak said to Gross “I’ll go before you go, so I won’t have to miss you.’’

The NYT’s New Daily Book Critic

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

We’ve been waiting to hear who would replace daily NYT critic Janet Maslin since she shifted roles from full-time critic to an occasional contributor.

The news arrives in the paper tomorrow, in the form of a sidebar to a review of a nonfiction title currently hot in the media, Becoming Nicole, about a teen who transitioned from male to female, while her identical twin continues to identify as male.

The sidebar reads,

Meet Our New Critic
Jennifer Senior is the new daily book critic for The New York Times. For most of the last 18 years, she was a staff writer for New York magazine, where she wrote profiles and cover stories about politics, social science and mental health. She is also an author herself: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood was published in 2014. You can follow her on Twitter: @JenSeniorNY

9780062072221_cc8dfAccording to a press release by NYT Culture editor Danielle Mattoonon, Senior will focus on nonfiction, which is no surprise, given her background as a journalist writing about politics, social science, and mental health and as the author of the  best selling All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (HarperCollins/Ecco; HarperCollins and Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

While the daily NYT now returns to a roster of three full-time book critics, this appointment still leaves a void. Maslin focused on popular fiction and, reflecting her roots as a movie reviewer, made an effort to be the first to review titles she thought would be hits, getting behind books such as  Gone Girl.and The Girl on the Train.

The two other daily NYT critics have different approaches. Michiko Kakutani tends toward literary fiction (even though she reviews J.K. Rowling’s “Grizzly Crime Novel,” Career of Evil this week) and Dwight Garner tends toward nonfiction about popular culture, particularly music, (switching that it up today, with a review of  David Mitchell’s Slade House.)

Coming on the heels of cuts in book coverage by People magazine and USA Today, those looking simply for something “good to read” have fewer places to turn. Here’s hoping that Entertainment Weekly continues to consider books an important component their coverage of popular culture.

Alan Cheuse Dies at 75

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 9.55.48 AMAlan Cheuse, author of Prayers for the Living and NPR’s All Things Considered book reviewer, has died at age 75, from injuries resulting from a car accident.

A creative writing teacher, a working writer, and a beloved voice on the radio, Cheuse inspired a deep appreciation of good writing and rich reading. His daughter, Sonya Cheuse, director of publicity for the publisher Ecco, told NPR that her father passed his love of literature down to her entire family: “My dad is the reason I love reading,” she says. “This is the family business.”

Cheese reviewed a wide range of books from the Dan Winslow’s best seller, The Cartel to t Booker nominees,  Marilynn Robinson’s Lila and Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island:His family joined him at the end of last year for “The Perfect Family Book List” for gift giving.

Susan Stamberg of All Things Considered has posted a remembrance.

Yardley: Favorites from
A Lifetime of Reading

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Yardley, Critic

Many are assessing their favorite books of the year right now, but imagine summing up your favorites from an entire lifetime?

Jonathan Yardley, long-time Washington Post book critic takes on that task in his final, farewell column before retiring.

Only one of the total of 30 titles was published this year, Ward Just’s American Romantic (HMG), which Yardley counts as “perhaps his best, though the competition is fierce” (he also lists Just’s 1990 novel, The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert).

In nonfiction, one author gets three mentions, Rick Atkinson for his “magisterial World War II trilogy,” An Army at Dawn, (Macmillan/Holt, 2002), The Day of Battle, (Macmillan/Holt, 2007) and The Guns at Last Light (Macmillan/Holt, 2013),

In a separate column, Yardley looks back on his career with the Washington Post.(many of you will recognize the headshot, above, that once ran above his column), and resolves to “make one last attempt to read Ulysses, the gargantuan novel by James Joyce that was admitted to this country by my great-great uncle, federal Judge John Woolsey, whose famous opinion authorizing its admission I regard as considerably more engaging, witty and intelligible than the novel itself.”

A critic to the end!

Yardley Retires from
The Washington Post

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Jonathan Yardley, the nonfiction book critic for the Washington Post since 1981, is retiring. Known as an iconoclast (if you’re not a fan of Salinger’s, you’ll enjoy his reassessment of Catcher in the Rye as “a maladroit, mawkish novel” that is suffused with “cheap sentimentality”), he also won a Pulitzer for criticism.

On Monday, it was announced that Carlos Lozada  will replace Yardley, leaving his current job as editor of the paper’s Sunday opinion section, Outlook.

Interviewed by yesterday, Lozada talked about his plans, which are focused on “building a digital audience,” by using “author interviews; short posts that highlight key nuggets from new books; deep dives on trends in nonfiction,” such as his piece, “The End of Everything” and adds, “while I know that lots of people use reviews to help them decide which books to buy and read, lots of them also see reviews as a substitute for reading the book. I certainly do – there isn’t enough time to read everything, right? And I want to respect those readers and their needs, too, which is where I hope these other forms can help.”

Asked whether he will cover book selling (the interviewer notes, “I can think of a company that might be really interesting to cover!”), he says that he’ll leave the business used to the paper’s “great business/financial writers.”

Diminishing Book Coverage

Friday, September 5th, 2014

cbf1b1a89bd7289b824adb27388bc12c_400x400Just as we welcomed USA Today‘s annual fall books forecast, with Bob Minzesheimer’s roundup of bookseller predictions of which ones will be hits, we learned that, after 17 years on the newspaper’s book beat, Minzesheimer is one of the victims of a new round of layoffs. This follows on the heels of the loss last year of Deirdre Donahue and Carol Memmot to early retirement packages.

At that time, USA Today made the following statement to Publishers Weekly;

“While we’re sorry to lose Deirdre and Carol, USA Today‘s commitment to books coverage remains unwavering. Later this year we’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of our famous book list with a host of new coverage, both print and online. Books editor Jocelyn McClurg and reviewer Bob Minzesheimer remain committed to books coverage and, with senior editors, will be actively recruiting new book reviews both inside the staff and outside.”

Bob tweeted the following yesterday:

On day my kids begin high school, I’m among 25 staffers laid off at USA Today. I’ll keep reading & writing. New

Follow him on Twitter: @bookbobminz

As a form of protest, click as many times as you can on Bob’s Booksellers pick potential hits for fall

PEOPLE Magazine’s Book Picks

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

jimmy-fallon-300As we noted last week, People magazine’s redesign under new Editorial Director, Jess Cagle, subsumes book reviews into the new upfront “People Picks” section.

In the second week of the new design, “The Best New Books” rate a bit higher than last — they are now at #6, up from #9, and feature 3 titles that are slightly more below the radar than last week’s, plus three books by “celebrities” (including “Twitter phenom” Jenny Mollen’s book of essays, I Like You Just the Way I Am; former Days of Our Lives star Alison Sweeney’s’ novel, Scared Scriptless and Fox News anchor Bret Aailer’s memoir about dealing with his son’s congenital heart disease, Special Heart).

But you can’t keep books out of popular culture; they sneak into some of the other picks:

#2 MovieHow to Train Your Dragon 2. Book Connection: Based on the kids series by Cressida Cowell, the movie opens this week (see our roundup of tie-ins). Variety calls it, “DreamWorks Animation’s strongest sequel yet — one that breathes fresh fire into the franchise, instead of merely rehashing the original. Braver than Brave, more fun than Frozen and more emotionally satisfying than so many of its live-action counterparts, Dragon delivers.”

#3 TV Drama: PBS Masterpiece Mystery miniseries, The Escape Artist. Book Connection: Show creator David Wolstencroft wrote two spy novels, Good News, Bad News and Contact ZeroWorldCat shows copies are still in many library collections.

#5 Pop Single: Rita Ora I Will Never Let You Down.  Book Connection: This one is admittedly very tenuous. Ora plays Mia, Christian’s sister, in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.

#8 TV Series: Episode 10 in the new season of Game of Thrones. Book Connection: Obvious.

The actual books, at #6 are:

I'm Having So Much Fun 9780374141042_36437  Euphoria

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, Courtney Maum, (S&S/Touchstone) — This debut is a LibraryReads pick for June and People’s “Book of the Week.”

Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, Paul Raeburn, (Macmillan/Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux) — We’re guessing that the answer is “Yes.” This is one of the issue’s many nods (including the cover story) to Father’s Day.

EuphoriaLily King, (Grove/Atlantic, June) —  Librarians have buzzed this one on GalleyChat, recommending it for fans of Horan’s Loving Frank and McLain’s The Paris Wife. It’s loosely based on Margaret Mead’s journals (if a novel based on the anthropologist’s life doesn’t sound like a promising readalike, consider that it involves a love triangle). People calls it “transporting.” Early readers we trust say, “King’s language is as lush as the landscape.”

When GriefBooks also sneak into the features features, in the form of an interview with  Mary Rockefeller Morgan, the twin of Michael Rockefeller, who disappeared in New Guinea in the early sixties. She recently updated her book about the loss, an eBook from a devision of Open Road Media, When Grief Calls Forth the Healing.

Open Road ebooks are available for library lending.

Another book on the story (which Morgan say prompted her to update her book), Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman, (HarperCollins/Morrow), was published in March.

PEOPLE Reviews Disappearing?

Friday, June 6th, 2014
Books now subsumed into "People Picks"

Books now subsumed into “People Picks”

When opening the new issue of People magazine, you may wonder where the Books section is.

Unfortunately, along with the other reviews sections, it is gone. Books, movies, TV and music will now be combined in an upfront section, “People Picks,” where they will also have new competition from apps, games, viral video and other entertainment.

In the inaugural “Picks” section, books appear towards the end (ahead of the DVD of the HBO series, True Detective and the streaming musical, Side Effects), with just three new hardcovers, all of them by well-known authors — Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, Diana Gabaldon’s Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, and Lisa See’s China Dolls — as well as three paperback reprints, also from big names.

The last issue with a Book section

The last issue with a Book section

This is the first major change to the magazine under the new Editorial Director, Jess Cagle who took over in January. It seems his predecessor, Larry Hackett, had considered making changes to the sections, but kept them to support upfront fractional advertising pages.

The book business has had to suffer the diminishing, or closing, of many book review sections. Given People magazine’s extensive reach, this may be the worst blow of them all.

New Editor for the NYT Sunday Book Review

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Pamela Paul

Pamela Paul, new editor of the NYT Book Review

What do we want from the NYT Book Review? Often discussed, that question takes on added interest now that Sam Tanenhaus is leaving his post as Editor after nine years.

He will be replaced by Pamela Paul, who has been the children’s books editor and the features editor for the Review. She is only the second woman to hold that position (Rebecca Sinkler was the first, from 1989 to 1995).

We have a simple (which is NOT synonymous with “easy”) request: do what good librarians do, approach books with passion and excitement:

Every week, make people say, “I gotta read that!”

Don’t be afraid to show your hand and champion certain titles (like the NYT Magazine did for George Saunders’ book of short stories, Tenth of December, with their cover declaring it “the best book you will read this year“)

NYT Book Review cover from 2004

A NYT Book Review cover from 2004

Make people look forward to each issue, wondering, “What’s going to be on the cover?”

Develop reviewers that people actively follow

Surprise us with a range of titles and don’t be afraid of the popular

There are reasons to think Pamela Paul may be up to that task:

She is a passionate reader — in an essay on YA books, she went way beyond the cliché of being so engrossed in a book that she missed her subway stop; she admitted to nearly ignoring her new-born because she was in the midst of The Hunger Games.

She appreciates a wide range of authors — her weekly Q&A column, “By the Book,” ranges from authors like Edward St. Aubyn to household names like Jackie Collins (who would have guessed that her favorite genre is ” tough male fiction”?)

She enjoys controversy — She stirred the waters by publishing a much-talked-about piece by Meg Wolitzer on the status of womens fiction

And, she clearly has stamina. In addition to her duties on the Book Review, she  has written for many other sections of the NYT, as well as other publications, and writes a weekly column on children’s books for the daily newspaper. She has also written three books and is raising three children.

She will need that strength. Previous editors have complained that it is a thankless job. When Chip McGrath left that position on 2003, he admitted to The New York Observer, “I have too thin a skin for this job … A lot of people feel that part of their job is to let you know in various ways how unhappy you’ve made them. That’s wearing.” John Leonard, the editor in the early 1970’s, often regarded as the “golden age” of the publication, chimed in, saying, “The job wears you out. I lasted five years. It’s not so much that the books keep coming, but the complaints keep coming.”

Pamela Paul begins that thankless job in May.