Nancy Pearl has a librarian action figure created in her likeness. You know she must be a dynamic, popular person with that kind of claim to fame!
And she is. A librarian and bookseller for years, Pearl's knowledge of and passion for books are both wide and deep. She loves books this is clear and she is dedicated to finding the just right book for the right reader. She is known, in fact, for her refreshing lack of pretense. She is not out to get you to read the most prestigious book she can find, but instead wants to connect you with the book that you will most adore. She believes the enjoyment of reading is the foundation for literacy, and she has offered that the more a person reads, the more quality books he or she demands.
She is the former Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book (at the Seattle Public Library), has a monthly television show called Book Lust with Nancy Pearl, based on the wildly popular "guide to good reading" she wrote in 2003, and she appears regularly on NPR's Morning Edition to talk about books. Library Journal also named her Librarian of the Year in 2011.
While at the Seattle Public Library, Pearl created the "If All of Seattle Read the Same Book" program, designed to promote both literacy and community connection. It was so popular that many other cities riffed on her program, and "One City One Book" programs sprouted up all over the country.
In 2012, after 20 traditional publishers turned her down, Amazon agreed to publish out-of-print books that Pearl determines necessary to reissue. This project, called Book Lust Rediscoveries, aims to reissue approximately 6 books a year that were originally published between 1960 and 2000. These are books that, in Pearl's opinion, should never have been allowed to fall out-of-print. Pearl writes the introduction to the book, and also offers pointers for book club discussions and further book recommendations.
Her venture with Amazon set off a fireworks display of criticism. The much-adored librarian said in a February 2012 article in the New York Times: "I understand and sympathize with the concerns about Amazon's role in the world of books. If I had to do this deal all over again ... well, it's a hard question. But I would still want these books back in print."
Should Nancy Pearl have signed a contract with Amazon? It is a question that only seems to beget more questions. Did she sign a deal with the devil (of independent booksellers and publishers at any rate?) Did Amazon have ulterior motives? Is it worth it in the end because she has reissued important books that would have otherwise faded into the sunset?
As an avid reader, lover of books, and independent bookstore champion, I really don't know the answers to any of these questions. But I do know that Nancy Pearl is pretty amazing.
A list (with summaries) of the Book Lust Rediscoveries can be found here. To date, reissued books include:
This article is from the July 10, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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