Thursday, February 23, 2012

Introducing "The Listener Book Club"

Regular readers of Crime Watch will be aware that I sporadically write feature articles about crime writers for the New Zealand Listener, arguably our country's most acclaimed magazine. My fellow Ngaio Marsh Award judge Bernard Carpinter writes the monthly crime fiction round-up for the magazine (read his latest column here - some cracking reads for February).

Today, the Listener has announced some very exciting news about a brand new venture in association with Booksellers NZ: the establishment of "The Listener Book Club", which officially launches next Friday, 2 March 2012.

Both Megan Dunn, Projects Manager for Booksellers NZ, and Guy Somerset, Arts & Books Editor for the Listener, had been contemplating establishing a nationwide book club - so now they've joined forces to bring something quite cool to readers.

Working on a four-week cycle, one book each month will be discussed in a variety of ways: the Listener will kick off with a lively interview in the magazine and online with the author of the selected book. In week two, a podcast of three booksellers talking about the book hosted by either Guy or Megan will be available online. The podcast material will live on The Listener website, and the Booksellers’ site will carry links. In week three there will be online written conversation and commentary from a real book club, and then in week four of the cycle, there will be a reviewer’s take on the book, both in the magazine and online, plus reader comment and reaction on Twitter, other social media and the Listener Book Club webpage, hosted by The Listener with Booksellers New Zealand input. It’s a chance for readers to have a say!

Also in week four, the cycle begins again, with the announcement to the public of the next book club title... and the author interview the following week starts week one of the next month’s activity.

Importantly, unlike some media-led book clubs abroad, The Listener Book Club is not tied to any particular e-buying set up run by the publication - instead, it encourages readers to source and purchase from their local independent bookstores.

You can read more about The Listener Book Club, including comments from Megan Dunn and Guy Somerset, in the official Booksellers NZ press release here.

Of course, I'm hoping that over the course of the coming months a couple of crime novels might be included in the monthly selections (perhaps even a New Zealand crime novel) - and on that front, things are starting off pretty well with today's announcement that the very first 'book of the month', so to speak, for The Listener Book Club is BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by SJ Watson.

Somerset says the first book choice is “A classy literary thriller about identity and what it means to be human. It is something people can get their teeth into with issues that will provoke discussion.”

He encourages New Zealanders to read the selected books, and participate in the discussions. “Join in the conversation on our website and Twitter!/nzlbookclub] and keep an eye out for the hashtag #nzlbookclub. Our mission is to always choose books that will give you plenty to think and talk about.” There is also a Facebook page: New Zealand Listener Book Club.

But hey, in this age of innovation and technology, and the breaking down of geographic boundaries online, there's no reason why some of our international Crime Watch readers can't also join in with The Listener Book Club, and share their thoughts on the monthly selections on the Facebook page and elsewhere. I'm sure plenty of you have read BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, and might like to share your opinions with New Zealand readers and others.

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