Looking for a good book to read this weekend? Missourian Book Editor Chris Stuckenschneider has a recommendation or two (or 400) for you.
Right now she’s excited about a review copy she has of “Natchez Burning,” the first installment in an epic trilogy by Greg Iles that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage.
You can read more about it in a MO Books blog post Stuckenschneider has on emissourian.com. You’ll find the blog by hovering your computer cursor over the “Features” tab near the top of the main page until a menu appears, then clicking on MO Books Blog.
If “Natchez Burning” (being published in May) doesn’t pique your curiosity, just keep scrolling down the page. Stuckenschneider has recommended well over 400 books these last 12 years, since her column, “Novel Ideas,” began appearing in the newspaper. All of the titles are listed on the blog, and the list is continually updated.
And those are just the books for adults. Each month The Missourian also recommends a trio of children’s books in its Book Buzz column, and those titles also can be found online.
If you weren’t aware that The Missourian had a books blog, or even if you’ve checked it out once or twice before, Stuckenschneider invites you visit it now to see what it’s all about. The blog is in the process of a makeover.
It now offers daily posts, and not just book reviews, but book-related news, both local and national, and details events going on at area libraries and more.
Each Friday Stuckenschneider is posting a “Weekend Read,” a book that she will be reading over the weekend. She also wants to start an on-sale calendar at the beginning of the month so readers can see what books will be published that month.
She plans to call local book clubs and reading groups to find out what titles are on their must-read lists. And she’ll report on news from the area Friends of the Library groups at Washington and Scenic libraries.
Already the blog includes book reviews for all ages — babies, children, teens and adults — from a variety of readers, not just Stuckenschneider. That’s a way to not only increase the number of books that can be recommended (more people reading means more books to review) but to offer a wider variety of the types of books being reviewed because people have different reading tastes.
“Most people read what they like, and interestingly, reviewers do too,” said Stuckenschneider. “If you don’t like a book, it’s really hard to write a review.”
Plus, reviewers prefer to write about books they enjoy, she said, because they know a bad review can really “kill” a book, which is something no one wants to do.
“They recognize how hard it is to write a book, so generally speaking (reviewers) want to be kind.”
Stuckenschneider said she welcomes more readers who would be interested in writing guest reviews. She also welcomes suggestions from readers about what they would like to see on the blog.
Why a Blog?
For the last 12 years, Stuckenschneider has been writing book reviews and book suggestions for The Missourian, several times each month.
Book Buzz Picks are featured in the first weekend issue each month, and Novel Ideas for adults appears in the third weekend issue of the month.
In between, books for babies (ages birth to 5) are recommended in the Baby Buzz column that appears the second weekend of the month. These reviews are written by literacy advocate Nancy Nagel.
Even with these columns appearing on a regular basis, each one is only allotted so much space in the newspaper, which means there are many more good books that go without mention, said Stuckenschneider.
That’s where the blog comes in handy.
“It offers me a way to let readers know about hot new books as soon as I know about them, and also a way to share any and all book-related news that crosses my desk — like author visits to area libraries or nominations for book awards or books that would make great gifts for Easter . . .
“I see the blog as being a reading supplement, an addition that people can go to for more book news, reviews and literary events.”
“The beauty of (the blog) too is that we have so many wonderful picture books that come in and so many well-written chapter books that might not fit into a theme for Book Buzz, but this blog gives me the opportunity to share those titles with parents and grandparents . . . we can be that trusted source, that help for people searching for good books.”
Also, because of the amount of book news The Missourian prints, publishers over the years have increased the number of review copies they send to the newspaper in hopes of getting a review.
“And publishers aren’t just sending paper copies of these books, but hundreds of titles electronically,” said Stuckenschneider. There literally are too many books and not enough time or space to review them all, she said.
Stuckenschneider said she takes her job as book editor at The Missourian very seriously, not just because she loves to read, but because many papers no longer have book editors.
“I hear this consistently from publishers, there aren’t a lot of book editors at newspapers anymore, so we are gifted in this community to have a newspaper that allows us space to cover books for readers of all ages,” said Stuckenschneider.
Always Reading, Or Listening
With so many books to read and only 24 hours in a day, Stuckenschneider feels the pressure to read whenever possible.
“As a reviewer, you feel a certain loyalty to the publishers and the authors because they are taking the time to send the press releases, to send the review copies, so the frustration is the lack of time that I have,” she said.
“Even if you’re a fast reader, you have an investment of six or seven hours in a book.”
To maximize her reading time, Stuckenschneider takes advantage of modern technology, so very often she reads a book by listening to it.
“I’m a member of Audible (a company that provides digital audio books) so I can have a copy of a book but I can listen to it too,” she said. “If I’m out for a walk, I’ve got ear buds in. I’m not listening to music, I’m listening to a book.
“I listen to books in the car. At home, if I’m putting on makeup, I’m listening to a book. If I’m cooking, I’m listening to a book. If I’m doing housework, I’m listening to a book. That’s how I can read as many books as I can.”
That might sound like a burden to some, but Stuckenschneider relishes the opportunity.
“I think that I’m blessed to be a voice of books for our community, along with our librarians and teachers,” she said. “It’s my hope that the community will turn to Mo Books to read about all things book-related. It’s a simple process to log on. I look forward to hearing from others and relish their input and feedback on the blog.”