Late in 1997, I noticed a development I believed would become a permanent phenomenon--books by authors of African descent and books about black life and culture were flying off the shelves. At that time I had already been a magazine publisher for 15 years, so combining my own passion for books with this exciting market trend, I launched a new publication. Black Issues Book Review was the result.
From the magazine's inception, I discussed publishing a list of top-selling books with my founding team, Susan McHenry and Adrienne Ingrum (both of whom, I'm delighted to say, are still working with BIBR). After much deliberation, we agreed not to do it then. Our tiny staff, all part-timers working from home-based offices, could not possibly assemble a credible list. We all agreed to revisit the idea "one day."
That day has arrived. Half-way through our fourth year of continuous publication, BIBR's still-tiny staff, now working together in a very small midtown Manhattan editorial office jammed with books, has met this goal we set in the beginning. On page 72 (and at www.bibook review.com), you'll find BIBR's debut FLYING OFF THE SHELVES listing.
For us, a list that had integrity would survey the full spectrum of reading choices that black authors offer readers. It would scan the current crop of books targeted for promotion by publishers, and extend far beyond, because the sales-life of many black books results not from media blitz and author appearances. Instead, a black title's sales can grow quietly for years and endure for decades, sometimes even a century after an author's death, as our community, reader by reader, connects with the work.
We wanted our list to respect the book-buying habits of African Americans, from those who pay regular visits to their local Black-owned bookstore to pick up what's new and recommended; to those book lovers who linger over cappuccino after browsing among the 100,000-plus titles available in chain superstores like Borders; to those busy but equally serious book...