When Allison Nelson and I first started working on Bookmarks more than 12 years ago, we half-joked that the last thing the world needed was another magazine devoted solely to opinions about books. We were not interested in being yet another source for book reviews; instead, we wanted to spend our time synthesizing the many opinions and reviews that were already out there.
But we wanted more than just published reviews from major newspapers; we also wanted to include reader opinions. Our "Have You Read" column, which publishes reader recommendations and top ten lists, got its start in our very first issue. The Book Group profile column soon followed. As we put together that first issue, we didn't have any readership, so we had to call in favors from friends and family.
The "Have You Read" column remains one of my favorite parts of the magazine. I'm not just interested in the book recommendations; I love piecing together the personality of the person who submitted them. Is he or she a twisted combination of highbrow and lowbrow fiction and nonfiction? Focused on tearjerkers, or memoirs, or short stories, or a mix? Prone to stay close to the best-seller lists or very far away? We love themed lists as well, where the reader suggests 10 books on a particular topic, genre, or feeling.
One reader sent in six lists...