My magazine pile has diminished the last few years as I’ve had less time to spend flipping through glossy pages. But I still like to keep up with the ultimate guilty pleasure, People, not only to follow the latest celeb gossip, but also to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s truly commercial as far as music, tv, and yes, even books. Their regular book coverage is such an unusual blend of titles, almost always paying attention to the books that everyone is talking about, the commercial ones at least. A few recent books reviewed or covered include the new John Grisham, Nora Ephron’s latest nonfiction, former White House communications director Nicolle Wallace’s first Washington novel, and Jessica Seinfeld’s second cookbook. Earlyword.com has a list of all the books they review each week. You can see the broad range of well-known and noteworthy authors, but I wonder if they don’t compromise on quality when considering what to highlight and if they don’t underestimate that their readers just might be interested in a more literary novel, or a more serious piece of nonfiction.
The coverage is limited to just a few pages per issue so there’s not a lot of room for lots of titles. Given that fact, I’m fascinated that they almost always give 3-4 stars (out of 4) to everything they review. So does that mean they only review books they think are really good? Or are they choosing titles they think their readers will enjoy? Or do they have really easy critics? Or is it just books that they know are the ones that will be getting the most publicity in other media? If the latter is the case, I’d be surprised that they are all so well reviewed. I don’t know the answers, and I think it’s probably some combination of all of these things, but I know I’m always curious to see what’s highlighted each week. And while I don’t always like their reviews or the books they choose to focus on, I am grateful that they still have a Books section at all in this difficult market!
I wonder what our readers think of People‘s choices, both in terms of what they are highlighting and reviewing, and if the reviews have any weight with consumers buying books. I’m not sure there’s much direct impact on sales, especially since so many of the titles are also covered in other media, but I do think the number of eyes the magazine gets is great publicity for any book that’s covered, especially since it’s bound to get a good review! Is People worth reading for book reviews and coverage, and have you ever purchased a book because you saw it in the magazine? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.