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The Biblioracle

America, You Are the Biblioracle

Today, from 2-3:00 p.m., the Biblioracle will use his magical powers to recommend the next book you’ll love. Prior to that, a call-to-arms to save the plight of reading and an announcement about the 2012 Tournament of Books reader-judge contest.

Halim Al Karim, Nations Laundry, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and XVA Gallery Dubai.

Since last we met, the Biblioracle has an important new distinction: published novelist

Or maybe it isn’t all that important. Truth be told, even with the well-wishes and congratulations and incredible opportunities to read in front of people who at least looked like they were paying attention, the birth of a book, in the grand scheme of things, just isn’t that big of a deal.

It’s not like I wasn’t previously aware of this fact. But to be on the receiving end of indifference has caused some bouts of insecurity, a creeping feeling of doubt as to whether the enterprise of writing is “worth it.”

I did some traveling to bookstores. At each store, I’d ask how things were going, and in three different stores I heard this: “We’re fighting the good fight.” I nodded my agreement, because there is no doubt that the fight is good and deserves to be fought. While an insecure debut novelist may doubt the worth of “it” for himself—the time it takes to produce his specific book—there is no doubt that books, in general, deserve the most vigorous possible defense.

But there is a subtext underneath this language, a subtext that says that while we are fighting the good fight, it is a fight we are sadly not winning. I hear this anecdotally from other sources, that books everyone figured would explode are fizzling, and more modest releases (such as my own) are barely making a sound. Oprah is off the air and the review space is shrinking. “Regular people” (non-readers) don’t have any thirst for book coverage, I’m told.

At first, this didn’t make sense, since the proliferation of book-related websites and writing is in a kind of boom phase, with more book-centric sites popping up all the time. I read more interesting writing about books than ever. But then I thought about it more. In a world where every subgroup can carve out its own parts of the Internet, book people risk becoming tribal, insular—the web becomes a fortress in which we pore over our treasures, which we don’t do enough to share with those outside the walls.

We book people are strong. We are passionate. But let’s face it, we are not legion.

Ask yourselves, how many people in your lives can’t play the Biblioracle game because they can’t actually remember the last five books they’ve read because it’s been so long since they read a single book, let alone five? If you’re like me, it’s too many. We book people are strong, we are passionate. But let’s face it, we are not legion.

We should be, though. At some point, every single American, every human being on the planet, more than anything, wanted to hear a story. Each human begged his or her parents for one more page before the lights went out. And then when they themselves learned to read, the world looked a little bit larger.

My hope is that most people just need a reminder of that fact, a re-ignition of that feeling, and all it takes is the right book.

So here’s what I’m asking you to do. After you receive your book recommendation from me, become the Biblioracle for someone else. Someone who is not a member of the tribe. Think of that person and imagine what they should read. Then when you go to acquire the book I recommend for you, grab that book for this other person and give it to them and say, “You really should read this because you’ll enjoy it, and you’ll thank me later.”

It’s easy to do. Visit your local bookstore, preferably an independent, and buy a copy. If you’re a Kindler, give the book as a gift to that person. All you need is their email address; all they need is a smart phone or tablet. If you’re a library user, check out an extra book. If you can’t afford to buy a new book, give one from your personal stash.

Honestly, let’s do this. Let’s make a start.

Now, two announcements before we begin: First, to play the game, leave a comment below with the last five books you’ve read, and I’ll reply with your next great read (my credentials have previously been explained). Given how many people tend to participate, the comments section will be open for only one hour today, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET, Wednesday, November 2, 2011. Anyone who files their request during that hour, I’ll do my best to give a recommendation. As always, you can reach the Biblioracle at or @biblioracle on Twitter.

Our second announcement: The planning for TMN’s 2012 Tournament of Books is well under way, and you’ll have a chance to become a judge. Keep an eye on the website and TMN’s Twitter feed (@themorningnews) for a contest in the next couple weeks.

Please note that the Biblioracle is now closed. No further comments will receive Biblioracle recommendations. Thanks.

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TMN contributing writer John Warner’s first novel, The Funny Man was recently published by Soho Press. He teaches at the College of Charleston and is co-color commentator for The Morning News Tournament of Books. More by John Warner

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