When book maven Nancy Pearl talks about her favorite reading, either to groups or on National Public Radio, she and her audience sometimes get frustrated because some of those books are out of print.
Now, as the result of a deal with Amazon.com, at least 12 of Pearls favorite novels will soon be back in print, and a portion of sales will benefit the UW scholarship Pearl and her husband endowed in 2011.
Amazon.com recently announced Book Lust Rediscoveries, which will offer its first novel April 3 to be followed by a new one every two months. Pearl has chosen and written an introduction for each book, all originally published between 1960 and 2000. Each reprint will also include discussion questions and a list of recommendations for further reading. All will be available in paperback, audiobook and Kindle format.
“These first 12 books have been so meaningful to me in my reading life,” Pearl said in an interview. “Its so wonderful that they will be available.”
Pearl, 67, has the chops to make reading recommendations. Shes written seven volumes about good reads, beginning with Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason, published in 2003. The New York Times has called Pearl “the talk of librarian circles.” Her numerous honors include two in 2011: Librarian of the Year from Library Journal and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
As an adjunct professor in the UW Information School, Pearl teaches courses on adult services in public libraries. To help with the Rediscoveries project, then-graduate student Timothy Shockley tracked copyrights for each book. Cherl Petso, a current graduate student, read the novels to make sure they are relevant to todays readers, and helped with bibliographies and discussion questions.
When the package was ready, Pearls agent offered it to major publishers. “I was just amazed that Amazon was as enthusiastic as my agent and I were,” Pearl said. “They got it. They understood why having those books would be wonderful for both readers and writers.”
The first book will be A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller. Narrator Joshua Bland tells of growing up in small-town Iowa and eventually becoming a theater director who repeatedly fails in love. In the introduction, Pearl says “the writing is spectacular but not showy; the narrators emotional pain is palpable, and its the sort of novel that readers of literary fiction will enjoy.”
The Miller book will be followed by After Life by Rhian Ellis, which begins, “First, I had to get his body into the boat.” According to Pearl, the story is “part psychological thriller, partly about mothers and daughters and partly something entirely original.”
The percentage of book sales to be donated to the scholarship fund remains to be determined, but the first $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a master of library science student next fall. Ultimately, Pearl said, shed like to see the scholarship cover a students expenses during his or her studies.
The Rediscoveries series is part of Amazons move into publishing. “Any book lover would jump at the chance to work with Nancy Pearl, but this project is especially close to our hearts since its about rediscovering and republishing great books, which was the tenet of our first imprint, AmazonEncore,” said Victoria Griffith, publisher of Amazon Publishing, in a written statement.