Good Morning America Asks Book Clubs to 'Read This!'

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    Pulpwood Queens recommend Ann Packer’s The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

    Oprah’s decision to scale back her book club continues to have a ripple effect within the book industry, as another national book club was launched this week. On Thursday, June 13, ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) debuted its monthly "Read This!" segment, in which one book club will recommend a book of its choice to another book club and GMA viewers. In introducing the new segment to viewers, co-anchor Diane Sawyer described "Read This!" as similar to handing "the book you love to a friend." Only, in this case, it would be book clubs handing the book they love to millions of viewers and another book club from around the nation.

    Kicking off "Read This!" was the Pulpwood Queens book club of Jefferson, Texas, which was founded by independent bookseller and hairdresser Kathy Patrick, of the bookstore/hair salon Beauty and the Book (for more on Patrick ’s store, click here.) The club recommended The Dive From Clausen’s Pier (Knopf), Ann Packer’s debut novel, to the Mostly We Eat book club of Bernardsville, New Jersey. Both clubs were featured simultaneously on a split screen via live remotes during the segment.

    "I pride myself in picking authors with new voices," Patrick said in explaining her book club’s choice, which has over 100 members, to co-hosts Sawyer and Charles Gibson, as well as to the Mostly We Eat book club. Packer’s book details a couple that grows up together and gets engaged. When the woman begins to question the relationship, the man shows off, and jumps off Clausen’s Pier into the shallow reservoir and ends up a quadriplegic. "The book asks the question, ‘What would you do in this situation?’" Patrick said.

    In talking with BTW after her GMA appearance, Patrick explained that she tries to pick books for her book club from "authors that normally wouldn’t be heard, or don’t have a big name." She said that The Dive from Clausen’s Pier has "so many shades of gray, it lends itself to discussion."

    While Gibson gave a very favorable review of the book and described Packer as a "marvelous writer," the Bernardsville club, which combines its culinary loves with reading ("we talk books and chow down"), took a wait-and-see approach to the choice. "We’re suspicious of big hair," said one Mostly We Eat member in reference to the Pulpwood Queens. The Mostly We Eat book club will be featured on the next segment, July 11, where they will recommend a book of their choice to a book club yet to be announced.

    GMA’s "Read This!" joins a number of other recently announced book clubs, which cropped up soon after Oprah announced her decision to scale back her book club (for more on Oprah’s decision, click here). These include the USA Today’s book club, ABC’s Regis and Kelly Live!’s "Reading with Ripa" book club, and NBC’s The Today Show’s book club, which debuts Thursday, June 20.

    A spokesperson for GMA said that the show had been considering doing a book club segment since "early March." Not coincidentally, it was around that time, March 12, that the Pulpwood Queens first appeared on the popular morning show -- at the behest of a GMA producer who read a profile of the eclectic book/hairdressing salon in Book magazine. "[The producer] called us and said ‘We want you to come on the show and announce your Book Club selection,’" Patrick said.

    Patrick believes that "Read This!" is going to be a "good thing" for both booksellers and lovers of good literature because "book clubs know good books," she said. "[GMA] really wants to know what book clubs want to read."

    At the end of the segment, Sawyer urged members of book clubs to contact GMA and "tell us about your book clubs." For more information on "Read This!," to read an excerpt from Packer’s book, or to contact GMA, go to http://abcnews.go.com/Sections/GMA/. --David Grogan