USA Today Selects Its Second Book Club Title [3]

With War Emblem only one win away from horse racing’s triple crown, the USA Today book club’s second book selection is a fitting one: Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand (Ballantine Books), winner of this year’s BookSense Book of the Year Award for adult nonfiction. The national newspaper announced the selection Thursday, May 23.

"It’s the middle of racing season, and we could have a Triple Crown winner for the first time in 24 years," said Carol Memmott, USA Today’s books editor. "[Seabiscuit] became a symbol of our country’s future [during the depression], and, in a post-9/11 world, it’s a good story. It’s a very uplifting, positive story that we think our readers will enjoy." The book club selection was featured on the front page of its USA Today Life [5] section.

The USA Today’s book club debuted in April, in the wake of Oprah’s surprise decision to scale back her long-running television book club (for more on Oprah’s announcement, click here [6]). The USA Today’s book club chooses one book every six weeks. During this period, the paper posts a question each week on its book club Web site message board, inviting readers to discuss the book online. At the end of the six-week period, the author holds an online chat with readers.

The club’s first book choice was the Pulitzer-prize winning Empire Falls by Richard Russo, who was schedule d to hold an online chat with readers Thursday, May 23, at 4:00 p.m. EST. And according to Memmott, thus far, "we’re very pleased with the way things are going." Though they have not tallied the total number of hits the book club site has received, "dozens and dozens participated by posting messages or e-mailing me," she said. "And we humbly appreciate the participation of Vintage Books," adding that the publisher informed her that the book club significantly increased sales of Russo’s book.

When USA Today’s book club debuted, Memmott told BTW that the online book club would choose books that have a broad scope -- appealing to both men and women, to those who like literary, as well as commercial fiction, and to teenagers and college students. Certainly, Seabiscuit fits this profile, she said, adding: "We thought we’d try a nonfiction title. It’s also available in paperback. We thought it would be accessible to many people."

Additionally, Hillenbrand will be holding online chats with readers on a weekly basis during the next six weeks -- despite suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, Memmott noted. "We think that this is very gracious and generous of her," she said. --David Grogan [7]