I have picked up a lot of good books at Barnes and Noble on their “Discover Great New Writers” shelf, which I don’t think I would have found otherwise, and was curious to learn more about how they picked these books. The program, which began in 1990, aims “to highlight works of exceptional literary quality that might otherwise be overlooked in a crowded book marketplace.” They vet the books at two levels. Publishers suggest new titles, which a group of “Barnes & Noble bookseller volunteers” go through four times a year and pull out a group to feature each season. (Here is a link to the fall 2013 list.) Then once a year they engage a handful of published writers to vet the larger list and select one fiction and one non-fiction “Discover Award” winner for the year.
They also have a blog, with posts written by Miwa Messer, the director of the program, where she writes about and interviews writers featured on their shelves. I’ve been curious about a book she wrote about earlier this month, Caleb Crain’s Necessary Errors: A Novel, which is about expats living in Prague in the 90s.
I think this is a valuable program and reflects the importance of booksellers in the marketplace, especially those who curate the content for us!