The Seal of Approval

What’s in a seal?  Prestige, praise, protection, a blessing.  Seals have existed for many centuries.  They date back to some of the world’s first civilizations.  Today we use them mostly to award prizes.  If you’re a book lover of literary prizes, then you’re used to seeing seals on winning books and runners-up.  Seals are now also showing up on new releases and back list books for book clubs.  Oprah’s Book Club, Reese’s Book Club, Emma Watson’s Book Club, even Jimmy Fallon, and the list goes on.

I hope this trend isn’t going to continue but it seems as though people are really catching the reading bug because of them .  That’s fantastic!  However the thing that annoys me about some of these celebrity book clubs is that when the book is published there has to be a giant seal printed on the front cover for the book club.  This drives me mad!  Why is it that publishing companies have to put Oprah’s seal on every book she chooses for her book club?

When the public decides to buy a book that happens to have the Oprah book club seal, it looks like we’re all joining her book club when we aren’t.  It’s great for the author who gets loads of publicity because his/her book was chosen to be discussed for the club.  Sadly for collectors, like myself,  the Oprah and Reese cover seals don’t cut it.

November 13th, 2018 Becoming by Michelle Obama was released.  I was ecstatic but when I heard that Becoming was chosen for Oprah’s book club, I hoped that there would be some pre-orders that were published without the seal.  First edition hardcover books with a book club seal on the front is just disheartening.

The 13th I looked at all of the pictures on Instagram that rolled through my feed of Becoming.  Everybody was so proud and overjoyed by the release of this book.  But there was a common feeling lurking under many of these posts. “I would have preferred that the cover didn’t contain a Oprah Book Club seal.”  Now this is a very common thought contrary to what most people would think.  It’s time that publishing companies start listening more to their customers, the avid readers and book collectors on this one.  We are all prepared to buy books but we’d prefer you omit publishing them with book club seals.

I know publishers probably think that the seal of approval encourages the public to buy more books.  Avid readers who buy a lot of books don’t need a seal of approval on a book to be convinced to buy it.  Most of us do our research and we know what we want to buy and read.  There are people who just refuse to buy any books with book club and literary prize seals on them.  In my opinion, these so-called seals of approval make the value of the first edition decrease.

Now after pre-ordering my copy of Becoming from Amazon, it arrived sadly with the dreaded Oprah seal.  So I had to hunt for a copy with no seal.  I realized that the British copies do not have any seals on them.  On the hunt for a British copy, I found and ordered a copy of Becoming from The Book Depository.  My copy came from the UK and it doesn’t contain the Oprah seal of approval.  Thank goodness was my sigh of relief once the box was finally opened.  Becoming looking perfectly beautiful.

So what can we do to try to get books to not contain seals of approval from celebrity book clubs?  I think we should all take to our computers and write letters to publishing companies, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc and urge them to stop printing book club seals on book covers or at least print only half of them with seals.  At least this way there would be a possibility for book lovers to be able to buy a book without a seal.  This could be done since now we know that they produced all of the UK copies without seals.  What’s stopping publishing houses from publishing only half the books with seals?  Comment below and let me know what you think about this.

Bye 2018. Hello 2019 Literary Goals!

I can hardly believe that 2019 has arrived so quickly.  2018 was a good reading year as a whole for me because I did complete my Goodreads goal to read 60 books.  I also read 461 more pages than last year.  However, there were quite a few things that did not go as planned that I hope to improve this year.

I didn’t get a chance to read very many Caribbean lit books. I managed to read 3 – one poetry collection Satellite City and Other Stories by  Alecia McKenzie is a wonderful short story collection that plunges the reader into the ambience of living on an island and Jamaican culture. , The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Afro-Dominican writer, is YA novel in verse that will grab your heart and won’t let it go. It’s beautifully lyrical and relatable to all ages. This is a book not to miss, and finally Slave Old Man a short literary fiction novella written to perfection by Patrick Chamoiseau.  The beautiful descriptions take you through the plush green sinister nature of Martinique to the uncertain life of an old slave who finally seeks freedom. All three are excellent books that are well worth 4.5 -5 stars. So I will definitely continue on my Caribbean journey because I still have much to discover and experience.

I also joined the #readingblackoutchanllenge(=to read only African-American writers during the year) which I did for half of the year. Of my 60 books read, 35 books were by African-American writers. This was an interesting challenge.  It got me started on reading the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley.  I managed to read the first four books and they were really good.  There are a total of 13 books in the series so I’m going to try to see how many I can get through this year. Reading this series was a great reading surprise for me. I couldn’t believe how much I liked them and kept asking myself why it took me so long to start reading them.

So many books, so little time is the phrase we should all have engraved somewhere. How we torture ourselves over all of the new books coming out each year. Well I won’t be doing that this year.  I have already pre-ordered a few but I will be focusing on trying to finish reading all the books by certain authors, for example I still need to read Love and Paradise to finish all of Toni Morrison’s books.I still have books to finish by Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, even Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and many others. My year will be devoted to backlist books (If you want to join me use #backlistbooks2019 when you post about a booul you’re reading that isn’t from this year.) and some new ones here and there.

As for reading challenges, I’ll be choosing them as I go along during the year, but I have decided to participate in the Ghana reading challenge(spearheaded by African Book Addict, go check out her blog for more info), which is to read 5 books within the year which are by a Ghanaian writer.  It turns out I have quite a few which are already on my backlist for this year. I’ll also be trying to read at least 10 big books that are 400 pages and over this year.  I do this challenge every year because it helps me not forget those huge door stops that have a tendency top be overlooked because of their size.  We have to remember that big is not always synonymous with fear.  There are some great big books pout there and I hope I’m going to put my hands on at least ten of them.

Now, I’d love to read more than 60 books but I don’t dare set my total Goodreads goal for more books. Last year the goal was set at 60 and this year I sat the goal at 50.  If I get a chance to read more I will be thrilled, but essentially I’d like to be able to choose 4 and 5 star books. I reaching for quality.

So, that’s all for the reading goals but I do have some writing goals concerning this blog and that’s to write at least 1 blog post a week and to finish each month with a recap of what I read for the month.  This means I won’t be recapping over on my YouTube channel.  I’d like to balance my time between here and YouTube. The other place where you can get bookish updates from me is Instagram and Twitter.  Click the links to follow me over there.  Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and to support the blog, my YouTube channel, and Instagram! I really appreciate it.  2019 is going to be a stellar year all around and the bookish communities seem to be gearing up  for some great reading and sharing!  Let me know below how your 2018 in reading went and what you have planned as reading goals for 2019.