I grew up in Duluth, in a noisy house crowded with siblings. The only way to get any peace was to use the magic line, "Shhhh! I'm reading!"
And people would instantly hush. It was the one thing we all had in common.
My father was an English professor, my mother a librarian. When I was quite small, she caught me walking out of the bathroom with my nose in a racy issue of "The Evergreen Review," which she quietly plucked from my hands.
This did not deter me. I just picked up something else and buried my nose in that. I was always reading.
Starting this month, I'm the books editor at the Star Tribune. My plan, over time, is to revamp these pages, giving them a slightly broader focus -- not just book reviews of the most recent offerings, but an engaging weekly homage to the joy of reading.
We'll still run reviews, of course -- here on Sunday, as well as every Monday and Wednesday inside Variety. But we'll also run newsy columns, essays, book excerpts and tons of recommendations -- many, I hope, from you.
I want to cover not only the newest and most interesting and intriguing books, but also books that have been around for a while that you might have missed. I want to keep a much closer eye on the local and regional writing world.
And I want, very much, to know what you are reading.
I'm hoping you'll find these pages (and our online coverage) to be a place where you can have a great conversation about all aspects of reading.
This isn't my first stint at books coverage. I was the books editor at the Duluth News-Tribune some years ago, and a books editor again in the mid-'90s when I was senior editor of Minnesota Monthly magazine. For the last 12 years, I've been here at the Strib, editing in a variety of roles, the last four years as Projects Editor.
And I have been reading the whole time. Nonfiction. Literary fiction. Popular fiction. Memoir, biography, history and travel books. Also, magazines, newspapers, matchbook covers, cereal boxes and whatever scraps of paper I find in the bottom of my purse.
I've written a couple of books (and am working on a third), I've published a few short stories, I've been a writer and reader all my life. And the thing is, here in the Twin Cities, none of that is particularly special. You all know what a great place this is for reading. For years, Minneapolis and St. Paul have ranked first or second as the nation's most literate cities.
That's because of you.
So pour yourself a cup of coffee and settle in. Let me know what works here, and what doesn't. Reading is a lot of things -- illuminating, educating, thought-provoking, challenging. But at its core, reading is fun. I want these pages to be fun, too.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune's books editor.