When I was told that sliding into this job would result in piles of books all over my house, I didn't work up the nerve to reply with the truth: There already are piles of books all over my house.

It's intimidating to pick up the bookmark thrown down by the beloved and incredible Laurie Hertzel but I'm the guy who's going to give it a try — on an interim basis for the next several months and then we'll see.

Laurie will still write about books occasionally, but her departure will leave a big ol' hole in our community — especially since books and writers and readers are such a huge part of what makes the Twin Cities tick — but I'm hoping to fill in at least part of that hole. And maybe wedge in a few books from those stacks to fill the rest of it.

So, an introduction: Although I've written about movies and theater for both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune, I was a book lover before I fell for either of those art forms. I'm not sure exactly when that happened, but my mom says I was an early reader and I know I ended up skipping some classics for young readers (although I have just learned that Laurie and I both worship at the altar of Norton Juster's "The Phantom Tollbooth"). That's because I was too eager to get to the "adult" books — especially the complete works of Agatha Christie, which I devoured in paperbacks given to me by my grandma, starting when I was 11 or so. A few years ago, I reread all the Christies chronologically and blogged about them.

I'm in a book club — more to come on that, I am sure, in the coming weeks. I read two or three books a week and, if you've spotted me at a screening or play, you may know I always have a book handy to fill the minutes before the play starts, the red light turns green or I reach my light-rail stop.

Some of my relatively recent favorites include Isabel Wilkerson's "Caste," Sarah Polley's "Run Towards the Danger," Emma Straub's "This Time Tomorrow," Jennifer Ziegler's "Worser," Patrick Radden Keefe's "Rogues," Maggie O'Farrell's "Hamnet," Timothy Egan's "A Fever in the Heartland" and Mira Jacob's "Good Talk," which I spotted on a pile last week and had to reread immediately because it's so big-hearted and smart.

That list contains a young adult book, a collection of essays, history, memoir, a graphic novel and a MacArthur "genius" grant recipient, so I hope it suggests that I'm up for almost anything. The plan is for the books pages to continue to reflect that, as they have with Laurie — and, obviously, my voice will be just one in the midst of a team of great freelancers I hope will continue to writeStar Tribune reviews.

I also hope to hear your voices. One of my favorite things about reading this paper's coverage of books is how engaged our readers are with them. I would love to hear what you're reading, who you think I should be reading, where are the best places to read and whether it's a good idea to listen to music while you read.

Long story short: Let's talk about books (please email me at books@startribune.com). Soon, anyway. Right now, I have a few books to move off my kitchen counter so I can think about making dinner.