Book Reviewer Bob Minzesheimer
What it's like to read for a living!
Kid Reporter Cecilia Gault (left) with book reviewer Bob Minzesheimer and his daughter Kate (center) at a recent interview in Grand Central Station, New York City. (Photo Courtesy Cecilia Gault)
Bob Minzesheimer gets paid to read. He is the book critic for USA Today, a national daily newspaper. His job is to read all the latest books for young people and write about what he thinks of them.
"A book critic helps people decide what they might want to read," Minzesheimer told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps in a recent interview. "Or you tell people about books they'll never read, but they may be interested in the topic anyway."
Since he loves to read, he says it is a great job. His career as a writer started as a reporter when he covered mostly breaking news and politics. He wrote book reviews in his spare time for fun. Then, 12 years ago, he was offered the chance to become a full-time book critic.
More than 1,000 books are published each year, but Minzesheimer doesn't read them all. His editor decides which books he'll review. He reads eight to 16 books a month for his reviews.
"The hardest part of the job is selecting, because there are so many books," he said. "I read a very, very small portion of the books being published."
When he's not reading for work, he chooses his own books, and he has a few different genres that he prefers, starting with history.
"I like sort of a slice of history that I may not know that much about," he said. He recommended The Big Burn about a wildfire in 1910. "It was the biggest [wildfire] in American history and I never heard about it before. The writer made it very much come alive."
His next favorite genre is memoir.
"The best memoirs are sometimes by people you've never heard of," he said. "Their life is not just about their life—it's that their life tells you a bigger story."
Good fiction is also a favorite, says Minzesheimer, especially "when you fall into a book and you can't get out and you start thinking about the characters like they're real people."
Minzesheimer loves reading great novels because of their great characters.
"Being great characters doesn't mean that they're great people, but that they're interesting," he said. "[All great novels have] characters who are complicated like real people. For instance, To Kill a Mocking Bird has so many great characters and that's what makes it a great book."
Minzesheimer's daughter Kate joined him on his interview at Grand Central Station in New York City. She, too, loves to read and likes the Rainbow Magic series. Minzeheiber added that his favorite kids' books are ones "that are not too hard to read but are still challenging."
"I think all books should push kids a little bit and introduce them to a world they don't know anything about," he said. "Sometimes that can be a real world or a fantasy world."
When he's not reviewing books, he also writes about the future of publishing. He prefers paper books to electronic ones, but knows change is inevitable.
"I still like to turn the pages, but I think Kate is going to grow up reading on a screen," he said.
To read some of Minzesheimer's book reviews, check out a page of his stories on USA Today's website.
For more tips from professional journalists, check out the Scholastic Kids Press Corps Tips from the Pros page.
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