From Woodbury: Twelfth Night on the Literary Scene

Does attending an author reading oblige you to buy a book?

Last night, I attended a reading by Michael Perry, author of Visiting Tom: A Man, A Highway and the Road to Roughneck Grace at The Valley Bookseller in Stillwater.

The event was the 12th author reading I’ve attended in my lifetime. Ten of those dozen readings have been in the past 12 months.

I’m a reader, yes. I plow though books like a giddy suburbanite with a new snow blower after a blizzard. I collect books. Loan books. Rave about books. Keep lists of books on Goodreads and Amazon.

But I’d never learned to appreciate the full experience of hearing directly from authors of my favorite books until recently.

I’ve learned that author appearances give readers an opportunity to be curious. I probably never attended author appearances before because I didn’t know I was allowed to be curious about why a book was written a certain way, or how a character was developed. I merely accepted the words as presented on the page. Then gave each title my own private thumbs up or down.

But I’ve discovered that hearing directly from an author deepens my understanding of a story. Other readers in the audience ask questions I hadn’t thought of, sparking thoughts on alternative perspectives.

Various insights can be probed through book clubs. But book clubs require me to read material chosen by members of the club instead of what I’m in the mood to read next. Attending an author appearance can have the feel of a book club discussion with the added insight of the writer but without having to have read the book.

That being said, author appearances are an obvious means of promoting books in hopes that you will indeed buy and read them. So, is it OK to attend an author reading and not buy the book? A blogger friend shares thoughts on this and other questionable shopping strategies. Click here to read more from her.

Personally, I don’t believe a free event obligates me to purchase a book. Although I’m happy to do so if I don’t already own the title and desire to own it in hardcover. Sometimes I prefer to buy or borrow paperbacks or eBooks.

And sometimes, I hear an author and leave uninterested in buying their book at all. But that’s not typical. Usually I’m gleeful to tell the world about a book that I’ve recently heard about or enjoyed.

Not all author events are free. But paid events can be worth the price of admission. The Talking Volumes series offered by Minnesota Public Radio is a wonderful opportunity to hear from renowned authors in the spacious yet still intimate atmosphere of the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. You can purchase the whole series or individual tickets.

Last season, I saw Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit From the Goon Squad. This season, I’m excited to hear from Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone. Both books are WONDERFUL reads that you should buy.

Like books? Why not attend an author event at a Twin Cities library or bookseller? Follow bookstores on Facebook and Twitter. Share upcoming events online. Make it a night out enjoying the local literary scene with friends. I’ll bet it won’t take you long to get to a dozen.


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