Book Club Confidential: Free books! The only cost is word of mouth

Things are heating up over here in Book Club Confidential land, in their own particular way. Why, I’ve got people with books in their hands beating down my door!

Author Robert P. Johnson has written me a nice long letter telling me that he owes his success in writing to our local book clubs. Last year, he says, 14 clubs took his recent book “Thirteen Moons: A Year in the Wilderness” as assigned reading, and those are the clubs he knows about. If not for the clubs, his book would have disappeared when his publisher Capra Press went out of business.

In fact, Mr. Johnson’s book was the last off the press of the 52-year-old company before it closed its doors. And that meant no promotion, not even enough money to send galley proofs to reviewers, he says.

The book follows a year the author spent in the Sierra Nevada Wildness, living in a tepee. Talk about escaping the rat race! Mr. Johnson meets all sorts of characters, not all of them human, and has as his companion a dog named Bud.

Now, I have to say that I haven’t read the book, but it sounds interesting. gives it great reviews that don’t seem to be written by Mr. Johnson’s family members, and, as he says, 14 book clubs, folks, 14!

Success means a second printing, and as a way of showing thanks to our book club community, Robert P. Johnson is offering free — yes, that’s right, free — signed copies of his book to any club that decides to read it. All he asks is that they promote it by word of mouth afterward in time for this summer’s second printing. What a deal, I say. You can contact Mr. Johnson at 564-0878.


More publicity! Mary Heebner, one of our fantastic painters here in town, has just had her work featured in a book put out to celebrate Pablo Neruda’s 100th birthday. Harper Collins, in collaboration with RAYO, has published “On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea by Pablo Neruda,” which pairs Mr. Neruda’s poems with Ms. Heebner’s ocean-themed paintings. It’s been a five-year labor of love for the artist, and until Harper Collins picked it up, Ms. Heebner worried that it might never find its audience. The translations are by Alastair Reed and there’s an afterword by Antonio Skarmenta, who wrote “Il Postino.”

It’s a handsome, slim volume. There’s more info at


All this talk of beautiful books has got me thinking of the other meaning of book club, as in a shopping club, as in stocking up your library. I ran across those Heritage Press books at the Book Den the other day. If you don’t think you know them, you may have seen them: hardcover books of all sizes and shapes, in their own slip cases, all reprints of “classics,” all with large, slightly dated illustrations. Yes, they were cheaper versions of the books from the Limited Editions Club, and collectors look down their nose at them, according to Eric at the Book Den, but $20 to $50 for a smashingly well-designed book compared to something running into the thousands, what’s not to like? More on this later, but I wonder if there’s anything comparable now? Does anybody collect these books still? In the meantime, I’m going to dust my bookshelves and take up pipe smoking.

E-mail Ted Mills at

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