Raise your hand—or tap your screen or something—if you read Slate’s “Book Club” feature. If you do, you know that it’s not a book club in the traditional, chairs-in-a-circle sense. Instead, it’s our way of covering new books: In lieu of publishing traditional reviews, we assign a book to two writers and ask them to e-mail each other about it for a couple of days. We publish the entries in real time, just a few minutes after they’re filed.
When The Book Club debuted, we used different writers each week, usually because they were experts on the particular books being discussed. We were proud to feature Luc Sante and Roger Shattuck on At Home With the Marquis de Sade, Bill Wyman and Ann Powers on rock ’n’ roll books, and James Surowiecki and Bryan Burrough on J.P. Morgan. But starting last year, we decided to replace these guests with a regular, closed group: several permanent participants (they’re listed) who would act as stand-ins for the regular reader. Experts, schmexperts, we thought—let’s see how the generalists do.
Very well, it turns out. But then we realized: Why have stand-ins for regular readers when you can have actual regular readers? So we’ve decided to really put our money where our mouth is—or in other words, to put our readers where our book critics are. Which is to say: We’d like to find one or two or five especially insightful and witty readers to join our already-established crew.
To apply for the job, please write us a Book Club entry. Ideally, you’ll choose a book that the club has done in the past year (click here to start scrolling through the archives). But you can choose another recent book if you like. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be new—you can do a classic. Or a book The Book Club hasn’t done—as long as it has some popular appeal.
Make your entry a cross between a book review and an e-mail you might write to your cleverest friend about a particularly fascinating book. (Remember, we’re not just looking for terrific essayists but also people who flourish in the discussion format. Responding to points a Book Clubber has already made is encouraged.) Keep it digestible—400 to 800 words is about right. Both journalists and laypeople are invited to apply.
Below are a couple of recommended discussions. Use them either to familiarize yourself with the format or as a jumping-off point for your own contributions. Here’s a list of some Book Club discussions:
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
Diane Ravitch’s Left Back and Jonathan Kozol’s Ordinary Insurrections
Don DeLillo’s The Body Artist
Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and other books on body image
Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation
Raymond Carver’s Call Me If You Need Me and Rick Moody’s Demonology
James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword and Garry Wills’Papal Sin
David Halberstam’s War in a Time of Peace
E-mail your entries to us at firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct. 31. Have fun, and we hope to hear from you soon.
Click for the official contest rules.