July 6 – 12: “Do you encourage your family and community to read more?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5ITW members Elena Taylor, Paul Levine, Joanna Davidson Politano, Melissa Kosci, Paul D. Marks, Elizabeth Goddard, TG Wolff and Frank Zafiro join us this week as we talk about our impact on those around us. Do you encourage your family and community to read more? What can we do to gain future readers? Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along. You won’t want to miss it!


Melissa Kosci is a fourth-degree black belt in and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. In her day job as a commercial property manager, she secretly notes personal quirks and funny situations, ready to tweak them into colorful additions for her books. She and Corey, her husband of twenty years, live in Florida, where they do their best not to melt in the sun.


Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat. His short stories have won numerous awards: Windward was included in the Best American Mystery Stories of 2018 and won the Macavity Award. His story Ghosts of Bunker Hill was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award.  Brendan DuBois, NY Times best-selling author, says Paul’s latest novel The Blues Don’t Care is “finely written” and “highly recommended.”


Elena Taylor wrote the humorous Eddie Shoes Mystery Series under the name Elena Hartwell. Now she returns to her dramatic roots—she spent over 20 years in the theater—with this darker, more psychological tale. When she’s not writing, she’s either working with writers one-on-one as a developmental editor with Allegory Editing, or spending time with her two horses at the stables or her two cats, one dog, and one husband at their home in beautiful Snoqualmie Valley, Washington.


Paul Levine worked as a newspaper reporter, a law professor and a trial lawyer before becoming a full-time novelist. Obviously, he cannot hold a job. Paul claims that writing fiction comes naturally: he told whoppers for many years in his legal briefs. His books have been translated into 23 languages, none of which he can read. In Germany, his first novel, “TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD,” has recently been published as “In Vertretung Der Toten.”


Joanna Davidson Politano writes historical novels of mystery and romance, including her debut Lady Jayne Disappears. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan



Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling author of more than 40 books, including Never Let Go, Always Look Twice, and the Carol Award–winning The Camera Never Lies. Her Mountain Cove series books have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Awards and the Carol Awards. Goddard is a seventh-generation Texan.



TG Wolff writes thrillers and mysteries that play within the gray area between good and bad, right and wrong. Cause and effect drive the stories, drawing from 20+ years’ experience in civil engineering, where “cause” is more often a symptom of a bigger, more challenging problem. Diverse characters mirror the complexities of real life and real people, balanced with a healthy dose of entertainment. T G Wolff holds a master’s degree in civil engineering and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.


Frank Zafiro was a police officer in Spokane, Washington, from 1993 to 2013. He retired as a captain. He is the author of numerous crime novels, including the River City novels and the Stefan Kopriva series. He lives in Redmond, Oregon, with his wife Kristi, dogs Richie and Wiley, and a very self-assured cat named Pasta. He is an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist.



  1. What a great question! Reading is so vital to our lives and our future. People are reading all the time whether or not they realize it, of course—content is king on the internet. Books are made into movies, and movies are developed from scripts and on and on. But of course, I encourage everyone around me to read more. The best method is to teach by example. But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes all that’s needed is to develop the love of reading by offering or suggesting a novel that you know will be well-received. Case in point, my daughter in her early teenage years, was not a reader. How could that be? I was an avid reader—and I got that from my mother. I was also a writer. I selected a historical novel for her to read as part of her curriculum enrichment. A novel that I knew she had to fall in love with, and it worked. She spent the entire day reading the novel—and I let her. Then she begged me for the next book in the series. Mission accomplished! Now, she too, is an avid reader. With so much else stealing our attention away from the time commitment of reading a novel, all we can do is stay on task and continue to encourage others that there is nothing out there, no other experience like getting lost in a novel.

  2. It was much easier when I was a bookseller to really promote reading because I had so many resources at my disposal. Now I utilize Goodreads and Facebook to talk about the books i’m enjoying and use any opportunity that someone asks for book recommendations to encourage more reading.

  3. Before I respond directly to the question an anecdote and sorry if this is a little long: When my wife and I were looking for the house prior to our current house we noticed something odd, at least odd to us. We’d go in various houses in different parts of Los Angeles. But, unlike some of the shows on HGTV, you could still see the real people’s stuff in their houses. Their junk, ugly sofa, hideous drapes and kids’ toys strewn all over, laundry baskets, cluttered closets, etc. One thing we didn’t see much of were books. Sure, a house here or there had them, but the majority didn’t. And if they did they had a coffee table book or two of some artist they thought would make them look chic or intelligent or maybe a book of aerial views of L.A. One place we expected to see lots of books was in kids’ rooms or a potboiler on their parents’ nightstands. But, alas, the “cupboards” were bare.

    This was a while back, so a little before smart phones, Kindles and e-readers. So, it’s not like all their multitudinous libraries were in e-form. No, there just weren’t many books to be seen.

    We found this odd, as we have books stuffed to the rafters, as do most of our friends. Here, there and everywhere, in the living room or the dining room, library, the hallway, and even shelves on shelves in the garage.

    When we went hunting for our current house a while back it was more of the same. By then there might have been some e-books and the like but something tells me mostly the people just didn’t read much.

    Again this seemed odd. But more than odd, it’s scary. Especially for a writer. Because a writer needs readers. And if people aren’t reading, I’m out of a job, and maybe likely so are you. Even scarier though is the fact that, imho, we are becoming a post-literate society, but that’s probably for another piece.

    Now to directly hit the questions about what can we do about it:

    Give books as gifts: I give books whenever I can (and not necessarily mine). If I know someone’s not a reader then I won’t, but anyone who has even the remotest interest in reading often gets a book. Hopefully one that appeals to their tastes and interests.

    Lead by example: Model reading for young people. The younger they are the better this probably works. But one thing that I learned from my own life, though not re: reading in particular as I always liked that, is that if one is exposed to something as a child, even if you don’t like it then it may come back to you as an interest later in life. So have books around. Read aloud to kids. Be reading. Play reading games with them. General Colin Powell said, “The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.” Good advice.

    Encourage kids’ natural desire to learn: When they’re young they’re open to anything. Encourage them to explore the world through books, both fiction and non-fiction. Encourage them to read for pleasure, what they want to read for fun and not just what’s assigned to them in school. And to repeat, lead by example.

    Book clubs: Encourage people of any age to join book clubs.

    Book stores: If we ever get back to a semblance of normal go to bookstores with people you know. Browse. They’re sure to come across something that turns them on.

    Talk: Talk enthusiastically about the books you’re reading. One thing I’ve found is that even if I’m not interested in a subject if someone else is and enthusiastically talks about it, whether it’s a book or a collection of theirs, or whatever, that enthusiasm rubs off on me.

    Get out in the world: A while back I was asked to go to an elementary school on career day (though they might have called it something else) and talk to students in various classes about what it’s like to be a writer. They were enthused. But one of the things I told them is that a writer needs to be a reader as well.

    1. “We found this odd, as we have books stuffed to the rafters, as do most of our friends. Here, there and everywhere, in the living room or the dining room, library, the hallway, and even shelves on shelves in the garage.”

      I’m with you! We have books in most rooms in the house. When our house was being built, we had them not put a chandelier in what was supposed to be the dining room. It’s an open floor plan with room by the kitchen for a good-sized table, so we decided we didn’t need two tables in the same space. Instead, we made a library (it’s freestanding bookshelves right now, but eventually we want to cover the two walls with built-in shelves). And we STILL have books in both of our offices and the bedroom.

      1. Melissa and Tina, I think people like us with our huge collections make up for the other people. I just wish more people would read for a variety of reasons.

  4. I agree with you, Elizabeth. That’s great that you got your daughter into reading. Sometimes it just takes the right book for the right person.

  5. There are a couple things I do to encourage people to read more. First, I host a blog, where I interview writers, post book blasts and cover reveals, host guest posts, and write about writing. I do that to interest people in new books and new (or new to them) authors, as well as engage people with how the writing process happens. It’s designed for readers, new writers, and established authors as a way to build community and provide information about books and the people who create them.

    Second, I review books for the New York Journal of Books. I’m not interested in “good” or “bad” as a reviewer, I’m interested in writing about the style of book, the things that are engaging, and showing the characters’ and author’s voice through selected quotes.

    I feel as a reviewer my job is not to assign value to a work (I personally hate the five-star system, it’s so arbitrary) but to show a reader why a particular book might appeal to them.

    What’s “good” is often very subjective, so I think there are readers for every book out there and I encourage people to read what piques their interest. Life is too short to read books you don’t like, I don’t think it’s bad to not finish a book, there’s always another one waiting that you will love to read instead.

    Then, I talk about books on social media. Whether it’s sharing a post from another author, such as for a book on sale or winning an award, or writing about a book I really enjoyed, I like to talk about books.

    Lastly, I give books as gifts. There’s nothing better to me than getting an autographed copy of a great book for another person. I love being able to have the autograph personalized by an author so that the person who gets the book feels connected to the writer in a different way.

    We are all one community, writers are readers and readers are writers, and those who read but don’t write are often the best resources for learning about new books (or new to me books, I don’t just read the latest books out, I love finding gems I missed from years past as well.)

    I’d love to hear how you encourage others to read!

    1. “I feel as a reviewer my job is not to assign value to a work (I personally hate the five-star system, it’s so arbitrary) but to show a reader why a particular book might appeal to them.”

      I think there’s value to this thought. I agree the star system isn’t always great. Writing is subjective. A book that really hits home with one person won’t make any connection with another. What seems poignant for one person might not make sense to the next. Reading is an individual experience.

      Thanks for sharing!

      1. It is subjective, which makes it so tricky to talk about something being “good” or “bad” – I’m not sure what the alternative would be in terms of demonstrating a book’s popularity or mass appeal, but it’s something I definitely struggle with.

  6. Wow, coming late to the conversation this morning and… I’m impressed. Everyone hit the points I had and some I wouldn’t have thought to make.

    All I can really add to the conversation, other than to echo the great suggestions here already is:

    * I host a podcast, talking to crime fiction writers most of the time, but not exclusively. We talk about the guest’s books but often the converstation goes to other writers, too – who we’ve read recently, the classics that we love, and so forth. Since podcasts are a medium that currently seems to get some traction, my hope is that people who listen will scope out the guest and/or someone we’ve discussed.

    * I support the library. Mostly by using it, but promoting it whenever I can, too. The libraries in my county are well-funded so I don’t donate, choosing to spend my charitable dollars elsewhere, but if that were to change, it would rise much nearer to the top of my list. I think libraries are vital, in that they can help some readers overcome that unwillingness to spend money on an unknown quantity. If they discover an author using the library, they may be more willing to spring for the next book themsleves (or request the library buy it, which is just as good for us). Moreover, anything that gets people to read, right?

    * I engage my newsletter readers as directly as possible. This means having a certain tone to the mailings, and always answering any email replies, for starters.

    And that’s about all I have that’s different. I do many of the things others have mentioned, but I won’t repeat them here. But the panel really did come up with some tremendous guidelines.

  7. Welcome to the participating authors for this week’s Thriller Roundtable.
    Thank you for your participation, and hope you enjoy it.

    I found the task hard even with my own children. When I told ask them if they’ve read my books, they tell me, “Nah, I’ll for the movie to come first.” The joke has become sort of a continuous gag in the family.

  8. Yes! But I try always to be careful when I encourage anything to be mindful not to be pushy. Being pushy tends to push people away from things, not toward them. I think the best way to encourage people to read is to share about your reading.
    – Post on social media about a great book you just finished.
    – Bring up books or your general love of reading in conversations in social situations.
    – If it’s children you’re trying to encourage, I think reading to them (even if they’re a little older) is the best way to show them how much fun reading can be. They’ll enjoy your time and attention, and that time with them will help them link positive feelings to books.

  9. I love this question! Humans seem to be drawn to stories, and exuding a real love for them yourself is surprisingly magnetic. I’ve turned several good friends into book lovers just by finding them the right book or author. I have thousands of books I’ve collected over the years, starting with garage sale buys. I seem to amass all the current books too, either being given them by publishers or friends or outright buying them (which I do too frequently!) My home has become like a local library—let me get to know you for just a few minutes, and I’ll have a stack of books for you that’ll turn you into a lover of stories.

    Of course, my kids (who are small—4 and 6) are influenced the most by my love of reading. Stories are part of the fabric of our family, and we’ve made up a continuing story game. When we’re in line at a store, driving somewhere, or just experiencing some blessed downtime, one of us spouts off the start of the story and tags the next creative. We go round and round adding to it until it becomes an entire dramatic, outrageous, very creative plot. I don’t care if my kids follow my footsteps and become writers—in fact, they probably won’t—but they will not escape my house without a sincere love for story and a well-rounded exposure to plenty of aventures through good books.

    Drawing people toward reading is very doable—if you’re in love with books yourself, that enthusiasm will spill out onto the people around you. Then you can all sit around and talk stories!

    1. “I’ve turned several good friends into book lovers just by finding them the right book or author.”

      I think finding the right books/authors is a bit of a skill. I suspect a lot more people would read if they knew WHAT to read, so I love that you help people with that. 🙂

      1. This is so key! I remind people they don’t have to finish books they aren’t enjoying, I’d much rather a book be left unfinished than hated. I think finding the right book for the right reader is a wonderful skill!

  10. People in my orbit are readers. Fiction, non-fiction, newspapers (they still exist!), magazines. So, no, I don’t have to encourage them. But the second question hits home. How to encourage future readers?

    This is a problem. Are young people reading? And I don’t mean their Twitter feeds? I hate to be pessimistic, but I believe that the future of books (hard, paper, ebooks and audiobooks) is in danger, notwithstanding recent strong numbers.

    We need to encourage young people to take literature courses in high school and college. We need to encourage teachers and professors and administrators to employ teaching methods that encourage reading AFTER the class is done. And please don’t start the semester (or end it) with “Ulysses.” Make reading accessible and fun.

    Will this work? I have no idea. In 30 years, will fiction still exist? Same answer.

    We know from paleontologists that 99.9% of the species that inhabited the Earth are now extinct. I’m hoping that “readers” will not be the next species to leave nothing but fossils behind.

    1. Respectfully, Paul, I disagree about literature courses. Courses such as those are the reasons I thought I hated reading. I didn’t finish an entire book all though high school and college. Books read in the name of education are selected to teach a lesson, not to endear reading. Literature courses generally confine themselves to, well, literature. That’s ok for the future English majors in the room, but for the rest of the class, it’s an off ramp.

      1. I have mixed feelings about literature courses. There were several books I had to read that I did NOT enjoy (ahem, The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights), but there were several I did like (anything Shakespeare, Walden). And I sometimes enjoyed taking poems apart to better understand them (Robert Frost). I think teachers need to choose books not just for their literary quality but also with a focus on what would that particular group relate to and enjoy. I WISH a teacher would have had us read To Kill A Mockingbird or Jane Eyre when I was in school.

        Tangent–it does seem like a lot of books read in school involve characters that are unlikable (that was my problem with The Great Gatsby and Wuthering Heights)–I wonder if that’s part of the problem.

  11. My children are now teens and deeply entrenched in the video world. When they were younger, reading was a large part of their lives. We read to them. They read to themselves. In the past years, they’ve drifted away. Of course, we encourage them to read, but we don’t force them. Why?

    How much do you love the things you were forced to do?

    Once they outgrew the elementary level books, it became hard to find stories at their reading level that matched their tastes. My older son, we’ll call him Thing #1, devoured Manga for a few years. Then most books were DNF. He is a musician so while even I questioned my parenting skills, I bought him ACID FOR THE CHILDREN, a memoir by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, THE DIRT by Motley Crue, and ME by Elton John. He DEVOURED them.

    My younger son, Thing #2, is my sports guy. He is full speed, 24/7. He loves action, humor, action. He hates description, anything resembling romance, everything boring. He doesn’t hate reading but has a very hard time finding books he classifies as interesting.

    Reading things you love is a great pleasure. Reading something you don’t like is a special kind of torture outlawed by the Geneva Convention. It isn’t enough to encourage reading. We have to advocate for stories of all types and writers of all types have the opportunity to be published. We have had an explosion of content with the growth and acceptance of self-publishing but still there are people who don’t see themselves reflected on bookstore shelves. These are the people who are looking elsewhere for their entertainment. To bring them back, we have to bring create the products and stories they want to buy, not try to force them to buy what’s on the shelf. Readers have always evolved, our job, as writers, is to keep up.

  12. I don’t want to be pessimistic. However…how can I not be?

    I can’t vouch for these figures, which were posted by a friend, but they seem authentic. Painfully so. See if you agree.

    1. One-third of high school grads never read another book the rest of their lives.
    2. Forty-two percent of college grads never read another book after college.
    3. Seventy percent of US adults have not been in a bookstore the last five years. (Don’t know if Amazon counts).
    4. Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

    That’s all I’ve got. No solutions. We’re in the era of Instagram, Tik-Tok, and Twitter. Over and out.

    1. I fear you’re right, Paul, but I hope you’re wrong. I think we (ITW members, MWA, Sisters in Crime, etc.) hang with people who do a lot of reading. But I don’t think that’s the case in the general population. Even when I go to appointments few people are actually reading books, even on their phones. You can tell by how they’re using their phones. I hope if kids are exposed young that even though may abandon reading for a time they’ll come back to it as they mature. One can always hope…

      1. I would be curious about how those numbers have changed over the years. The percentages only tell part of the story (if they are accurate, I’m also wondering how they collected the data and who was polled).

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