After 20 years of writing about books written by “BYU faculty, staff, alumni, and members of BYU’s Board of Trustees,” emeritus BYU professor Richard H. Cracroft will stop writing his Book Nook column with the Summer issue of BYU Magazine.
This move ends one of the more consistent and long-term sources of information about Mormon literature, which makes up a significant portion of Cracroft’s coverage. The columns mention as many as a dozen titles, meaning that over 20 years Cracroft has covered something approaching a thousand books. His column was especially valuable for the first decade of its existence, before the AML review archive was started and reviews of LDS books became much more common.
Most of the columns are available online in the BYU Magazine archives, which go back to 1996. For the first 5 years of Cracroft’s Book Nook column, you’ll have to find them in a library or private collection.
If I get a chance, I’ll call BYU Magazine later today and ask if the column will be continued by someone else. [I called — see comment #11 below.]
19 thoughts on “Cracroft to stop writing Book Nook”
Thanks for all you’ve done over the years, Brother Cracroft. It really is a remarkable track record of reviews.
This is too bad. “Book Nook” not only made me more aware of the variety of Mormon fiction out there, but it is also the only thing I ever read in BYU Magazine. I hope they find a replacement and continue it.
Although Cracroft never gave a critical review of a book by anyone with a BYU connection, Book Nook has been my favorite section of the BYU Magazine.
Many thanks to Cracroft for his diligent dedication to Mormon lit for so many years. His column will be missed.
I know Bro. Cracroft has had significant health issues in the past few years, which I assume are the reason for this. It is truly a shame. His capacity to knowledgeably enjoy and appreciate across a wide range of Mormon literature has been perhaps unequalled. (He even tried to slip a positive review of No Going Back into his column, but was thwarted by a desire to avoid controversy on the part of the editors.)
With respect to not giving a negative review to someone with a BYU connection: I suspect he felt that his space in BYU Magazine was better spent promoting books among a population that didn’t already know about them, and that if he couldn’t recommend a book it was better simply not to mention it at all.
Obviously, that’s not the right approach for all venues, but given the sheer challenge of letting Mormon readers know about what’s being published, it’s an approach that I can respect for that setting. I think it worked because (a) people had a sense that Cracroft wouldn’t recommend something he genuinely didn’t feel was worthwhile, and (b) he was good at communicating, in a short space, enough information to let readers judge whether they might be part of the audience for that work. Finding someone else who can do those things (and especially who can bring to it something like Cracroft’s preexisting reputation) will be a difficult task.
Last night I happened to run across a couple of feminist blogs (*gasp*! I know!), one of which was calling out the other for NOT KNOWING about a new feminist book out. There were racial issues.
Anyway, the book had been pubbed by a very small, niche Canadian publisher and they refused to be on Amazon. They had little to no marketing and so the “white-girl feminists” were being called out by the “people-of-color feminists” for not having gone to look for it, even though they didn’t know it existed.
The attitude of the one blog was that people with an issue SHOULD be looking for such things ALL THE TIME, and promoting them for The Cause.
Which simply leads me to the question: How can we do more to publicize our niche works than we’re already doing, with limited resources of time and money?
I don’t know.
It’s a question that’s been heavy on my mind for the past few months.
Has anyone experimented with targeted search ad words and Facebook ads? Yes, limited money. But I wonder what the ROI would be on a $100 campaign with the right product. I got some free Google adwords money and tested the AMV t-shirts, but they were such a niche product that I think that hurt conversion (my click to conversion rate was basically zero). A low-priced, slightly less esoteric ebook might do better, though.
I did Google AdWords with The Proviso when I first published it, but I really didn’t understand the stats, and I don’t think it did any good. Also, I didn’t have the money (at the time) to keep it rolling.
It was a flawed experiment, I think.
I’ll miss Cracroft and frankly am amazed he kept it going as long as he did, given his health. And I think his decision to focus on what was worth reading was appropriate. Though sadly I never got him to review either The Fob Bible or Out of the Mount.
And they had darn well better replace him.
I’m available, if they’re interested…..
I just talked with Jeff McClellan at BYU Magazine, and he indicated that they will NOT be replacing Cracroft. They intend to drop covering Mormon literature or literature by BYU alumni, faculty etc. all together, except in the alumni spotlight sections.
I expressed our disappointment.
One less reason to read BYU Magazine.
It probably wouldn’t hurt if we were more vocal about our complaints.
This is not to discourage anyone voicing their opinion, but if you already admit that you don’t really read BYU Magazine then that probably means that you aren’t their target demographic anyway so I don’t know that they will care, especially if you aren’t a donor to the college.
With a few notable exceptions, alumni magazines (which are expensive and time-consuming to produce) cater to donors and actively engage alumni. With no obvious successor to Richard Cracroft (in terms of his orthodox credibility — not in terms of someone who could review works by BYU alumni and faculty), it, sadly, makes sense to kill the column and highlight books as simply just another notch in the alumni achievement column e.g. alumni notes/highlights (which, to be honest, is always by far the most popular feature with alumni mag readers).
“One less reason to read BYU Magazine.”
If this were Facebook, I’d “like” Jonathan’s comment.
I am seventy two years old and have associated with thousands of people throughout the world. I knew Brother Cracroft forty two years ago as we lived in the same ward. He is one of the most impressive and unforgettable people I have known.
I never ever read the alumni achievement column. Designwise it’s a mess and frankly none of it is at all interesting. I’m writing them.
I’ve emailed them. I encourage you to as well.