Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On Reading with Robin

Jan: I first met Robin Kall when I was working on A Confidential Source, and I needed some background on talk radio. Robin got me into the studio at WHJJ, introduced me to Rhode Island's celebrity talk show hosts and then not much later, wound up with her own talk radio show. Now, her show has been on 920AM WHJJ for almost NINE years. Even at the early hour of 7 to 8 a.m. Saturday mornings, it's still one of the state's top rated talk shows, and it lives streams at

Robin now authors a "Well-Read" column every Tuesday on in the lifestyles section, where she suggests book titles and takes on all sorts of topics like book clubs, book lending, e-books, and summer reading. As far as I'm concerned, she will always be the LAST WORD on reading.

I asked her just how many books publishers and publicists send her and whether it ever becomes a burden?

ROBIN: I receive about twenty books a week between what comes to the station and to my home. And burden?? Never. It's so much fun to open those cardboard mailers from the publishers to see what's inside.

JAN: How do you choose which book to talk about or review?

ROBIN: If something looks interesting - for example, if it's a debut novel, and it's a reputable publisher, or if it has blurbs from authors I like, or if its a compelling non-fiction topic, something new and relevant - I will consider it for the program even when I'm booked. Usually, though, the program is already filled with interviews of author of books I've requested. As I only have the one hour a week sometimes it's impossible to review all of the books I'm interested in.

To handle some of the overflow -- books I like but can't fit into the radio program -- I will sometimes tape a segment during the week and put it up on my site. The site gets lots of hits, so as much as I enjoy a live interview on a saturday morning, the web site is another place to showcase the authors that I want to share with my audience. (plus no commercials!)

JAN: From your perspective, what's the craziest thing about the book biz?

ROBIN: It still amazes me when certain titles are sent to me. Books I rarely feature on my show, sports-oriented books, or politics, war books, big international spy thrillers. It's obvious that they are being sent out blind which is shocking at a time when we're hearing about how tough the business is and the ways that the publishers are cutting costs. These books are often the ones that come Fed Ex.I think I just found a way for the industry to save some money. Regular mail. Book rate even!

JAN: Recently Robin, you interviewed people to find out why they read: What was the answer?

ROBIN: Pure entertainment. people want to sit down with a great book and be totally immersed in its story. I did get a few of those 'escape into someone else's life for a bit' answers, but for the most part people enjoy their favorite books for the page-turning fun!

JAN: After hosting a reading radio program for nine years, why do you think people continue to read when they could be watching movies or YOUTUBE or reality TV all day long?

ROBIN: Good point. there are so many ways we can distract ourselves and still those same 24 hours in each day. With all of these other things competing for our time, and the list continuing to grow, I think people who enjoy reading will only put up with youtube,reality tv to keep current. It's not where they will turn for the most part. I place movie in another category. I've found that readers are usually movie watchers.(good movies.)

JAN: From your show, do you notice any trends in reading?

ROBIN:It seems like every book I read has dust motes in it. And some character is always padding down the hall for a steaming mug of coffee. And there's been an awful lot of books with Tiger in the title. Tiger Mom, Tiger Woods/Swinger. Tiger Wife. Tiger, Tiger. Or every book title is about someone's daughter, or someone's keeper, or someone's wife.

In terms of the big e-reader trend, I haven't joined in yet, but of course we cannot ignore its popularity. Many of the book people I know are using them in conjunction with not instead of books. Recently, my aunt noted that riding on the train with her e-reader there was nowhere to place her train stub...not something i would have thought of, but books serve so many purposes!

JAN: Do you think people read more in the summer and why?
ROBIN: There is so much talk about 'summer reading' and I'm not certain there is really more reading going on in the summer. it might be a marketing thing...the long lazy days of summer in this 24/7 world of ours might at this point be folklore, but I like to think of summer reading as a state of mind. when a chunk of time is set aside to simply derive pleasure from turning the pages one after the other with not so much as glancing at a clock. if done at beach,in hammock or that type of setting even better!

Check out Robin's website at

And come back tomorrow when guest bloggers and private eyes, Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman explain how to find important clues in the trash.

By Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman


  1. Dust motes! That's hilarious...

    Hey, Robin, so great to see you! And I love the idea of flat-out entertainment. That's truly educational to remember...

  2. Hi Robin, we're so glad to have you here today! Nothing a writer loves more than someone to loves to read and talk about reading:).

    Maybe you could recommend a few great books that you've seen go by recently for our summer stash?

  3. Hi Robin:
    Welcome to Jungle Reds.
    Do you ever get time to read books you really like? Do you have any favorite authors and genres?

    I have been an Edgar judge many times and I'm so happy at the end of the year when I can read what I want to again.
    Have you learned to judge a book by sampling?

  4. Welcome Robin,
    First off thanks for still thinking that books matter - as opposed to some of the other junk being spewed into the cosmos.
    I'm curious as to how the streaming function has changed radio for you. I rarely listen to radio - on a radio - anymore, but I do listen on my computer. It's got to have increased your reach, but perhaps changed the feeling of immediacy.

  5. I'm with HP Ryan: YAY for pure escapism!

  6. Robin, what a great post! It's always so encouraging to hear that people still read and still love books . . . I have Kindle on my phone which I've found fun for when I'm stuck somewhere with nothing to read, and great for downloading short stories, but I haven't been tempted to buy a real e-reader.

    Such fun to hear your perspective on the books you get. (I won't be having any dust motes or people padding down the hall for a mug of steaming coffee:-))

    Would also love to hear your recent favorites.

  7. wow!thanks so much for all of the great comments!! I really enjoyed this interview with Jan.
    Glad you liked the dust motes, Hank!Each time I read that in a book I take note.
    Roberta -am loving Maine by Courtney Sullivan. I also loved her first book, Commencement. Tina Fey's Bossypants is also a treat. very funny. Jen Weiner's Then Came You is out next week and I'd also recommend that.
    Rhys- I am a fan of women's fiction and memoir. I only read the books that I'm want to -and those are the ones that I feature on the show. There are exceptions every so often but I do my best to limit that as reading should be a pleasure.
    Rosemary -I was so excited when the station started streaming the show live. I consider the show to be syndicated in my own delusional way.Everyone can listen from wherever they are and I have picked up lots of listeners from all over. If people want to hear past shows they need to login so I can see where people are joining in from. It's a great move in the right direction.
    Deborah -oh, no -i've ruined the dust motes for all!For book suggestions see above. i also have several columns at with my recent favorites.Enjoy!!
    Thanks so much everyone.