Magazine article Book

Valentine's Way: The Woman Who Preceded Oprah as the Country's Book Group Guru Knows How to Make a Group a Great One. (Group Dynamics).(Virginia Valentine's Book talks)(Brief Article)

Magazine article Book

Valentine's Way: The Woman Who Preceded Oprah as the Country's Book Group Guru Knows How to Make a Group a Great One. (Group Dynamics).(Virginia Valentine's Book talks)(Brief Article)

Article excerpt

IT'S A SATURDAY MORNING AT THE TATTERED COVER, AND THE DENVER bookstore--one of the country's top independents--is crowded with visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity. She's not an author, though: Book group members from across the country and writers like The Feast of Love's Charles Baxter and newcomer Erika Krouse have gathered because of Virginia Valentine. "She's like your fairy godmother," says Jen Marshall, director of publicity for Anchor Books, who flew out from New York for the seminar Valentine is holding today.

Valentine may well be the top expert on book groups in the country. "Groups really depend on her," says Pat Gunckel, who has worked with her for twenty-one years. "She was the catalyst for the book group movement, way before Oprah," adds Andrea Syverson, who drove in from Colorado Springs, an hour away.

Sharp and poised at sixty-nine, Valentine walks around the Tattered Cover's events room. She stops when she hears a group of women talking about novels set in academia. "Oooh, have you read Richard Russo's Straight Man?" she asks. "I laughed so hard." She pauses at another group. "I would really like to know what books you liked best this year," she says to them. When someone mentions new nonfiction, Valentine's eyes light up as she asks if the woman has read Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, a memoir about a white woman's childhood in Rhodesia. This is pure Valentine: a book-related opinion for everyone and on everything--and one that's generally right on target.

Ever since Valentine began working at the Tattered Cover twenty-one years ago, book groups have sought her advice. …

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