One-Minute Book Reviews

January 8, 2008

Backscratching in Our Time — Gina Kolata and Jerome Groopman

The latest in a series of posts on authors who praise each other’s work in a way that may have financial benefits for both


I usually post these examples of backscratching without comment, but this one is bad on so many levels, I’d like explain why. A pillar of journalistic ethics says that reporters should avoid not just conflicts of interest but the appearance of conflicts. Gina Kolata is a science writer for the New York Times who has used Groopman, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a bestselling author, as a source. As the comments below make clear, she accepted a favor from Groopman — the blurb for Rethinking Thin — that could put money in her pocket if, say, you bought the book based on his recommendation or if a paperback or overseas publisher paid more for the reprint rights because of the quote (and quotes can affect the amount offered). Kolata has compounded the problem by selecting one of Groopman’s essays for Best American Science Writing 2007, a decision that has almost certainly put money in his pocket, given that contributors to anthologies typically receive an up-front fee or a percentage of the royalties or both. She also used on the cover of the paperback edition of her earlier Flu a quote from Groopman that appeared in the Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times. It gives me no pleasure to say any of this because I enjoy Kolata’s work for the Times and regard it as far superior to that of her colleague Jane Brody, who writes the Personal Health column. I also admired much about Flu, Rethinking Thin and Groopman’s How Doctors Think


Jerome Groopman on Gina Kolata

“Kolata is a seasoned reporter, and knows how to craft a riveting tale … a masterly recounting of medical history.”

Groopman in a review of Kolata’s Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic (Touchtone, $15, paperback) in the Boston Globe, Dec. 12. 1999. “A masterly recounting of medical history” appears on the cover of the paperback edition of Flu.


“An incisive, thought-provoking examination of a subject that concerns us all. This book will educate and illuminate those seeking solid information about the struggle to lose weight.”

Groopman in a blurb on the cover of Kolata’s new Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss — and the Myths and Realities of Dieting (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24)

Gina Kolata on Jerome Groopman

“I also liked Jerome Groopman’s New Yorker article, ‘Being There.’ It raises an issue I had never considered, and in an unforgettable way …”

Gina Kolata on why she choose Groopman’s article as one of the best of the year, in her introduction to Best American Science Writing 2007 (HarperPerennial, $14.95, paperback), edited by Kolata and Jesse Cohen.

One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes suggestions about authors should be in “Backscratching in Our Time,” a series in inspired by “Logrolling in Our Time” in the old Spy magazine.

© 200X Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 13, 2007

Backscratching in Our Time, Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Safran Foer

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time,Books,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:11 am

Jeffrey Eugenides on Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated: “Great humor, sympathy, charm and daring … Every page is illuminated.” Jeffrey Eugenides on the dust jacket of the hardcover edition of Everything Is Illuminated

Jonathan Safran Foer on Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex: “Whatever you might be expecting, Middlesex will surprise you … a roiling epic … the kind of book that urges to be read in one day, then reread.” Jonathan Safran Foer in Bomb
and quoted in the front matter of the paperback edition of Middlesex

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 5, 2007

Backscratching in Our Time, Tina Brown and Holly Peterson

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time,Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:05 am

Tina Brown on Holly Peterson: “Holly Peterson writes about the rich with acute understanding and a drop-dead eye for detail. The funniest, sexist ride in the limo lane since the The Bonfire of the Vanities.” — Tina Brown on Peterson’s The Manny on the dust jacket the novel

Brown also offers “thanks and appreciation” to Peterson, among many others, in the acknowledgments of her new biography, The Diana Chronicles (page xv).

Holly Peterson on Tina Brown: “I read mostly non-fiction books. My all-time favorite is Tina Brown’s new book on Princess Diana called the Diana Chronicles … She was my boss.” — Peterson on Brown’s The Diana Chronicles on her My Space page I can’t get the direct link to work but you can find the blurb by going to and searching for “hollypetersonthemanny.”

Peterson also writes in the acknowledgments to The Manny: “Thank you to those who assisted in the delivery room in various forms and reincarnations of this whole concept, including Tina Brown … ” (page 356).

For more examples of authors who love each other’s books, click on “Backscratching in Our Time” under “Categories” on this site. If you know of other candidates for this continuing feature, please use the e-mail address on the “Contact” page of One-Minute Book Reviews to submit their blurbs.

A review of The Manny appeared on this site on June 26, 2007 Page numbers for bad sex scenes in The Manny appeared on this site on June, 27, 2007 The Diana Chronicles is scheduled to be reviewed on this site during the week of July 8.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 21, 2007

Backscratching in Our Time, John Grogan and Jon Katz (Reposted)

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:12 pm

Have you noticed how often authors seem to trade blurbs?

The old Spy magazine used to call attention to this practice regularly in its column “Logrolling in Our Time.” I’ve always wished someone would revive that column and, because no one has, I’ve decided to include a variation on that theme on this site.

The “Backscratching in Our Time” category on One-Minute Book Review is devoted to authors who praise each other’s books on dust jackets, in reviews and elsewhere. (The original announcement about this was filed under “Pages,” and I couldn’t figure out how to move it to “Categories” without reposting it, so that’s why some of you are seeing double.) One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes suggestions for blurbs that should be included here. Please use the address on the “Contact” page on this site to nominate authors.


Jon Katz on John Grogan: “Expect to laugh, cry and shake your head as you read this book … Marley is a great and memorable dog, and in the hands of a writer as observant, unsentimental and piercing as Grogan, this is a human-canine journey dog lovers will want to take.” From
John Grogan on Jon Katz: “Jon Katz understands dogs as few others do, intuitively and unburdened by sentimentality. His keen insights cut to the heart of the human-pet relationship – it’s immense joys and painful sorrows.”
From the dust jacket of A Good Dog (Villard, 2006)

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights recovered.

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