KZUM's 'Book Talk' a Welcome Haven for Book Lovers
Whether they know it or not, Lincoln's bibliophiles have a weekly haven. "Book Talk," a radio show devoted to all things books, is on air Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. on local radio station KZUM 89.3 FM, and is streamed online at kzum.org. The day I visited with "Book Talk" hosts John and Kit Keller was the first show of the month, which featured Layne Pierce and Scott Clark of Lincoln City Libraries to discuss Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.
It was well before show time when I arrived and Pierce, Clark, and the Kellers waited in a meeting room outside of the studio talking about Little Brother. When Pierce really started to get into the book itself, John Keller quickly stopped the conversation.
"A basic tenet of the show is to not talk about the book before the show." He smiled when he said it, but the sincerity of his statement was clear. Later, he explained briefly that he wanted the conversation to sound as fresh as possible on air.
Both John and Kit Keller are multi-talented individuals. Besides running the radio show, John Keller spends his time as a freelance photographer, adjunct photography professor at Doane College, and photography columnist with the Lincoln Journal Star. Kit Keller serves as the Director of Library Services for Picollo International University.
It was Kit, along with three other women, who first came up with the idea for "Book Talk" and received backing from the Nebraska Bookstore and the Library Commission. "Book Talk" was first hosted by Kit, Mary Jo Ryan (who is still part of the show), Pat Leach, Sally Snyder and Mary Jackson.
"When we started," Kit explained, "the women had to learn the equipment. It was a miracle it [the show] got on. We all talked about one favorite book each and the show went off without a hitch."
John remembers that his role provided quite a different perspective to the show than what the female friends initially brought.
"I came on a couple of months after they first started because their engineer left and I had done radio before in Germany," he said. "It [the show] was all of a particular genre and I thought right away, we have a lot of listeners who like different things [so] let's offer them different books."
This variety of books has provided the show with many diverse guests, many of whom enjoy coming back for repeat appearances. Poet, memoirist, and Prairie Schooner editor Hilda Raz has been on the show several times, as have Nebraska poet laureate William Kloefkorn and U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser. This loyalty undoubtedly has to do with Kit and John's personalities and genuine love of books, but their unique interviewing style plays a part as well.
Every host of "Book Talk" makes it a rule to read the books he or she will showcase. If they haven’t read it, then they won't appear on the show. Kit said that they've "had so many authors intrigued that we've read the book. Authors come and their jaws drop."
However, you don’t have to be a writer to be a guest on "Book Talk." Many guests are people who love to read or want to share a favorite book with others. Every first show of the month features individuals from Lincoln City Libraries. John and Kit also try to promote local events like the Nebraska Book Festival and the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference to their audience.
In spite of "Book Talk's" obvious subject matter, Kit and John strive to maintain a diverse audience that includes both academics and book lovers.
"Our point is that reading is not a lost art," Kit said. "I don't care how digital you are, it's a wonderful way to learn and to broaden your world. We just try to foster that idea that reading is something that everybody needs to do every day."
The Kellers, as with everyone else who hosts "Book Talk," are volunteers, but they work at the show as if their lives depended on it.
"It's been fun," John said with a smile. "It's not something we've gotten any remuneration for other than the fact that we like the show."