Recently I signed up to join GoodReads.com. I have to say–and nobody’s paying me a penny to say it–I find the site really rather satisfying and, as an author, deeply reassuring, because it puts the lie to statements by doomsayers that THE BOOK IS DEAD.

Members list their favorite books and reveal what they’re reading right now, and what they’ve just finished reading, and what they thought of it. They assign a star rating to each book, five stars being best. But these readers are a discriminating lot. It’s hard to get a five-star rating. A lot of authors have signed on as well, and have specially configured pages that also allow them to blog. I’ve noticed, however, that authors do tend to assign five-star ratings, mainly to the books of their friends. And again, that’s because we authors are so pathetically needy.

Frankly, the whole thing reminds me happily of when I was a kid and participated each summer in the annual reading program at the public library in my home town of Freeport, Long Island (note to cartographers: We always thought of it as Freeport, LONG ISLAND, not Freeport, NEW YORK). The wall inside the lobby would be covered with a false sea of blue paper painted with a sandy bottom and sea grasses, and each of us kids would be assigned a cut-out fish. The more we read, the farther and faster our fish swam across the sea. First to the end won a prize. I never won. The winner was always some girl. It was a lot of fun and I remember fondly walking into the library with all its library smells and picking out my next book, invariably with a clear-plastic (and slightly sticky) cover, and bringing it home. Something there was, and still is, about that first moment with a new book that was utterly without equal–with the possible exception of the opening credits of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.