Monday, August 21, 2006

Time Reading Program

The Time Reading Program, often abbreviated to TRP, was a book club by Time Magazine from 1961 through 1966. Although Time as a publisher is best known for its magazines and nonfiction series books published under Time-Life, the TRP books followed no specific theme but covered literature both classic and contemporary, as well as nonfiction works and historic topics. The books themselves were chosen by National Book Award judge Max Gissen, perhaps best remembered as Time Magazine's chief book reviewer from 1947 until the TRP began in 1961.
The books themselves were published by Time Inc. and followed a specific format despite their widely varying subject matter. Though considered trade paperbacks, the covers are constructed of a very stiff cardboard material for durability. The books are eight inches tall, or just less than an inch taller than a standard 18-cm mass-market or "rack" paperback. Each book had a wraparound cover with a continuous piece of artwork across both covers and the spine, generally a painting by a contemporary artist commissioned specifically for the TRP edition. The TRP covers attracted a measure of acclaim at the time--according to Time, in 1964 19 TRP covers were cited for awards from The American Institute of Graphic Arts, Commercial Art Magazine, and the Society of Illustrators guild.
Perhaps most importantly for scholars and collectors, most of the TRP books had unique introductions written by various scholars specifically for the TRP edition. In a few cases, the texts have also been revised by the authors to create a definitive edition, although this should not be confused with abridgement, as the goal is not to make the book shorter.
Subscribers to the TRP typically received four books a month, though some books arrived as multi-volume sets. Also included was a small newsletter describing the books and why they were chosen.
Time once again attempted the reading program in the early 80s, with many of the same titles. Today, as with most book club editions, TRP books are generally not of particular value to collectors, with most titles being worth less than five dollars even in excellent condition

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