of top titles
Costco book buyer helps
By Stephanie E. Ponder
members find good reads
FOR 10 YEARS Costco Book Buyer Pennie Clark
Ianniciello has been making “Pennie’s Picks,” suggested monthly book picks, for millions of Connection
readers. Pennie has been in the publishing industry
for nearly 30 years and was featured on the front page
of The Wall Street Journal five years ago in a look at the
power she wields in the publishing industry. That’s no
small achievement for someone diagnosed with dyslexia in the sixth grade—and who didn’t become passionate about books until she read The Thorn Birds in
the late ’70s.
Inspired by the 10-year milestone, The Connection
recently talked with Pennie about the more than 120
books she has recommended to Costco members.
CC: How did the “Book Buyer’s Pick” get started?
PCI: The monthly picks began as a way to hand-sell
titles (make personal recommendations) to members.
Because I can’t be in all warehouses talking to members about books, the picks allow my staff and me to
recommend titles we’re really passionate about.
CC: How do you decide which book will be your pick?
PCI: That’s the question I’m most often asked. The
truth is that I find inspiration everywhere. Sometimes
friends recommend titles to me or they’re person al
favorites of the book reps I work with or of min e.
I’ve even selected a few titles while scanning my
bookshelves while I iron. I’m guessing I have a couple thousand books at home, so there are more
than enough titles to scan while I iron or dust or
talk on the phone.
CC: Certainly there’s more to each month’s pick tha n
choosing a book. Do you have any interesting behind-the-scenes stories?
PCI: Oh yeah! The Fig Eater, by Jody Shields, had to
go into reprint to meet the demand our readers put
on the title. To date we remain the industry’s number-one retailer of that novel. And Lauren Belfer’s City of
Light was available in hardcover only, but the publisher brought it out in paperback for us—and made it
available to the whole industry. Lisa See’s Snow Flower
and the Secret Fan had fallen off the New York Times
bestsellers list, but made a return appearance when
we made it our pick. And Christopher Moore hit the
Times bestsellers list shortly after we made You Suck a
pick earlier this year.
Khaled Hosseini told me that his parents didn’t
think he’d found success as a writer until they saw his
book [The Kite Runner] at their local warehouse. And
in an article in Newsweek in 2003, Jonathan Lethem
said that being a “Pennie’s Pick” [for The Fortress of
With books it’s not always easy to add extra value
to the product. I mean, the value lies in all of those
wonderful and inspiring words between the covers.
But, not too long ago, Paulo Coelho wrote a letter just
for Costco members who bought his novel The Alchemist. And in a few months, we’ll be testing a multi-pack of the pick designed to help book club members
easily find book club books.
CC: Is there anything else you’d like to say to The
PCI: Yes! We have great members. Not only do they
have access to a literary smorgasbord, but they take
advantage of it. I hear from so many of our members
who enjoy exploring the book tables and love what
they find there.
So what I’d most like to say is thank you. Oh, and
keep reading. C
This month, Costco warehouses
will carry a 10-book retrospec-
tive of “Pennie’s Picks” as well
as her latest pick. (For a com-
plete list of titles, see pages 30
and 31.) Costco.com also carries
the current book pick along with
several older pick titles.
giveaway Naslund; Confessions
of an Ugly Stepsister,
C OSTCO HAS 10 sets by Gregory Maguire; and The
o f 10 Book Buyer’s Picks Brothers K, by David James Duncan.
from the last decade to give away. To enter, print your name,
Each set includes: Me & Emma, by membership number, address and
Elizabeth Flock; Skinny Dip, by Carl daytime phone number on a postcard
Hiaasen; The Polished Hoe, by Austin or letter and send it to: Book Pick
Clarke; A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Retrospective, The Costco Connection,
Kimmel; The Fig Eater, by Jody P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124-
Shields; Blood Work, by Michael 1088. Or send an e-mail to giveaway@
Connelly; Angle of Repose, by Wallace costco.com, with “Book Pick Retro-Stegner; Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter spective” in the subject line.
No purchase is necessary. Only current Costco members are eligible to win. One entry per household. Entries must be received
or postmarked by September 3, 2007. Winners will be randomly selected and notified by mail on or before October 1, 2007.
The value of the prize is $144.20. Void where prohibited. Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes.
The decision of the judges is final. Employees of Costco or HarperCollins, Harlequin, Grand Central Publishing, Random House
and Penguin Group and their families are not eligible.