Sam Tanenhaus is starting April 12 as editor of the New York Times Book Review. Before diving into his job, Tanenhaus shared some of his thoughts on his new position.

PW: There's been so much talk about the need to rethink what gets reviewed in the Book Review, or at least how those books get reviewed. Is there a calculus you hope to use that's different from what's in place now?

ST: Well, it's a range—if something is timely, something is original or if it goes against the grain, or if it rescues something in tradition. But we have more variables in play [than other publications]. For that reason, it's always going to be harder. The intellectual will find it philistine, and less intellectual people will find it rarefied. You're never going to make everyone happy. If I have a mission, it's that over the course of 10 Sundays you'll see what the literary culture is about.

PW: So is it fair to say that the approach right now does not deserve a lot of the criticism it gets?

ST: I'm not sure the Review ever gets the acknowledgment it should from the publishing world, for its integrity and seriousness of purpose in a culture that doesn't always offer the most rarefied products. We forget how good and solid the Review is. When was the last time you saw a nasty ad hominem review? When do you see a book being reviewed by an author whose own book had been reviewed by the author he was reviewing? These are questions that a lot of publications don't even pose. Bob Silvers [at the New York Review of Books] is a friend and mentor and a model of how you produce a great review section. But I don't know if he poses them. And publishers put out a lot of bad books. I don't see them issuing mea culpas about that. I don't see them apologizing for the fewer number of first novels.

PW: Speaking of publishers, in the past some have not been quiet in complaining about how their books get treated—or don't get treated. Are you expecting your relationship with the industry to be close?

ST: It depends on what kind of footing we get off to. Inevitably, there's going to be a kind of disconnect. There's a basic difference between what the publishing world sees and what a book review sees that I don't think can ever be resolved. I was telling Bob Loomis [ST's book editor] the other day—what you react to as a publisher is the books you got that we've either treated well or not treated well. But as journalists we look at it in a different way. We're reporting news. It happens to be that we're reporting news of books. But we start with that.

PW: What would you say to those from the more independent side of the industry who say that the Review skews toward large publishers?

ST: It's an interesting question and we'll certainly look at it. Part of that, of course, is that some of the smaller houses have been swallowed by the larger house. But the other part is that the Book Review used to be amazingly huge and now it's not. So it's almost like we perform a kind of triage on what it is that our readers need to know about. Does it happen that the major houses publish a sizable percentage of the major writers who have important things to say? Well, it does. Why is that? Well, their agents take them there, for one thing, because they can pay the bigger advances. But that doesn't mean there aren't gifted writers elsewhere, and we'll be looking at them.

PW: Much has been made of the essay you wrote to win the job. What is your vision for the Review?

ST: I've written for a lot of book review sections. The Times's has always been the broadest. They do the most books; they come out the most often. There's a staff of preview editors looking at everything that comes in and they're so literate, in the classic sense that they've read everything. That's not always the case at other sections.

PW: Would it be fair to say, then, that you don't think the Book Review needs to change fundamentally?

ST: It's a difficult concept to get into. You should just watch what we do over the next several months. As the world knows, there are discussions and redesigns in the works. I'm really a fan and admirer of Chip McGrath's. I think it's one of these stories where we'll look back and see what he brought to the Book Review, which we tend to overlook. The literary style, particularly in fiction. You shouldn't interpret what I say to mean things won't change. I wouldn't have taken the job if there had not been an understanding that there were things we can do. All the questions being asked, we're asking ourselves. And we will be bold in the answers we come up with, because we're going to put on a little bit of a show. No one benefits when the Times Book Review isn't flourishing.