Eric Banks, Bookforum's editor since 2003, will leave the magazine in March, after closing the April/ May issue, and with his departure Bookforum publisher Artforum International has decided to act on a long-discussed plan to include current events coverage in a move to boost circulation. It has hired Congressional Quarterly editor Chris Lehmann to edit the new section, and will slightly restructure its masthead.

“What we've decided to do is not replace Eric with any editor-in-chief, but to hire another senior editor—Chris Lehmann. He's going to basically be working from D.C., but coming to New York very frequently for editorial meetings,” said Danielle McConnell, Bookforum's executive publisher. Lehmann will be working closely with Albert Mobilio, currently Bookforum's fiction editor, who will be promoted to senior editor, and Nicole Rudick, who will remain the magazine's managing editor and will also head coverage of university and academic presses. Alfredo Perez, the blog editor of, will also participate in editorial meetings.

“We all felt that in order to really have an increased circulation, we needed to cover current affairs in some way,” said McConnell. “We're waiting to see how it evolves.” Bookforum's current circulation is about 40,000, up 10%over one year ago.

Banks decided to leave the magazine because, he said, “I was starting to feel a little bit burned out on it. I thought it was time to make a good, clean break. I'm trying to spend more time on my writing and am thinking about a couple of other projects. I've got a couple of book ideas that I'm pondering.”

Of course, with books coverage shrinking everywhere, fitting a new topic into a magazine that has been a stalwart in the world of criticism raises fears about whether there will be less room in Bookforum for books, which even Banks voiced: “I am concerned that there are fewer places for coverage that I consider to be really important for the life of culture.” Banks noted that there really aren't many other publications doing pure books coverage: “I think we were filling a niche that the New York Review of Books used to—[books are] not the emphasis at the New York Review the way they once were.” But he was also hopeful about the future of Bookforum: “I think it'll be interesting. It's not what I was really trying to do with Bookforum, but I understand the publishers sense that they want to move in that direction. I do think that that kind of coverage can be integrated with a more current events—oriented approach. Between Chris Lehmann, Albert Mobilio and Nicole Rudick, I hope they'll figure out a way to do that, so there will still be some meaty—even if fewer—essays on culture as well as quality nonfiction.”

But McConnell promised that Bookforum “will remain a book review. I imagine it will be broken down roughly in thirds—one third fiction, one third academic and one third current affairs, but book based.” Lehmann seconded that plan: “I don't think I'm doing anything other than pure book coverage. That's part of the mandate that goes with being one of the last publications standing in this field. I'm very, very much interested in literary and scholarly work. I'm very excited and happy to get started. I gather that the team up there feels the same.”