An Interview with Peter Osnos.

Abstract from Interview

1:36 – How did you become involved with Brian Lamb, C-SPAN, and Booknotes? – While a publisher at Random House many of his books were featured on the show. Because of this he developed a relationship with Brian Lamb and when Lamb wanted to write his own book, he went to Osnos.

2:00 – How much of a risk was it to publish these books? Did they sell well? – They were very pleased with the books. C-SPAN and Brian Lamb did a great job turning information about the interviews into readable essays.

2:20 – What was the audience of these books like? – Booknotes viewers and the standard audience for scholarly works of non-fiction. They did well at libraries and as gifts.

2:42 – What was the print run like for these books? – It varied as standards changed over time for print runs, but he believes the initial runs were about 20,000.

2:58 – What is your experience with Booknotes and Brian Lamb? - “Brian is a publisher’s ideal author” because he is familiar with the book process. Despite Lamb’s reluctance to be self-promotional he made himself available for promotional appearances.

3:38 – Was Lamb willing to talk about biographical information as an author? – Despite asking authors about their biographies, Lamb was reluctant to discuss his own biography. He was more interested in doing the interview than being interviewed.

4:36 – Were you surprised by any of your experiences with Brian Lamb the author, after observing Brian Lamb the interviewer? – Lamb’s on-air style is deliberately phlegmatic, but he is really quite enthusiastic about books and reading. He is a wonderful conversationalist.

5:07 – Lamb prepared thoroughly for his interviews. Do you think this kind of emersion in the book world as an interviewer impacted his work as an author? - Brian was very prepared and this preparation was unique. He brought the same care and intensity to his own books.

5:56 – Do you believe asking authors about their research and writing methods on Booknotes impacted Lamb’s process as an author? – Brian Lamb was genuinely interested in the process of research and writing, which was reflected in his choices of how to work himself. Over the years he became an expert in the writing and publishing process and made it very much part of his own work.

6:36 – Did you watch Booknotes yourself? – Yes. He was impressed with the quality of the interviews, books, and audience.

7:10 – Were there any issues which were off limits, and did that surprise you? – They did not discuss the business aspects of the book because he was more interested with the content of the books.

7:45 – What do you think the uses of the Booknotes Collection might be? – “The Booknotes Collection at George Mason is a wonderful repository for a great many of the best and most illuminating books of this period. It is an impressive survey of the field chosen by a specialist who really knew what books might possibly make a difference and be of interest to his viewers. The annotations of Brian certainly add to its value. I think the fact that he wrote in the books give it almost a historic quality.”

8:50 – What have you been working on recently and what are you most pleased with? – Public Affairs has many books coming this spring which will be good. They are continuing to work with C-SPAN.

10:50 – Vietnam was one of the subjects which Brian was most interested because it was a formative time for him. He always featured serious books on Vietnam. Abraham Lincoln was another popular topic.

11:29 – What has been the lasting impact of Booknotes? – it is a major contribution to what is available in the media about non-fiction books. His vision of C-SPAN as public service and has expanded to include information which isn’t available elsewhere in the media. He has provided the county with an amazing asset so “long may C-SPAN flourish.”

12:28 – Is there anything you would like to add about Booknotes, C-SPAN, or Brian Lamb? – Brian Lamb’s contribution has been profound and being a publisher of all the C-SPAN books has been a point of personal pride.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian), “An Interview with Peter Osnos.,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed December 3, 2022,



Output Formats

Dublin Core


An Interview with Peter Osnos.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian)


22 January 2015


Publisher Peter Osnos is interviewed as part of the Booknotes Oral History Project on 22 January 2015. Mr. Osnos discusses his association with Brian Lamb and the publication of the related Booknotes books.


Booknotes (Television program)
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)


Booknotes Oral History Series. R0143 Box 02 File 07.


George Mason University Libraries


Copyright held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.


Video recording