As the time for Oprah to make her 63rd book club pick draws near (September 18, if you haven't heard), we're digging deeper to try to figure out what the world's most influential reader has chosen.
The audio version of #63 offers some useful clues, if online listings can be trusted. Ingram says it's a 3-CD set. Barnes and Noble goes further, saying the audio is 2 hours and 45 minutes, unabridged. If correct, this short length limits the original Pub Lunch list somewhat—only The Man's Book: The Essential Guide for the Modern Man by Thomas Fink and Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt are anywhere close to short enough to fit on 3 CDs unabridged. We also dug up two other contenders, both published at $23.99 in hardcover by Little, Brown:
Feeding Your Demons by Tsultrim Allione
The publisher's synopsis says this guide to achieving inner peace brings an "11th-century Tibetan woman's practice to the West for the first time."
Sway by Zachary Lazar
This loosely plotted novel that chronicles of some of the biggest events in the 1960s (the early days of the Rolling Stones; the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; and the community of Charles Manson and his followers) would certainly be a different sort of pick for Oprah. It's just 272 pages, but audio versions of novels tend to be longer so this might not be a contender after all.
Of these, my money's on The Man Book (which would be a true departure for Oprah, whose previous selections have been as female-oriented as her audience). Think the audio listing can be trusted?
News on the wire today is that James Patterson, blockbuster writer extraordinaire, has signed a multi-book deal with Hachette. How many books, you ask? An astonishing 17...and perhaps the craziest thing about that figure is that those 17 books (11 for adults, 6 for kids) will only take Patterson readers through 2012.
Patterson is one of the authors who taught publishers that putting out more than one book a year doesn't mean over-saturating the market. Writing several series in several genres helps, and I have to wonder: does anyone read everything Patterson writes? Or do you pick and choose series or genres? Patterson fans, let us know in the comments. And don't miss our Patterson reviews and interviews here!
Devil Wears Prada author Lauren Weisberger has a new novel on the list for this spring. On May 25, 2010, Weiseberger fans can enjoy the as-yet-untitled story of a woman who supports her rock-star partner until he hits the big time, only to be dumped for a Brazilian supermodel. Not content to go quietly, our heroine meets a group of other women in the same boat—women who, as the catalog copy puts it, have been "dumped for the bitch of success and are hell bent on revenge." I thought Prada was entertaining, but made a better movie than a book, mostly due to the performances of Hathaway and Streep—but this premise sounds refreshingly different from her last two novels, which followed the general girl-wants-boy chick lit formula. How about you?
Julia Steele, BookPage Associate Publisher
Just listened to Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. It's a great story set during the gold rush years and takes the reader from Chile to China to the new world full of 'easy gold.' The audio is read by Blair Brown, and she does a wonderful job—I will read or listen to more books by this author. Next I'll be starting on People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks for my book club—I think it will make for great discussion.
The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs is on my bedside table —I read a chapter every once in a while when I need a laugh. Jacobs is a journalist who has made his living turning his life into an experiment. In this book he outsources his life to India, poses as a beautiful woman on match.com, tries being “radically honest” at all times, and poses nude—among other things. It’s the perfect book to read in a chunk at a time.
The Daily Mail's recent account of Hilary Duff's time shooting on the set of "Gossip Girl" was focused on Hilary's "drab to fab" transformation when she changed from a gray T-shirt into a Herve Leger dress. I was more intrigued by the fact that a young actress had a book in her hand:
That's Jodi Picoult's Salem Falls. A quick Google search revealed that Duff had been caught reading The Pact on an earlier "Gossip Girls" shoot.
Which makes me wonder: has Duff made it to page 315 of Nineteen Minutes yet?
Now that we've listed some our favorites of 2009, let's look ahead to 2010. We're already getting tons of January books -- here are a few recent arrivals that are on our radar.
Roses was a big buzz book at BEA and is a four-generation family saga that has been compared to The Thornbirds. Juicy!
Tracy Chevalier was one of the writers who kicked off the latest wave of historical fiction. Her new novel, Remarkable Creatures (Viking) is about two female fossil-hunters in Lyme Regis, England, in the 19th century. Isn't the jacket gorgeous? The UK edition (which went on sale earlier this week) uses the same elements in a different way.
Chevalier talks about her inspiration for the book here.
Then there's the return of Elizabeth Kostova with The Swan Thieves (Little, Brown), which we blogged about earlier this summer.
I was intrigued by the fanciful cover of Ali Shaw's The Girl with the Glass Feet (Holt). Shaw said his debut—the story of a girl who visits an island where strange things are happening and subsequently finds herself slowly turning into glass—was inspired by the European fairy tale tradition.
And Mo Hayder has Skin (Grove), a sequel to Ritual, coming out in January. Though so far none of her recent books have topped the creepiness of The Devil of Nanking in my mind, fans of literary horror will have something to keep them up at night.
And of course, there's the new Joshua Ferris—The Unnamed.
Any January releases you're looking forward to?
The year isn't over yet, but in early July Amazon posted their "top 10 books of the year . . . so far" in several categories. This got me wondering: what are my top 10 books of the year so far? In no particular order, some favorite new books from the year. Links will take you to the BookPage review.
[gallery link="file" columns="5" orderby="title"]
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Not exactly an original choice, but there's a reason for the good word-of-mouth on this novel. Tremendously moving and unexpected.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Like Henry James in Turn of the Screw, Waters leaves the "poltergeist or disturbed protagonist" decision up to the reader, but draws a compelling portrait of Britain's changing class system after World War II.
The Believers by Zoe Heller. Though this one wasn't as much of a page-turner as Notes on a Scandal, I appreciate a writer who's not afraid to make her characters less than likeable. Plus, I envy her Bahamas/NYC lifestyle!
Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick. Perusing this collection of essays dedicated to the teen reads of my childhood was a fun trip down memory lane. It will be especially enjoyed by anyone in the 25-35 age range.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I know this isn't on sale yet. Does it make you feel better to know that I'm still in a state of anticipation -- this time for book #3? Sequels are often disappointing, but this one lives up to the standard set by The Hunger Games. (Watch for our interview with Collins in the September issue.)
A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan. I'd never heard of this British writer before galleys of Day crossed my desk, but I'm now on the lookout for his earlier works.
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. The lives of four generations of women are captured in just 300-0dd pages that have the heft of a much bigger book. It reminded me in some ways of The Stone Diaries, which I just read (and loved).
Little Bee by Chris Cleave. A talked-up novel that deserved the buzz it got, Cleave's portrait of a Nigerian refugee with a startling connection to a well-to-do British woman and her husband is a moving, honest story of immigrant life and the ties that bind us all.
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. I've long read and loved Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. Her memoir is written in the same friendly voice, but goes deeper into the stories behind the recipes. It is heartfelt, but not sentimental, and told with honesty -- so I'll be completely honest here and admit to staying up too late to read the whole book in one gulp and actually wiping tears more than once.
My Abandonment by Peter Rock. This novel about father-daughter survivalists who live off the grid was inspired by a true story and takes an unexpected turn.
What's your top 10?
One of the best things about working at a book review is being one of the first to know when a favorite author has a new book on the horizon. Today brought that pleasure for me—Lionel Shriver has a March 2 release scheduled with Harper.
Info on So Much for That is scarce (they don't even have a cover design available yet), but the catalog describes it as "a searing, deeply humane new novel about the tragic costs of the American healthcare system."
Before you think, ugh, a novel about issues, consider that Shriver has previously taken on such controversial topics as violence in schools, maternal ambivalence and infidelity in her novels, and still managed to make them completely absorbing. Plus, her current status as an expat (she is an American who lives in England) gives her a different perspective on the health care controversy. It also doesn't hurt that she's a sharply intelligent writer who won't pull punches. I have high hopes that this novel will be another winner.
Read our interview with Shriver for The Post-Birthday World.
I'm not normally a fan of book trailers—most of them are either cheesy or amount to little more than a dramatic reading of the back cover copy, which doesn't thrill me. However, this book trailer from Libba Bray promoting her latest book for teens, Going Bovine, is a hilarious exception to the norm (embed code not available, so you'll have to visit EW.com to watch).
The 3-minute video is incredibly wacky. Any author who describes a book as "having all the hallmarks of being weird that people have come to know and tolerate in my writing" while wearing a cow suit gets my vote. We're talking to Bray about Going Bovine in an interview that will only appear on our website, and now I can't wait to hear what else she has to say about the book.
If you check it out, come back and let me know what you think. Are there any other book trailers I shouldn't miss?
Don't miss the contest going on at BookPage.com this month. To win up to 10 free copies of Impossible by Nancy Werlin for you and your book club, all you have to do is create a profile for your club on our site and post a review of a book you've read by September 1. Then email or comment on this post to tell me you've done it.
If you haven't heard of Impossible, check out the story behind the book as told by Nancy Werlin herself on our site.