As a new addition to the BookPage staff, I'm trying to familiarize myself with as many new and recent books as I can. One of the books that caught my eye is an advance copy of Robyn Okrant's Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Live as TV's Most Influential Guru Advises (to be released in January 2010). Based on Okrant's blog, Living Oprah, the book chronicles the year she spent trying to "live her best life" as Oprah intends. From reading Oprah's book club selections and cooking Oprah's recipes to trying to love shoes as much as Oprah does, Okrant takes Oprah's instructions to heart, and carefully observes the effects, both positive and negative, her project is having on herself and the people in her life.
A recent book with a similar structure is Colin Beavan's No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process (the accompanying documentary is now in theaters). This book also sprang from a blog (No Impact Man) and is about the year that Beavan and his family gave up everything in their lives with a negative environmental impact. Plastic, television, air-conditioning, even toilet paper was forbidden in their household for a year. Although the rules Beavan followed were radically different from Okrant's, it's a fair bet that they both learned something interesting about the way that many of us live our lives today.
And they're not alone. In the last few years, there has been a noticeable rise in the number of books like these. From books about food (Julie & Julia, of course, which according to Amazon is now subtitled My Year of Cooking Dangerously) to books about religion (A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically) to books with a social or political agenda (Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine), my-year-of memoirs are everywhere these days.
So it should come as no surprise that at least one enterprising blogger has put his own twist on the topic: Dave Holmes (My Year of Everything) plans to read one my-year-of book every week, and then write a book about his experience. As he puts it: "After 12 months of blogging, I’ll have my own book that will teach you how to be a better person, a better cook, a better lover, and literally everything else. How convenient!" I just hope for his sake that this publishing trend lasts long enough for him to land a deal.
Dear reader: if you could get your own book deal, what would you want to spend one year doing?
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation is asking the public to vote on the best of their fiction award-winners.
Actually, we can vote on the best of six finalists. A panel of 140 past winners, finalists and judges narrowed down the 77 winning titles since 1950. Voting starts today and runs through midnight on Oct. 21.
One voter will win two tickets to the 60th National Book Awards on Nov. 18 (and two nights in the Marriott Hotel Downtown in NYC). Vote here.
The top 6:
The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (1951)
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (1953)
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1972)
Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon (1974)
The Stories of John Cheever (1981)
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1983)
Anyone have a beef with this list? What else should have been on there? You may notice that of the six short-listed titles, four are collections of stories. Also, the most recently-published book on the list came out over 25 years ago.
Like any best-of roundup, the short list will likely inspire controversy. (For example, I know more than one person who’d be happy on a desert island with nothing but Walker Percy’s 1962 winner The Moviegoer.)
Of the 77 fiction winners from 1950 to 2008, 74 are still in print. If you’re interested in some of the past winners (starting with Nelson Algren’s The Man with the Golden Arm in 1950 and running through Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country in 2008), check out the National Book Foundation’s book-a-day blog, which features in-depth info and summaries about each book.
And stay tuned, because this year’s finalists will be announced on Oct. 13. Any readers want to speculate in any of the categories (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature)?
We'll believe it when we see it, but The Washington Post is reporting that Uwem Akpan's 2008 short story collection, Say You're One of Them, will be Queen O's next book club pick. The Post says that Ingram International, a book distribution company, unintentionally leaked the information this morning. Oprah will officially announce this, her 63rd book club selection, to a live audience in New York City's Central Park tomorrow (September 18th).
Published by Little, Brown, Say You're One of Them is Nigerian-born Akpan's first book. The collection features five short stories, one of which was originally published in The New Yorker. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, saying:
"Akpan's prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror—and there is much—is seen through the eyes of children."
If the Post is right, Akpan's stories are about to gain a much wider audience. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: It's official! Oprah just announced that Say You're One of Them is indeed her latest book club selection. Congratulations to Uwem Akpan and his publishers!
Last night Trisha and I were lucky enough to attend a dinner honoring debut novelist, Amy Greene. Amy’s novel, Bloodroot, goes on sale in January and since the author is a true Tennessee girl, her very wise Ingram account manager, Jason Gobble, set up a dinner with local booksellers and media.
Our group of twenty met at Cock of the Walk (yup, you read that right), a down home restaurant known for their catfish and well, fried . . . everything.
Author Amy was as sweet as could be, and our group enjoyed a fun-filled night of greasy food and book-dominated conversation.
Named for a flower whose blood-red sap possesses the power both to heal and poison, Bloodroot is a story about the legacies—of magic and madness, faith and secrets, passion and loss—that haunt one family across the generations, from the Great Depression to today.
Amy told me she met author Jill McCorkle at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Jill loved Amy’s novel and put her in touch with New York literary agent, Leigh Feldman. Amy says she met with Leigh and had a book deal with Knopf within the month. Not bad for a first time writer from East Tennessee! We love Bloodroot at BookPage and we’re hoping others will agree.
The book goes on sale January 12, so make sure you put this one on your 2010 reading list!
An Amazon spokesman said in an email that "the big surprise" was that the edition of the book for the company's Kindle electronic-book reader outsold hardcover editions on the book's release day, excluding pre-orders.
At BookPage we’ve been gearing up for the holidays. It may seem early, but since we work 2-3 months ahead of publication dates, we’ve been happily sorting through piles of the best books to give (and receive) this season.
While doing my fiction research, I was surprised to see that Today Show personality Al Roker has a novel coming out this fall. Not so much of a stretch, I thought, since Roker has previously released cookbooks (Al Roker's Big Bad Book of Barbecue and Al Roker's Hassle-Free Holiday Cookbook) and a memoir (Don't Make Me Stop this Car: Adventures in Fatherhood). But then I saw the title of his novel: The Morning Show Murders. Hmm.
From the publisher: Being cheerful at six in the morning can drive anyone to murder—just ask Al Roker! In his behind-the-cameras debut mystery, a celebrity TV chef has dishes to prepare, millions to entertain and a murder to solve before his show—and life—get permanently cancelled. As fact and fiction collide and the backbiting ignites, The Morning Show Murders will make you wonder: How much of this stuff is real?
Maybe it’s just me, but a thriller from sunny Al Roker is the last thing I expected to see in the mail. But now I’m intrigued . . . maybe just enough to read the first few chapters.
Will you check out The Morning Show Murders when it goes on sale November 24?
The Oscar buzz is already building for Up in the Air, the latest film by Oscar-nominated director Jason Reitman (Juno). Based on a 2001 novel by Walter Kirn, the movie debuted last weekend at the Toronto Film Festival to glowing reviews. Kirn's novel features a well-traveled "Corporate Transition Counselor" (played in the film by George Clooney), who yearns to make a break from his grueling job, but has his eyes fixed on an elusive prize: one million frequent flyer miles. Readers interested in checking out Up in the Air before the U.S. premiere of the film on November 13 will find a new movie tie-in paperback edition available next month, along with a new audio version and mass market paperback.
From USA Today comes word that Jason Reitman's next directorial project might involve a novel of particular interest here: Joyce Maynard's Labor Day. Reitman is said to be adapting a screenplay of the book, which tells the surprisingly tender tale of a mother and son in a small New Hampshire town who shelter an escaped convict during a long holiday weekend. Deb Donovan reviewed the novel in the August issue of BookPage, and I blogged about its attractive cover design a few weeks ago, a subject that elicited several interesting emails from Maynard herself. It seemed appropriate to save my own reading of the book for Labor Day weekend, when two plane flights gave me some uninterrupted reading time. Despite my initial compulsion to shake/scream at/lecture any woman who would give a ride to a smooth-talking prison escapee (do NOT let that man into your car!), I found myself drawn into the story of this poignant threesome and particularly taken with the voice of 13-year-old narrator Henry. It would be fascinating to see how a talented director like Reitman would bring this unique coming-of-age story to the screen.
On the other end of the book-to-movie spectrum is The Road, the grim Cormac McCarthy novel that has encountered a series of delays in reaching the screen. Let's be honest here, a novel that features seered earth, cannibalism and raw terror always seemed like a longshot for movie success. The Wizard of Oz, it's not. But I still believe Viggo Mortensen is an ideal choice for the lead role and despite mixed early reviews, I'm still eager to see this movie. As Mortensen said in an interview with Canadian television, McCarthy's message in The Road is ultimately a hopeful one: "This film really makes you appreciate life," Mortensen tells CTV. "Sure you can have a bad day. You can have physical ailments and problems in life. But I wouldn't trade this life or this world for any other. Life is short, you know? You've got to pay attention to that." The film is now set to debut on November 25.
In a recent column, Hollywood Reporter Editor Elizabeth Guider offers an interesting take on why we don't see as many books made into movies these days: "Much has shifted in the past quarter-century. Novels used to be the bedrock of movie adaptation because they were the basis of the culture's general education. Practically every best-seller got made into a movie, and some more high-toned works did as well." Now, Guider says, it's comic books that generate excitement among studio execs: "Comic books have emerged from kids' bedrooms into the mainstream as the coolest source material for movies. They and their snootier cousins, graphic novels, are now talked about in the same hushed tones that were once reserved for the works of Thomas Pynchon or John Barth." Point well taken.
Do you have a favorite novel that Hollywood is ignoring? What book would you most want to see made into a movie?
That was just one of the questions the Wall Street Journal asked in an interview with the Lost Symbol author, which contains a few interesting tidbits about Brown's personal life and writing routine (apparently his day starts at 4 am—yikes!). He also talked to Parade earlier this week.
The New York Times and the LA Times broke the embargo with reviews yesterday, and novelist Louis Bayard covered the book today for the Washington Post. Slate has posted a "Dan Brown Plot Generator" that should entertain "Choose Your Own Adventure" or "Mad Libs" devotees. And John Crace live-blogged about reading the novel over at the Guardian's books page.
As for BookPage? Well, we took advantage of the Kindle's wireless network to get a copy of the book to reviewer Ed Morris the moment it was released (Seattle time, unfortunately). He's reading right now, and tells me that so far the book has the "same high-intensity beginning, same minute-by-minute unfolding" as The DaVinci Code. He should know: Ed interviewed Dan Brown about The Da Vinci Code before the book went on sale back in 2003. Check it out here.
Scholastic is boasting—and justifiably so—about the news that Suzanne Collins' teen novel Catching Fire is now the best-selling book in the country for any age group, according to bestseller lists just released by USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. This sequel to The Hunger Games is obviously drawing many adult readers, including several in our office who rave about this fast-paced read and its appealing young heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Though she won the Hunger Games, Katniss must face new problems in book two as she begins the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour.
Collins is working on the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy and has done very few interviews for Catching Fire. We're happy to report that BookPage was one of the lucky few—you can read our Q&A with the author in the September issue.
And speaking of lucky: we have a copy of Catching Fire for one lucky reader. Leave a comment below no later than Monday, Sept. 14, mentioning your favorite heroine in a book, and you'll be entered in the drawing to win!
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?