Columnist and commentator David Brooks’s new book, The Road to Character (Random House; RH Audio; OverDrive Sample) is a blend of self-examination and an exploration of what makes a richly fulfilling inner life.
In an interview yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered, he says he began this journey after meeting a group of people who tutor immigrants and realizing that they “radiated gratitude for life,” a quality he found missing in his own life, despite his outward successes.
The Guardian calls the book “a powerful, haunting book that works its way beneath your skin.”
It rose to #2 on Amazon’s sales rankings today, possibly benefiting not only from people on the search for their own roads to character, but from those on the search for interesting (if pointed) graduation gifts. As The Washington Post‘s Ron Charles points out in a story satirizing printed version of famous graduation speeches aimed at that market, it is the season for such books.
When The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, (Ten Speed Press; Tantor Audio) was first published, we thought it sounded downright silly. In a story in the NYT “Home and Garden” section in late October, Penelope Green tried the author’s odd methods (you are asked to assess each item in your home for whether it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t pass the test, you discard it, first thanking it for its service). A design theorist quoted in the story says such anthropomorphism is familiar in Japanese culture, but not in Western. “Fat chance Americans will go for this,” we thought.
Then it appeared on the Nov. 16 NYT Advice Best Seller list at #4. “Just a blip,” we thought, people buying it as an amusing Christmas gift. We felt justified when it slid down to #10 the next week.
Now, deep into the new year when gift-buying season is long past, the book is at #1, where it’s been for the last month, except for one week when Dr. Phil’s 20/20 Diet pushed it to #2.
Never underestimate American’s desire to organize their stuff, especially if doing so promises to change their lives.
Anderson Cooper talked about discovering mindfulness on 60 Minutes last night (it’s a long segment, so we haven’t embedded the video here). He was introduced to the practice by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is called “the man who’s largely responsible for mindfulness gaining traction.” One of his ten books, Mindfulness for Beginners rose to #2 on Amazon sales rankings as a result.
It was published in 2011 by Sounds True, a Colorado publisher focused on spirituality, and is available through wholesalers.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–And Your Life
Hardcover, 9781604076585, $ 21.95 Audio, 9781591794646, $ 19.95
With her book, Lean In still on the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction list after 53 weeks, Sheryl Sandberg has geared her message to a younger generation with Lean In: For Graduates(RH/Knopf; RH Audio). She appeared on the Today Show this morning.
Jon Stewart is back from spring break, with a full roster of shows this week, two of them featuring authors.
Last night he interviewed media maven Arianna Huffington about her new book, Thrive, (RH/Harmony; RH Audio) which has already been moving up Amazon’s sales rankings following her appearance on Ellen. Degeneres exhibited none of Stewart’s skepticism about some of Huffington’s pronouncements, (it’s worth watching the Daily Show segment just for Stewart’s facial expressions. Huffington remained unfazed). The book is now at #20 and rising.
Tomorrow night brings the authors of a book on a subject closer to Stewart’s heart, No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes, an oral history of a NJ dive bar where he once work. The book is self-published by the authors and is currently only available in paperback.
Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts’ 2012 graduating class became a viral hit. Released in book form (HarperCollins/Morrow) this week, it is rising on Amazon.
John Green’s speech to the graduating class of Butler University may not be far behind.
Predating both of them is David Foster Wallace’s speech to Kenyon College in 2005, a viral success later released in book form, This Is Water, (Hachette/Little,Brown). Recently, a short film based on the original was posted to YouTube and has been viewed nearly 5 million times in just ten days.
The “raining-on-the-parade” genre may have begun with a speech that wasn’t actually a speech. It was column by Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune in 1997 about what she would say if she had been asked to give a commencement address (which she hadn’t). An urban legend grew up that this was actually a speech given by Kurt Vonnegut at an MIT graduation. Vonnegut ruefully said he wished that were true, but it wasn’t. The column ended up being published as a gift book by Andrews and McMeel as Wear Sunscreen (the one piece of advice that Shmich found irrefutable) and re-released in a 10th anniversay edition in 2008. Baz Lurhmann turned it into a music video “Everyone’s Free to Wear Sunscreen.”
It happened again; an author made Oprah cry and her book sales soared.
Featured in a two-part Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, Dr. Brene Brown brought Oprah to tears when she read the “parenting manifesto” from her book Daring Greatly, (Penguin/Gotham, 2012). Not only did it rise to the #2 position on Amazon’s sales rankings, but an earlier title, The Gifts of Imperfection, (Perseus/Hazeldon, 2010) rose to #3 and I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), (Penguin/Gotham, 2007), rose to #28.
Lots of titles to watch next week, including librarian favorites from rising novelists Emma Straub and Tatjana Soli, Spanish sci-fi bestseller Felix J. Palma, and British debut author MorganMcCarthy. Usual suspects include Zadie Smith, James Patterson, Dale Brown and Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry – plus Elizabeth George makes her YA debut.
After dominating news all this week, No Easy Day, the eyewitness account of the killing of bin Laden is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, but the Pentagon has warned that the author is in breach of the non-disclosure agreements he signed when he became a Navy SEAL and that “Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements.”
Christopher Hitchens posthumously delivers his last words on mortality, Gretchen Rubin shares more tried and true advice on cultivated happiness, and NBA superstar Dwyane Wade reflects on his rise as a basketball player and his role as a father.
Breedby Scott Spencer writing as Chase Novak (Hachette/ Mulholland Books; Hachette Audio) is a medical thriller about an infertile couple who transform themselves into parents via reproductive technology, but it has an unexpected side effect, causing them to develop strange appetites that scare their twin children. Janet Maslin gave it an early review in Thursday’s New York Times, in which she calls Spencer the “gently literary author still best remembered for the lush prose of his 1979 Endless Love…[who has] has started writing in a pulpier and more diabolical vein.” She that, while it displays “keen antennas for sensory detail,” it is “a gruesome book, a full-bore foray into the horror genre, so literary loveliness goes only so far. It is probably best avoided by anyone not wishing to know exactly what it’s like to eat a baby pigeon.” The cover sports a blurb from Stephen King, “By turns terrifying and blackly funny, Breed is a total blast.” Entertainment Weekly, however, gives it just a “B,” saying, “Breed is being touted as a modern-day Rosemary’s Baby, but Spencer… delivers the camp better than he does the scares.” A followup, Brood, is in the works.
John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (Grove Press) is a historical novel set in 17th century England about a boy who’s orphaned when his mother is accused of being a witch. He goes on to become the greatest cook of his generation. PW says, “Known for intellectual prose and complex plots, Norfolk this time out attempts to interweave time and senses, reality and myth, rewarding steadfast readers with savory recipes and a bittersweet upstairs-downstairs love story.” It was a BEA Librarian’s Shout ‘n’ Share pick, and is an Indie Next pick for September.
Norfolk offers a look at the surprising sophistication of English cooking in the 17th C:
The Map of the Sky by Felix J.Palma (S&S/Atria) is the Spanish author’s sequel to his bestselling take-off on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Here, the action begins when a New York socialite challenges her fiance to recreate Wells’ The War of the Worlds, setting off a chain reaction across time and space. LJ says, “Palma has again managed to infuse something very familiar with a new edge and life.” This one also kicked up some buzz on GalleyChat in August, where a librarian said that the novel “brings War of the Worlds to life.”
The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli (St. Martin’s Press; Tantor Media; Thorndike Large Print) was a BEA Shout ‘n’ Share pick for Cuyahoga’s Wendy Bartlett. Here’s her pitch: “This book opens with a family tragedy that occurs in the first few pages. The rest of this thoughtful book is about how we heal–or don’t–after an unspeakable tragedy. It’s set on a citrus ranch in Southern California. Soli’s first book, The Lotus-Eaters, did very well with our customers, and was really good for book discussion. She reminds me of a young Barbara Kingsolver. Her language is simple but not plain, her characters are extremely well drawn, and the setting is like a movie it’s so easy to visualize.”
The Other Half of MebyMorganMcCarthy (S&S/Free Press) is a paperback original about two siblings who grow up in a dysfunctional aristocratic English family in Wales with secrets that go back for generations. Robin Beerbower, our go-to librarian for scary titles, says this one “is being compared to Ian McEwan’s Atonement, but I’m finding it more compelling than that. The pacing is a bit slow but it features a completely unreliable but fascinating narrator and the gorgeous writing kept me engrossed.”
NW by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press; Penguin Audiobooks) is Smith’s first novel in seven years and one of the most anticipated titles of the early fall (it even gets an early review from BusinessWeek). It focuses on three characters who have risen above their childhoods in a Northwest London housing estate in the 1970s, with varying degrees of success. Michiko Kakutani, in the NYT, expresses disappointment, calling it a “much smaller, more meager book” than Smith’s critically acclaimed debut, White Teeth. In the Washington Post, Ron Charles expresses sympathy for the author, who, “Ever since… her dazzling debut in 2000, Zadie Smith has labored under an enviable weight of critical and popular expectations.” He acknowledges that the new novel it difficult, but worth the effort: “At times, reading NW is like running past a fence, catching only strips of light from the scene on the other side. Smith makes no accommodation for the distracted reader — or even the reader who demands a clear itinerary. But if you’re willing to let it work on you, to hear all these voices and allow the details to come into focus when Smith wants them to, you’ll be privy to an extraordinary vision of our age.” Smith spoke out this week to protest the possible closing of hundreds of local libraries in Great Britain.
Zoo by James Patterson (Hachette/Little Brown; Hachette Audio) revolves around Jackson Oz, a young biologist, who witnesses a coordinated lion ambush in Africa that spurs him to heroic action.
The Tombs by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry (Penguin/Putnam; Thorndike Press; Penguin Audiobooks) is the fourth outing with multi-millionaire treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo, who join an archaeologist in excavating an ancient Hungarian battlefield. PW says, “this adventure series stands as one of the crown jewels in the Cussler empire.”
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George (Penguin/Viking) is the veteran mystery author’s first YA novel, the start of a series about a psychic 14 year-old girl who must fend for herself after her mother runs away from her stepfather. Booklist says, “what’s best here are the characters, both young and adult. There are no stereotypes, and their humanity keeps the story moving, even when the plot is tied in knots.”
Mortalityby Christopher Hitchens (Hachette/Twelve; Twelve; Hachette Audio) is the lauded cultural critic’s look at illness, suffering, cancer etiquette, religion and his own incipient death from esophageal cancer in December 2011. PW says, “Hitchens’ powerful voice compels us to consider carefully the small measures by which we live every day and to cherish them.” 125,000 copies.
A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketballby Dwyane Wade (HarpreCollins/Morrow) is a memoir by the NBA superstar, Miami Heat player and divorced single dad of two sons that charts his upbringing by his drug-addicted mother on Chicago’s South Side. Kirkus says, ” A refreshing chronicle of a fervent sportsman with his head and heart in all the right places.”
Lots of librarian favorites and buzz titles to look out for next week, starting with Francine Matthews‘s alternate history featuring JFK, and Dianne Warren‘s prize-winning tale of small town lives. Little Bee author Chris Cleaves returns with a much-praised third novel, along with fellow Brit Louise Millar’s look into the lives of two London mothers, while Swedish author Lars Kepler is back with another creepy thriller. Usual suspects include Karin Slaughter, Jennifer Weiner and Taylor Anderson. And Cheryl Strayed delivers a collection of her tangy “Dear Sugar” advice columns from The Rumpus.
Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews (Penguin/Riverhead; Thorndike Large Print) explores the premise that President Franklin Roosevelt enlisted a young John F. Kennedy – the son of the ambassador to Britain – to investigate a conspiracy to fix the 1940 U.S. election. Wendy Bartlett at Cuyahoga is betting big on this one, as an easy hand-sell across a busy reference desk. As she puts it, “all you need to say is: ‘There was no CIA in 1939. JFK travels to Europe to research his Harvard senior thesis (which he actually did); Franklin Roosevelt asks him to gather intelligence on what the Nazis are up to.’ ” She believes both men and women will love it, and that it’s a perfect airplane read.
Juliet in August by Dianne Warren (Putnam/Amy Einhorn; Tantor Audio) is a debut novel that follows the residents of a small town on the edge of the vast grassland of Saskatchewan on a single day. The winner of Canada’s highly regarded Governor General’s Award, it was also an ALA Shout ‘n’ Share title, where librarian Wendy Bartlett compared the author to Alice Munro and Jaimy Gordon, saying, “Juliet, it turns out, is a place, not a person… Warren’s description of horses reminds me of Wrobeleski’s wonderful descriptions of dogs in Edgar Sawtelle… Surprise and delight your customers with this one. They’ll thank you, and when it ends up on prize lists, you’ll look smart!”
Gold by Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster; Thorndike Large Print; S&S Audio) is the story of two friends and close rivals as they train for their last Olympic bike race together and confront the challenges of love, friendship, ambition and parenthood, written by the British author of the runaway hit Little Bee. It’s the #1 Indie Next pick for July and is getting strong early reviews, like this one from PW: “Cleave pulls out all the stops, getting inside the hearts and minds of his engagingly complex characters. The race scenes have true visceral intensity, leaving the reader feeling as breathless as a cyclist. From start to finish, this is a truly Olympic-level literary achievement.” It’s most summer reading lists, including People magazine’s, with lots of reviews coming, and coverage on NPR’s Weekend Edition expected.
The Nightmare by Lars Kepler (Macmillan/FSG/Sarah Crichton; Thorndike Large Print) is the sequel to last year’s creepy yet excellent Swedish thriller The Hypnotist, again featuring detective Joona Linna as she looks into an arms dealing case. Booklist says, ” While the plot is overstuffed and the pacing is stiff, Kepler (a pseudonym for husband-and-wife team Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril) creates a terrific, almost palpable atmosphere, which is sure to please fans of Swedish crime fiction.”
The Playdate by Louise Millar (S&S/Atria/Emily Bestler Trade Pbk Original) is the story of a friendship between two London women who live on the same street, one affluent and the other a struggling single mother whose child has a heart condition. PW says it begins as a “quiet story about neighbors [and] soon builds into a gripping psychological thriller.” 75,000-copy first printing.
Criminalby Karin Slaughter (RH/Delacorte Press; Center Point Large Print; AudioGO) is the fourth installment in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation series, with two disturbingly similar rape cases that take place 40 years apart. PW says, “Slaughter seamlessly shifts between past and present, while her usual attentive eye for character and carefully metered violence is on full display.”
The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner (S&S/Atria Books; Center Point Large Print; Simon & Schuster Audio) is the story of Ruth Saunders, who moves in with her grandma in Hollywood and gets a sitcom accepted for production.
Iron Gray Sea: Destroyerman by Taylor Anderson (Penguin/NAL/Roc; Tantor Audio) is the seventh novel in the Destroyerman series about a parallel universe in which the drama of World War II plays out, with Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy and the crew of USS “Walker” and their allies pursuing a Japanese destroyer in Allied seas.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (Random House) is a collection of columns that appeared on the online publication The Rumpus. Formerly anonymous, the columnist recently revealed herself to be the author of the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the first in the Oprah 2.0 Book Club. Kirkus says this collection “demonstrates that wisdom doesn’t come only from age, but also from learning from the experiences of others. A realistic and poignant compilation of the intricacies of relationships.”
The subject of the infomercial part is, of course, Steve Harvey’s best seller, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man(HarperCollins/Amistad). The source material hasn’t toppled the Hunger Games book trilogy, but it does appear immediately below that series, at #7 on Amazon’s best seller list (a certain other trilogy, as yet not made into a movie, holds the top three positions). The tie-in edition is further down the list, at #635.
This week one more book appeared to add to the shelf of books about how the French dress better, live better and raise their kids better, all while not getting fat. Turns out their kids eat better, too.
Next week, another historical novel arrives that’s well-timed for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic; Charlotte Rogan’s debut, The Lifeboat. Usual suspects include Christopher Moore, Adriana Trigiani, Anne Tyler, Mary Higgins Clark and Lisa Scottoline. And there’s a TV tie-in to the BBC film adaptation of Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks that will air on PBS in April. In nonfiction, there’s a warm reminiscence of Yogi Berra‘s friendship with Yankees pitcher Ron Guildry byHarvey Araton, plus new memoirs from Eloisa James on living in Paris and journalist A.J. Jacobs on living healthy.
The Lifeboatby Charlotte Rogan (Hachette/Little, Brown/Reagan Arthur; Hachette Audio) begins on an elegant ocean liner carrying a woman and her new husband across the Atlantic at the start of WWI, when there is a mysterious explosion. Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. PW calls it “a complex and engrossing psychological drama.” This one was picked by Waterstones as one of 11 debuts expected to win awards and have strong sales in the UK.
Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore (Harper/Morrow; Harperluxe; HarperAudio) mixes humor and mystery in a romp through the 19th century French countryside when Vincent van Gogh famously shot himself in a French wheat field. Library Journal says, “Don’t let Moore’s quirky characters and bawdy language fool you. His writing has depth, and his peculiar take on the Impressionists will reel you in. One part art history (with images of masterpieces interspersed with the narrative), one part paranormal mystery, and one part love story, this is a worthy read.” Moore will be interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani (HarperCollins) begins in the Italian Alps, where two teenagers, Enza and Ciro, share a kiss that will linger across continents and time. Both land in New York City, where Enza makes a name for herself as a seamstress, eventually sewing for the great Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera, while Ciro develops into a skilled shoemaker and rake of Little Italy. Booklist calls it “an irresistible love story.”
The Beginner’s Goodbyeby Anne Tyler (RH/Knopf; RH Large Print; RH Audio) explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances — in their house, on the roadway, in the market. PW calls it “an uplifting tale of love and forgiveness. By the end of this wonderful book, you’ve lived the lives and loves of these characters in the best possible way.”
The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark (Simon & Schuster; Thorndike Press; S&S Audio) follows Mariah Lyons’s investigation of the brutal murder of her father, a well-respected academic, who comes into the possession of an ancient and highly valuable parchment stolen from the Vatican in the 15th century. Mary and her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, will both appear on the Today Show on Wednesday. Carol’s book Gypped: A Regan Reilly Mystery, also published by S&S, is coming out on the same day.
Come Homeby Lisa Scottoline (Macmillan/St. Martin’s; Thorndike Press; MacMillan Audio) is the Edgar-winning author’s second character-driven standalone thriller with a family saga at its core. LJ says it “deftly speeds readers through a dizzying labyrinth of intrigue with more hairpin turns and heart-pounding drops than a theme-park ride.”
Sidney Sheldon’s Angel of the Dark, Tilly Bagshawe, (Harper/Morrow; Dreamscape Audio) is the third in the series written by Bagshawe in Sheldon’s style. Says Booklist, “Although clearly aimed at Sheldon’s legion of fans, the book should appeal equally to the broader range of thriller readers.”
TV & Movie Tie-Ins
Birdsongby Sebastian Faulks (RH/Vintage) ties in to the BBC version starring Eddie Redmayne, Clémence Poésy and Matthew Goode, which will air on PBS on April 22 and April 29, 2012. When it was shown in the UK, the British tabloid, The Daily Star, referred to it as a “raunchy adaptation” and an “X-rated hit.” Critics applauded the first episode, but were divided over the second. Audiences, while strong, was not a large as those for Downton Abbey. Check out the trailer here.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits by Gideon Defoe (RH/Vintage) ties into the animated feature by those wonderful folks who gave us Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit, with voiceovers by Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven. The first stop-motion clay animated feature film to be shot in Digital 3D, it’s based the first two books in a series by British author Dafoe (collected in this tie-in edition), which has had a stronger following in the UK than here. Treat yourself; watch the trailer. The movie opens on April 27th.
Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball’s Greatest Gift by Harvey Araton (Houghton Mifflin) is the story of a unique friendship between a pitcher and catcher, starting in 1999, when Berra was reunited with the Yankees after a long self-exile after being fired by George Steinbrenner 14 years before. It’s already picking up buzz from the Wall St. Journal, which mentions Houghton’s television ads for the book within the VIP areas of Yankee Stadium, as well as ads during the live game feed, and in the New York Times. The authors will appear on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday as well as on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.
Paris in Love: A Memoirby Eloisa James (Random House; Books on Tape) finds the bestselling author of 24 historical romances (who is actually Mary Bly, daughter of poet Robert Bly and associate professor and head of the creative writing department at Fordham University) living in Paris with her family after she survived both cancer and the death of her mother. LJ says, “Not just for Francophiles or even James’s legion of fans, this delectable confection, which includes recipes, is more than a visit to a glorious city: it is also a tour of a family, a marriage, and a love that has no borders. Tres magnifique!”
Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfectionby A. J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster; Thorndike Press; Simon & Schuster Audio) is the fourth book in the One Man’s Humble Quest series, and finds the experieintial journalist trying to become the healthiest man in the world by following a web of diet and exercise advice, most which is nonsensical, unproven, and contradictory. LJ says it’s “engrossing and will have readers chuckling.”
Trickle Down Tyranny: Crushing Obama’s Dream of the Socialist States of America by Michael Savage (Harper/Morrow; Thorndike Press Large Press; Brilliance Audio) is a rant against “Barack Lenin” by the host of the No. 3 radio program in the nation, heard by nearly eight million listeners a week and syndicated across the United States in over 300 markets. “Not a book to make everyone happy,” says LJ, “but the 250,000-copy first printing and one-day laydown on April 3 indicates that the audience will be large.”