WSJ’s Summer Preview

Summer movie previews repeat the same titles, but book previews rarely agree. The Wall Street Journal (with a slick online slide show), picks just 17 titles against USA Today‘s list of 130+ and yet the two agree on only 7 titles. Add the Washington Post‘s list to the mix and only two titles get a consensus. One is David Seadaris’s When You Are Engulfed in Flames and the other is a nonfiction title:

Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World

David Maraniss

  • Hardcover: $32.95
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1416534075
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416534075
  • Audio CD: Abridged, $29.95
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (July 1, 2008)
  • Reader: David Maraniss
  • ISBN-10: 0743572718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743572712
  • Large Print: $32.95
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; (July 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1410408515
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410408515

WSJ quotes from the author to explain what grabbed them about the book:

…the forces of change were profound and palpable in the Eternal City. In sports, culture and politics — interwoven in so many ways — one could see an old order dying and a new one being born. With all its promise and trouble, the world as we see it today was coming into view.

The book is on order for most, but not all libraries I checked.


WSJ and USA Today agree upon five fiction titles, including Joyce Carol Oates’s My Sister, My Love and Janet Evanovich’s Fearless 14 (already at #26 on Amazon’s bestseller, several weeks ahead of publication) and this less obvious selection:


by Dirk Wittenborn

  • Hardcover: $25.95
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (July 31, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0670019429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670019427
  • Audio CD: Unabridged, $39.95
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio; (July 31, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0143143298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143143291

What grabbed WSJ?

The author manages to keep the plot moving over the book’s 400-plus pages, with eccentric, John Irving-like characters. And the books’ first line is a winner: “I was born because a man came to kill my father.”

PW called it “ambitious but flawed”

It’s on order, in small quantities, for most libraries.


Both also picked the following fiction titles:

Say You’re One of Them

Akpan, Uwem

  • Hardcover: $23.99
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 9, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0316113786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316113786

I vividly remember reading one of the the author’s stories when it appeared two years ago in The New Yorker and can’t wait to read more. Akpan, a Nigerian Jesuit priest, studied writing at the University of Michigan so he could tell the stories of Africa’s troubled children.

Starred in PW, the book grabbed the WSJ editors because:

The stories…can be brutal, but aren’t melodramatic. The children who narrate describe events in a matter-of-fact tone that is free of self-pity. “I felt this was the way to give dignity to their voices,” Fr. Akpan says.

It’s on order in small quantities in some libraries. There are reserves, with comfortable holds to copy ratios, but it’s significant that reserves are beginning already. I’m keeping my eye on this one.


Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Mary Ann Shaffer

  • Hardcover: $22.00
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (July 29, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0385340990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385340991
  • Audio CD: Abridged, $34.95
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; (July 29, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0739368435
  • ISBN-13: 978-073936843
  • Large Print: $33.95
  • Publisher: Center Point Large Print; (September 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1602852693
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602852693

This one grabbed me when it was presented at the PLA “Book Buzz” panel in March. It grabs WSJ, who says booksellers are embracing it, because:

A novel in letters may seem old-fashioned in the age of instant messaging, but the book’s warmth makes the narrative feel fresh and immediate. The late Ms. Shaffer [she died in February after this, her first book was sold] was taken by the firsthand accounts of occupation, her niece says, and felt letters would convey a sense of being there.

This is on order for most, but not all, of the libraries I checked.


The WSJ‘s preview is the only one to include a graphic novel. It is not on order by the libraries I checked, although many own the first in the series:

Berlin Book Two: City of Smoke

by Jason Lutes

  • Paperback: $19.95
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (August 19, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1897299532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897299531

WSJ was grabbed by;

The interweaving stories of a journalist, a prostitute, a black clarinetist, soldiers, politicians, bureaucrats and others as they interact during the waning Weimar Republic give a human dimension to a seismic era. Mr. Lutes’s unsentimental black-and-white drawings are so understated that when violence erupts it is a jolt.

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