by Campbell Geeslin
“Some of the biggest business books this fall,” PW said, “come from people high up in business and financial circles. Ben Bernanke, Robert Reich and Robert Gates are among the authors, while Thomas Piketty contributes the foreword to a proposal for tax haven reforms. There is also a range of fall books about the best way to save for retirement.”
One of the top 10 business books singled out was Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few by Reich. Due September 29, the book “presents a candid assessment of why big institutions are failing us and how good leaders can change them.”
On cookbooks, PW said that “the cuisines of several countries continue to grow in popularity, with cookbooks highlighting the food of Israel, India and basically all of Scandinavia. Look for big titles on the big Vs—vegetarian and Vegans—as well.”
“Thrillers from major publishers,” PW said, “typically occupy about half the slots on any bestseller list. Meanwhile, niche imprints and smaller presses offer a wide range of mysteries for every taste.” The top 10 lists The Dead Student by John Katzenbach, due out October 6. Thriller/mysteries include That Girl in the Spider Web: by David Lagercrantz is due out September 1.
Sci/fi, fantasy and horror books have “lyrical prose and fantastical settings that border on the surreal. Sweeping space opera and fantasy epics join impressive novellas and collections of short fiction, so there’s a little (or big) something for everyone.” Among the top 10 picks is The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, due August 1. PW said: “The first novel in three years from lauded fantasist Jemisin begins with a world-shaking cataclysm whose devastation is met by personal betrayals.”
“Romance and erotic authors are pushing all kinds of boundaries this fall,” PW said. “Gender-bending erotic stories, a gay romance set in 19th century Texas, forbidden love between a Saxon and a Viking, and Victorian adventurers in Tibet will satisfy readers looking for something new and exciting. . . . “
“This fall big history books are rooted in geographic locations,” PW said, “from the landscapes of the Catskills in Upstate New York to the back alleys of Paris and the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean.” Among the top 10: The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky. The book is “an elegy to the vanished intellectual world of the [the author’s] grandparents and their vast library.”
Memoirs and biographies offer “stories of famous, infamous and ordinary people having adventures, overcoming adversity, finding happiness by leaving the city, taking to the road, accepting the irrevocable, giving back or rescuing a pet." Among the top 10 picks: Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini. PW said the book “looks behind the glittering surface of the writer’s and intellectual’s colorful life to reveal complex emotional and sexual truths.”
On politics and currents events, books “explore the many issues that will be central to the coming campaign, and there’s no shortage of punditry from both the right and the left. Among the top 10: The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (October 13).”
BESTSELLERS: Six women who write bestselling mysteries were lined up in a photograph across two pages in the AARP magazine with a big headline: “Murder, She Wrote.” They were described as a “killer summer reading lineup.” One, Mary Higgins Clark has sold more than 100 million books in the U.S. alone.
The other five are:
Janet Evanovich, 72, “combines comedy with occasional killing.”
Tess Gerritsen, 62, writes “medical suspense made scary.”
Louise Penny, 57, writes “all about morals as well as murder.”
Sue Grafton, 75, writes “hard-boiled but with a female twist.”
Sara Paretsky, 68, writes “bullet-aced plots meet social injustice in Chicago.”
Mary Higgins Clark, 87, “deftly teases readers into scaring themselves.”
TWO KINDS: Jim Holt is the author of Why Does the World Exist? He wrote in the July 19 New York Times Book Review:
“The history of English prose can be seen as a dialectical struggle between two tendencies: plain versus grand. The plain style aims at ease and lucidity. It favors simply structured sentences, short words of Saxon origin and a conversational tone. It runs the risk of being flat. By contrast, the grand style . . . aims at rhetorical luxuriance. It is characterize by rolling periods decked with balanced subordinate clauses, a polysyllable Latinate vocabulary, elaborate rhythms, stately epithets, sumptuous metaphors, learned allusions and fanciful turns of phrase. It runs the risk of being ridiculous.”
THE DEVILISH ARTS: Stephen Grey is a Reuters reporter and author of The New Spymasters. Writing in The Guardian last week, he opened with the line “Betrayal, seduction and subterfuge: these devilish arts are central to the ancient craft of spying,”
Grey has written two previous books, including the award winning Ghost Plane, about the U.S. rendition program. Spymasters took him nearly 20 years to finish, he said, because he “wanted to provide . . . a dispassionate outsider’s perspective on modern espionage. . . . Too much of the spy bookshelf is colored by ex-insiders with an agenda, or writers either with little knowledge or who negotiate access and as a price submit to fact-bending censorship.”
He then went on to list his 10 ten spycraft works, nonfiction and fiction. First on his list was Rudyard Kipling's Kim; (1900); second was Erskine Childers's The Riddle of the Sands (1903).
NO PLANNING: Erica Jong is the author of Fear of Dying. In a PW profile, she told the writer, Deborah Bander, “Joy happens when it happens. It’s a blast; it’s like when a poem happens, you don’t know where it comes from. It’s a kind of ecstatic thing. And I don’t think you can plan it.”
AH, THE EIGHTIES: Critic Dwight Garner wrote about the contrarians and curmudgeons of the 1980s in The New York Times:
“Paul Fussell and Robert Hughes were publishing their best cultural and social criticism; P.J. O’Rourke had not yet become predictable; Florence King (at National Review) and Henry Fairlie (at The New Republic) were reliable dispensers of whirligig contumely; Spy magazine made its debut; Christopher Hitchens and James Wolcott were dashing freshmen on campus, and Clive James, at The Observer in London, was searing on his griddle the crispiest television criticism the world had ever seen.
“Each of these humans seems to have been guided by the principal articulated by Kingsley Amis: ‘If you can’t annoy somebody with what you write, I think there’s little point in writing.’”
CLICHÉ DEFENDED: Bestselling romance author Marie Bostwick’s latest novel, The Second Sister, came out in April. She wrote an essay for PW in defense of happy endings.
“If [happy endings are] unfashionable, so be it. I make no apologies. Because in this and every age, the books that readers remember and return to are those that wrap up with that famous and enduring ending: ‘And they lived happily ever after.’”
FINDING SPILLANE: Sue Grafton’s latest Kinsey Millhone mystery has the title X. In an interview in the July 19 New York Times Book Review, she was asked to name the “first mystery you fell in love with?”
Grafton's answer was, "I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane. I’m not saying I fell in love with the book, but after Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, what a revelation! I was twelve, and it may have been the moment when the spirit of Kinsey Millhone first sparked to life.”
NEXT BOOK: Emma Straub is the author of The Vacationers. The paperback, a bestseller, came out June 2.
In a post on her website, she said, “I’m just plugging away at my new novel, which will be out next year around this time. It’s about two families in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, and all the sexy stuff that happens between them. Other themes: Fame! Ambition! Parenthood! Food! Early 90s rock and roll! I’m having fun.”
RIDING A WAVE: William Finnegan, 62, is the author of Barbarian Days, a memoir about a lifetime of surfing. In an e-mail exchange for a piece by John Williams in The New York Times, he wrote: “Riding a wave well is like putting together a sentence that works. The punishment for making a mistake in the water tends to be more severe and immediate than anything that happens on a page, but as a journalist I also live in fear—more fear, actually—of getting something wrong.”