Thursday, September 25, 2008

An interesting combination

I read today in Publishers Weekly that our friend Nicholas Sparks is simultaneously writing a book and screenplay specifically for Disney star Miley Cyrus. The subject of the film is a secret.

This is not the first time Sparks has written for Hollywood, according to IMDB. He's worked on 5 adaptations of his own books, including one scheduled for next year (Dear John) and this week's Nights in Rodanthe. Doing a book and screenplay together, however, is a first for him.

Sparks's next book is called The Lucky One, and it's coming out this month. (Sparks will never be accused by anybody of being lazy!) Select Editions readers can look forward to it a few months from now.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nights in Rodanthe

I've mentioned before that the movie is coming out this month. I just got an update from the Nicholas Sparks website, pointing me to a whole set of extras, including a Reading Group Guide to the book. There's also a link to a preview of the film. It looks pretty good: check it out.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Bond. James Bond. Again.

You know how kids like to hear the same stories over and over? When my daughter was little she had her favorite books, and she would want me to read the same ones to her again and again. What is it about the familiar that makes it so appealing?

I’m wondering about this because I just read Devil May Care, the new James Bond novel by Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming. Here is a series that has far outlasted its creator. Fleming wrote 12 Bond novels and 2 collections of Bond short stories. His main successor, John Gardner, wrote 14 Bond novels plus two film novelizations, and other writers have also contributed to the canon, including Raymond Benson and Kinglsey Amis. And this doesn’t even begin to cover all the motion pictures (officially 22, counting the upcoming Quantum of Solace).

So what is the appeal, not necessarily of James Bond, who is not the only fictional character to have outlived his creator (think of Robert Ludlum and Jason Bourne, for instance), but of any series that goes on and on and on? Why do we, as adults, more or less still enjoy hearing the same stories over and over? On the one hand, I think, we like to see how an author will tweak the formula, keeping everything in place while nevertheless tugging on it in odd places and keeping the reader guessing. But I also think that, when we read for pure entertainment, we simply like to revisit characters and places that have entertained us in the past. It’s like dropping in on old friends and sharing new adventures with them. When we find people we like, we want to spend time with them, whether they’re real or fictional. It’s not that we like the same stories again and again, but we like the same people.

The explanation might be as simple as that.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Kissing a lot of frogs

As the old joke says, you've got to kiss a lot of frogs if you want to find a prince. At Select Editions, an editor has to read a lot of, well, not so good books before a good one shows up. And sometimes you despair of being able to enjoy reading ever again.

Think about it. One of us will have a pile of manuscripts on the desk, hiding our existence from the outside world. We start reading one. Our eyes glaze over. Maybe it gets better as you go along? It doesn't. We throw it out the window (figuratively) and start the next book. Our eyes glaze over. Maybe it gets better as you go along? It doesn't. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, except at some point the mail room dumps another pile of manuscripts on your desk just when you thought you might be able to see the light of day again.

And so you keep reading. And you begin to worry that maybe you're forgetting how to read. You've kissed so many frogs, you won't recognize a prince when he actually does appear. And the good news is, just about every time you get that feeling of despair, a book comes along out of nowhere and you're grabbed from page one and you love it and your faith is restored.

I'm speaking now from the experience of a few months ago. What was the book that brought me out of my bleakness? A thriller with a physics theme? A first novel? Written by some guy over at Scientific American? Yes, indeed. The book is Final Theory by Mark Alpert, and it's just been published in our latest volume. I'll only offer one warning about it: When you read it, make sure you've got a few free hours on hand, because there's no way you're going to be able to put it down until the last page.

Thank heavens there's still princes out there.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I will admit what I am doing at this very moment. I am reading the new Lee Child book. The one coming out next year. I thought to myself, when I first saw it, that it seemed to be here awfully early. I could probably wait a little while before getting to it. But I had some free time, so I picked it up and started reading. And then it happened. Whooosh!

He had me at page one. Wow, this guy is good!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Herman Wouk

This brings me back. Last night Herman Wouk was honored with the first Library of Congress Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction. According to the LOC, “The award recognizes Wouk’s extraordinary contributions to American letters and his dedication to, as he has said, ‘the enduring power of the novel.’” Details about Wouk and the award are at the LOC website.

Select Editions has a long history with Herman Wouk, going back to 1951 and The Caine Mutiny. In the Seventies, we broke away from our standard four books in one to do special three-title volumes featuring The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. I remember reading, and loving, both those books when they came out (which is before my time here at Reader's Digest). If there was ever a writer who brought history alive, and who created characters that jump off the page, it’s Wouk.

Herman Wouk has already been honored in 2000 by the Library of Congress as a living legend. His body of work has stood the test of time, and he well deserves this recognition.


Monday, September 8, 2008

The book game

There is a balance we try to strike at Select Editions between big best-selling books by famous names and discovery books by new up-and-coming authors. Which means that we keep an eye on the best-seller list to see what’s happening in the world, and if there’s anything we’ve missed that we should know about. The list, unfortunately, is not always that helpful. Often the biggest titles at any given moment are the latest addition to an ongoing series, or else their subject matter is simply too special for us. We’re not big on horror, for instance, or sword-and-sorcery. We’ve got nothing against either of these genres; we’re just looking for a more general type of story.

So what can I make of this? Entering the Times list at number one yesterday was a book that is not only part of the ongoing “Star Wars” universe of novels, but that has a most unusual provenance even for a Star Wars story. This one is based not on a movie, but on a video game! The title is The Force Unleashed, the same title as a game being released by LucasArts this month. The Times also felt that this was a remarkable event, pointing out that this was the first time a book derived from a video game has been number one on the list. Have there been others that simply didn’t make it so far?

In our complex and often confused era, there are so many competitors for our valuable spare time, and video games have been steadily gaining on more traditional forms like books and movies for a while now. And the relationship of games to movies is well-known, with movies often inspiring games, and games less often but occasionally inspiring movies. Books, I guess, are not exempt from the crossover possibilities. Read the book—See the movie—Play the game! I can sort of accept that, in that order. Play the game—read the book? I have a harder time with that one. The world at large, however, seems to have no such compunctions.

Welcome to the 21st Century.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Faves from the author of Sundays at Tiffany’s

If you’ve had a chance to read the AfterWords profile of James Patterson in the latest volume of Select Editions, then you know that Patterson’s favorite novel of all time is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s richly creative and somewhat fantastical novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. But unless you’ve been to the author’s website recently you may not know the other nine on his list of top ten. Here they are, and don’t be surprised if a few are a little highbrow. After all Patterson almost became a college professor and has an M.A. in English literature from Vanderbilt University:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Ulysses by James Joyce
Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Night Dogs by Kent Anderson
The Intruder by Peter Blauner
Different Seasons by Stephen King

If you want to check out James Patterson’s film picks click here.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Throw another e-book on the barbie!

I might have to change my tune. A while ago I wrote how I wasn't particularly impressed by the electronic book machines that were out on the market, and how I didn't think they'd be much of a factor in the near future. I might have been wrong.

At a barbecue this last weekend, not one but two of the guests were carrying electronic book machines. (Players? Readers? I don't really know what to call these devices yet.) One had an Amazon Kindle; the other, the Sony Reader. Why they had brought them along to a barbecue is beyond me; were they expecting there to be a lot of down time to catch up on their reading? Nevertheless, everybody around the grill had to give the two new toys a try, and there were certainly more positive than negative reviews of the whole idea.

So maybe e-books are coming faster than I expected. It's hard to say. They're certainly coming faster to the barbecues I happen to attend. I still remain a meat-and-potatoes guy when it comes to books though. I still like the kind that that fill up the shelves in my home library. But the world may be changing. Maybe eventually I'll end up changing along with it.