Last month, the New York Times published an article called “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print is Far From Dead”. The article’s main point was that the predicted “digital apocalypse” hasn’t occurred — sales of e-books are declining and independent bookstores are more robust than ever. Some industry “experts” have taken issue with the article, noting that the e-books referred to in the story are only those published by major publishers, not the gazillions of very cheap e-books available online. Fortune magazine says: “What’s really been happening is that the market share of established publishers has been declining, while sales of independently published e-books have been growing. In particular, sales of books that don’t even have industry standard ISBN numbers have increased.”
A number of authors have been very successful selling their own e-books. John Locke (the 21st century self-published author, not the 18th century philosopher) has published dozens of books since 2010, including How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months, and receives rave reviews from his fans. In fact, 83% of Amazon reviewers gave Locke’s The Love You Crave 4 or 5 stars; in contrast, 62% of reviewers awarded Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch 4 or 5 stars. Are readers deciding to buy The Love You Crave instead of The Goldfinch? No, but as traditional publishers have raised the prices of e-books, more readers are buying the paperback version of The Goldfinch instead of the e-book.
The Association of American Publishers reported that paperback sales increased by 8.4% in the first half of 2015. In many cases, the price of a paperback is nearly the same as the price of an e-book. The Strand Bookstore in New York City has a large table stacked with paperbacks, strategically located by the store’s entrance, with a sign reading “Cheaper than the E-Book”.
Here are 10 recent paperback releases (five fiction, five nonfiction) to pick up this fall:
On Immunity by Eula Biss
At first glance, On Immunity is an examination of the anti-vaccination movement, but this fascinating book can’t be easily categorized. The online magazine Salon describes it well: “Part memoir, part cultural criticism and part science journalism . . . an elegant reflection on a very contemporary flavor of fear.” Book clubs will find plenty to discuss.
The Best American Short Stories 2015 edited by T.C. Boyle and Heidi Pitlor
Every year, I look forward to the new edition of The Best American Short Stories — along with its companions, The Best American Essays, The Best American Food Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and more. They are perfect for keeping on your nightstand or in your car and picking up when you have 15 minutes or so to read.
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Ebershoff is executive editor and vice president of Penguin Random House, where he’s edited dozens of well-known books, including several Pulitzer Prize winners. He’s also written several three novels and a book of short stories. I loved The 19th Wife, a bestselling double narrative about the Mormon Church in the 19th century and today. Now I’m reading The Danish Girl, Ebershoff’s first novel, which is based on the true story of the first transgendered woman. The movie version, starring Eddie Remayne, will be released next month and I want to read the book first — I’m really enjoying it so far.
An Uncomplicated Life: A Father’s Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter by Paul Daugherty
Daugherty, career sports writer and father of an adult daughter with Down’s Syndrome, has written a wonderful book for any parent. Through the story of the first 25 years of his daughter Jillian’s life, Daugherty reminds us of the precious gifts our children are, “exceptional” or not. That sounds hokey, but the book isn’t. For my full review, click here.
Last Night’s Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors by Kate Gavino
The author, like me, loves to attend author readings. Unlike me, every time she goes to a reading she draws a portrait of the author and writes down her favorite quote. She’s been to more than 100 readings in the New York area, and she keeps a map of all the events, adding a pin every time she goes to a reading. Everything about this book, from the drawings to the hand-lettered quotes, is absolutely charming.
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
Macallister’s debut is a historical novel about a young, female magician (the “Amazing Arden”) at the turn of the 20th century, who is accused of murder. She is captured and interrogated by a country sheriff who has problems of his own, and during the course of one long night in a rural police station, we learn about the magician’s past. How did an aspiring dancer, born into a wealthy family, end up running a successful traveling magic show — and running for her life? It’s a terrific period piece, with a murder mystery and just a touch of the supernatural. If you enjoyed Water for Elephants, you’ll love this book.
When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
Between 1943 and 1947, the government distributed 120 million paperback books (called Armed Services Editions, or ASEs) to millions of United States servicemen. Special favorites were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Great Gatsby. Manning’s stirring book illustrates the power these books had to combat Nazi propaganda, “soothe an aching heart, renew hope for the future, and provide a respite when there was no escape” and to “build a new literate middle class” after the war.
The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books by Azar Nafisi
In this insightful follow-up to Reading Lolita in Tehran, Nafisi explores three seminal American novels — Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. These novels, and others, “link us to our past, provide us with critical insight into the present, and enable us to envision our lives not just as they are but as they should be or might become.” Interwoven with Nafisi’s literary analysis is the story of her journey to become an American citizen. The book “is a priceless gift to readers who revel in literary fiction”, according to the Chicago Tribune. (Interestingly, the original subtitle of the book was America in Three Books.)
White Collar Girl by Renee Rosen (due November 3)
Rosen is carving out a nice niche for herself — historical page-turners set in Chicago. She’s written about Al Capone and organized crime (Dollface) and Marshall Field and the Gilded Age (What the Lady Wants); her new book, a paperback original, focuses on a young woman trying to break into journalism in the 1950s at the Chicago Tribune. (The newspaper column she writes is called “White Collar Girl”.) Like her other books, Rosen’s latest is full of well-known figures — from Mayor Daley to Mike Royko to Ernest Hemingway.
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
One of my favorite authors ventures into YA literature with this imaginative novel about a traumatized young girl who is sent to a boarding school for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers.” After she and several other students are hand-picked for a special English class (based on Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar), they find that writing in their journals enables them to re-experience life before their traumas occurred. I’m looking forward to talking about the book with our store’s YA book group.
What paperbacks are you planning on reading this fall?