What Else Is Hot?: What the Authors of LJ's Top Ten Best Books Are Doing Next

So, what is hot? LJ’s Best Books list, of course, particularly our inaugural list of Ten Best Books. And what are LJ‘s ten Best Authors up to now? To find out, read on.

Bakewell, Sarah. How To Live, Or, a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. Other. ISBN 9781590514252. $25.
In a refreshing move that showed literary biographers what they could do if they were really imaginative, Bakewell framed her account of Montaigne as a series of lessons‚ drawn from his life and work‚ on how to live. Similarly, the book she is currently working on, Strangers in Town: The Story of the Existentialists, paints philosophy as instruction in the art of living by examining Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Juliette Gréco, and others. That book is scheduled for publication by Other Press in 2013. But Bakewell hasn’t left Montaigne behind, having recently completed a seven-part series on the French essayist/philosophe for the Guardian. A former curator at London’s Wellcome Library, she is also currently teaching narrative nonfiction at London’s City University. Honestly, aspiring writers, this would be worth the plane fare.

Cronin, Justin. The Passage. Ballantine. ISBN 9780345504968. $27.
Back from a world tour to promote The Passage (he hit the U.K., Germany, Holland, Canada, and more), Cronin shut the door, turned on his computer, and set to work on The Twelve, his second book in the trilogy. According to the publicist, fans have been pleading for the second installment through the web site. And, yes, there’s a film in the works; rights were sold to Fox 2000 for Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions. No start date yet, but a terrific screenwriter has been signed: John Logan wrote Gladiator as well as the Tony Award‚ winning play Red.

Crump, James (text) & Walker Evans (photogs.). Walker Evans Decade by Decade. Hatje Cantz. ISBN 9783775724913. $75.
Crump has a day job. The Curator and Department Head of Photography at the Cincinnati Art Museum since August 2008, he has recently been named the museum’s chief curator and is charged with building the photography collection, encouraging new and interdisciplinary approaches to presenting it, and working with other museums and institutions to develop a program of special exhibitions. Which is perhaps why he’s off to Europe now and not available for any direct questions. As for Walker Evans, Hatje Cantz will soon be releasing an expanded edition of hi classic monograph, American Photographs, originally from Errata Editions. The Lincoln Kirstein essays from that book will be complemented by an essay from contemporary Evans scholar John T. Hill.

Cunningham, Michael. By Nightfall. Farrar. ISBN 9780374299088. $25.
Cunningham, too, has just wrapped up a book tour, and like most authors he’s happy that it’s over and he can get back to work. As of Thursday morning, November 11, he was on page 53 of a new novel tentatively titled The Snow Queen. As he says in an email via his publisher, If past experience is any indication, the title and much of those 53 pages will be changed, probably dramatically, over time. Just to keep himself busy, he’s also in the midst of a screenplay, which will offer a contemporary retelling of The Turn of the Screw. Knowing Cunningham, with his new works he won’t be banging on a tub to make a bear dance‚ to quote By Nightfall‚ but mov[ing] move the stars to pity.

Donoghue, Emma. Room. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316098335. $24.99.
Donoghue has two challenges right now. First, she’s working on selling the film rights to Room and pinpointing the right collaborators for a script‚ no easy task when you consider the specificity of young Jack’s voice and the need to move out of that enclosed room onto a big screen. Second, she working on a new novel far from her home in contemporary Ontario‚ it concerns an unsolved murder in 1870s San Francisco. As Donoghue comments via email to her publisher, These days I use a lot of online sources: censuses and other official records, as well as databases of digitized 19th-century newspapers. They’re sometimes frustrating (full of variant spellings and typos) but always fascinating. Here’s betting the result will be fascinating, too.

Franzen, Jonathan. Freedom. Farrar. ISBN 9780312600846. $28.
You surely didn’t miss the fuss when Oprah pick Freedom as her 64th book club selection. But if you’re worrying that you missed the discussion itself, don’t; originally scheduled for November, that event has been moved to December. Meanwhile, even as Freedom remains on the New York Times best sellers list, Franzen himself has moved on. His short story, Ambition, will appear in the next issue of McSweeney’s, and he has begun work on a New Yorker piece that will send him traveling to South America in January. And Pittsburghers, rejoice: Franzen is due in your city in October 2011 to give the Drue Heinz Lectures.

Jacobsen, Rowan. American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. ISBN 9781596916487. $25.
Let’s see, Jacobsen is just a bit busy. He has a piece about sailing a yacht through the Gulf oil slick in November’s Outside magazine and another, not yet scheduled, on traveling to India with a team going up against tiger poachers. Still pending: a piece for ForbesLife on the terroir of Parma, Italy, and another for Eating Well on shellfish in the Pacific Northwest. In January, he starts cohosting a new segment on Vermont Public Radio called The Vermont Table‚ utterly appropriate, give how lusciously he wrote about the state’s maple syrup in American Terroir. Then he launches on a tour of the country with winemakers from New Zealand, Italy, and France, conducting oyster and wine‚ pairing seminars. In March, he’ll hit the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans. Come May, Bloomsbury will publish his Shadows on the Gulf, which argues that the Gulf of Mexico is one of the ecological wonders of the world and that we’ve just been given a last chance to save it. Oh, and he will be touring for that book as well. Amazing; I’m exhausted just writing this.

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Crown. ISBN 9781400052172. $26.
All HeLa all the time, says Skloot when asked in a phone interview what she’s up to now. Since the February publication of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which traced the origins of those HeLa cells, used in just about every type of scientific research, Skloot has been on a nonstop tour she’s organized herself. In particular, she’s been visiting high schools and universities (35 colleges have adopted the book for their First-Year Experience programs) and has found students riveted. Reading the book helps them see how science has affected their lives, explains Skloot. Some recognized that because Lacks’s family suffered the pain of losing her, they themselves were spared that pain when a parent or other relative got cancer. Others became absorbed in the ethical questions, while still others‚ especially young women, which really gratified Skloot‚ saw that doing science didn’t make you a dork. Given enthusiasm for the book down through high school, Skloot is now working on a YA version, to be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, likely in the spring. An HBO film, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, is also in the works. Finally, close to Skloot’s heart is the nonprofit Henrietta Lacks Foundation she started with proceeds from the book, which aims to help descendants of Lacks who cannot afford the healthcare that research with her cells has made possible. The foundation also hopes to support young African Americans pursuing education in science and medicine.

Vaillant, John. The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. Knopf. ISBN 9780307268938. $26.95.
Good news: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are reportedly in talks about starring together in the film version of Vaillant’s real-life adventure story, with a script by Guillermo Arriaga (e.g., Babel). And even better news for anyone who read the book and marveled at Vaillant’s lush writing and acute portraits: he’s in the early stages of a first novel. Stay tuned.

Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Random. ISBN 9780679444329. $30.
No rest for the weary‚ or the best-selling author. Sure, Wilkerson toured after the September publication of The Warmth of Other Suns. Now the publisher is sending her on another tour in February for, appropriately, Black History Month. And since everyone wants to hear her speak, the publisher is scheduling events for her through the end of next year. Check venues near you and consider inviting Wilkerson to your library.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Verlena says:

    I saw Isabel Wilkerson at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago. She was engaging, funny, and convincing. She was a very good spokesperson and saleswoman for The Warmth of Other Suns.

    • Barbara Hoffert says:

      I was lucky enough to introduce Isabel Wilkerson at an ALTAFF panel at ALA and found her a gracious speaker indeed. Listen up, librarians looking for speakers!