Books we are talking about

Chris Schluep on July 24, 2020
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Books we are talking about

This week, the Amazon Books editors are talking about two trends in the books world.

The first is that the explosion of streaming has created a big market for great stories, and lo and behold, there are many great stories that start out as books. A few of the editors are commenting on books that are being turned into movies, series, and mini-series. There's no doubt that—as the streaming business continues to grow—it's an exciting time for books to screen.

There's also no doubt that publishing is undergoing a great change, as the entire industry moves toward more diversity and inclusion on the leadership level. Dana Canedy, a former New York Times editor and the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, has been hired as the publisher of Simon & Schuster, replacing Jon Karp, who was recently named CEO. This makes her the first Black woman to run a major publishing house. Likewise, Lisa Lucas of the National Book Foundation is moving over to run Pantheon. The industry had already begun to give more leadership jobs to women: Madeline McIntosh is CEO of Penguin Random House; Reagan Arthur is head of Knopf; Amy Einhorn took over Holt last year; Mitzi Angel runs Farrar, Straus & Giroux. These are all highly respected, talented leaders whom we as readers can trust to keep the books business vibrant and relevant.

Lastly, Adrian remembers a great leader who just passed away, along with the book that won him the National Book Award. 

Here are the books we are talking about.


I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

There have been some particularly great book to screen adaptations recently, a topic the editors never tire of. Having just watched Hulu’s incredibly moving Normal People, I was excited to see that HBO adapted Michelle McNamara’s ground-breaking I’ll Be Gone in the Dark for a mini-series. In Chris’ March 2018 Best of the Month review, he called this book “one of the best true crime books to come along in a decade.” If you missed it, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark focuses on the investigation of the “Golden State Killer,” a serial killer who terrorized northern California from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. But apart from the chilling true story—which will make you triple check your windows and doors at night—there’s the added element that McNamara passed away from an accidental overdose while writing this book, halting her longtime obsession with the Golden State Killer. Her untimely death became even more tragic when DNA data led to the discovery, arrest, and sentencing of this serial rapist and murderer. The book is a must-read for any lover of crime fiction—or general mysteries—and I’m looking forward to seeing how HBO deals with the events that have happened since the book’s original publication. —Sarah Gelman


A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor by Dana Canedy

I mentioned above that Dana Canedy is the first Black woman to head a major publishing house (actually, it appears that she is the first Black person to lead a major publisher), and that she is a former New York Times editor and was the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. Canedy is also an author. Her book A Journal for Jordan is part memoir, part reportage, part letter from her fiancé to their son. In 2005, Charles Monroe King, who was a First Sergeant in Iraq, began writing a letter to their young son in case he did not make it home. In October 2006 he was killed by a roadside bomb. Their son, Jordan, was seven months old. Canedy picked up the journal and began to put it together with her own writing, and what was created is this book. She's going to be a powerful addition to Simon & Schuster. —Chris Schluep


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind has already landed on many most-anticipated lists for this fall, and with the news that Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, and Sam Esmail will star in the Netflix adaptation, you can imagine why we're still buzzing about it in our virtual office. Rumaan Alam's novel was obviously written before the pandemic, but let's just say it's rather timely: it's about a vacation gone wrong, racism, parenting, privilege, and how people react in a crisis. Need I say more? The writing is crisp, provocative, and so far, I don't want to put it down. —Al Woodworth


Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

We were excited to read PBS’ announcement that they are to co-produce and broadcast a six-episode series based on Anthony Horowitz’s best-selling novel, Magpie Murders, an Amazon Best Book of 2017 which also appeared on several other best of lists that year. Horowitz's work is well known to PBS fans as Foyle's War continues to draw viewers. But Magpie Murders is Horowitz's most successful creation: an award-winning British manor mystery in the classic style, with a novel-within-a-novel structure that gives it a modern twist, plus a strong female lead to boot. And to keep us occupied while we wait for the PBS adaptation, the second book in the series is out this fall. —Vannessa Cronin


Savage Grace: The True Story of Fatal Relations in a Rich and Famous American Family by Steven M.L Aronson

Vannessa and I both love mysteries and true crime, and were recently discussing the former for an upcoming feature. Then I read Kevin Kwan’s summer reads post last week and lo and behold, he had a title on his list that immediately caught my eye: Savage Grace. First published back in 1985, this tale of true crime in high society looks like a real page-turner. Brooks and Barbara Baekeland were extremely wealthy—Brooks was the heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune—and rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, including the Vanderbilts, Salvador Dalí, and Tennessee Williams. But there was a dark side to their lives that culminated in their son Tony brutally murdering his socialite mother. The combination of untouchable wealth with some pretty horrific behavior has a train wreck quality to it, and I feel compelled to take a peek. Thanks for the recommendation, Kevin Kwan! —Seira Wilson


March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Friday, July 17, saw the passing of Congressman John Lewis, a lifelong fighter for civil rights. When he was a teenager in Alabama, Lewis was inspired by a 16-page comic about the Montgomery bus boycott and the nonviolence principles the activists used. More than 50 years later, Lewis came full circle and wrote a graphic memoir with Andrew Aydin called March that showed Lewis’ early activities within the civil rights movement, including his participation in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, as shown on the cover of March. The second and third volumes of March quickly followed, culminating in the moment of Lewis leading the march in Selma during Bloody Sunday—an event of shocking violence by state troopers against peaceful protestors that reverberated around the world and led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both a memoir of historic importance and a vigorous cry to defy injustice, March is an outstanding read. —Adrian Liang


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