Today in books and publishing: Oprah's book club is back, e-books stands for "erotic," and the Vatican does not approve of nuns talking sex.
Oprah's book club is back. Did you hear? Oprah's book club is back! Remember the halcyon days of Oprah's book club 1.0, from the mid 1990s to 2011, when Oprah had the power to turn paper and ink into millions of dollars with just a word of acclaim? Remember that whole awkward James Frey situation, when Oprah was horribly disappointed to catch Mr. Frey in various partial and maybe total untruths, and even kicked him out of her book club? That was embarrassing for all of us. But it's years later, technology is different, and the Oprah show is over—and after a two-year hiatus, there's a whole new book club, at least, an "interactive, online book club for our digital world," she says, adding "This is way different from the old book club," what with all these newfangled ways we have to communicate!
Oprah's first pick is Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, which she calls a "wild ride of a read"—it's a memoir (like Frey's), but about the author's hike up the Pacific Crest trail alone as she struggles with her mother's death and the dissolution of her marriage. Oprah says that while reading Wild, she asked herself, "Where is the Oprah Winfrey show when you need to announce and tell everyone about this book? I need the book club!" If Oprah says it, it is done, and here we have it: book club 2.0, which includes all sorts of new digital bells and whistles.
But the big question everyone's asking is, Will the new book club have the same power to sell books as the old one? Oprah's last pick in Club 1.0, a special edition of Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, did not actually do so well. But Strayed's book, another thrilling memoir in the vein of Frey's (though, ostensibly, true), seems a lot more likely a candidate for profiting from The Oprah Effect—publishers have estimated her power to sell a book at "20 to 100 times that of any other media personality." After all, even without her talk show, she's still Oprah. And, despite this being a "whole new book club," publishers are still likely clamoring for her nomination, but it's not just about the nomination, it's also about the book itself. That is, if Dickens taught us anything. [Oprah, Christian Science Monitor]
Some folks have realized that sex might sell better on e-books, because, you know, no one can see what you're reading (unless they're on the elliptical machine right next to you: I saw you, lady at the gym!). And now, with the success of that-book-that-must-not-be-named, there's a general push to "release racy content as e-books, according to publishers of erotic fiction." Of course, we sort of knew this already, but expect a glut of erotic fiction to spread like wildfire to a Kindle near you, at the gym, or otherwise. "Carrying e-books today,” says one expert, is "like wearing kinky underwear." In related news, the world of e-books has never been more exciting for pretty much anyone, and the Village Voice's Runnin' Scared blog has a nice little list of the most awkward books to read on the subway. [Pay Dirt via WSJ]
Speaking of books about sex: On one side we have 50 Shades of Whatnot; on the other we have the Vatican. The Vatican, as seen in books such as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, is not into this new "erotic" book trend. And they're not talking about 50 Shades. They've criticized American nun Sister Margaret Farley, a professor emeritus of Christian ethics at Yale, for her award-winning 2006 book on sexual ethics, Just Love, a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. In it, Farley broaches topics like masturbation, homosexuality, gay marriage (which she supports) and remarriage after divorce, saying, for instance, that masturbation "actually serves relationships rather than hindering them." Vatican leaders said the book contradicts Catholic teachings and should not be used by Catholic educators, and also, that masturbation is "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." (Dear Vatican: Do not read anything by E.L. James, you will be shocked, shocked indeed!) [Reuters]
Following in the hot trend of book offerings from political wives (see also: Michelle Obama's new gardening tome), Jill Biden has a book for military kids whose parents have been deployed "and for non-military families who want to understand what deployment is like" that will be out Tuesday. Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops, with illustrations by Raúl Colón, retails for $16.99, and was written by Biden with the help of her granddaughter, Natalie, based on the difficulties they faced when Beau, Biden's son and Natalie's dad, was deployed to Baghdad. [USA Today]
And following in another publishing trend, there's another Twitter-related book in the works, this one a work memoir of sorts from Biz Stone, 38-year-old cofounder of Twitter and The Obvious Corporation. Stone's writing Things A Little Bird Told Me, a book he says will "focus on the story of creativity" to share the various lessons he's learned. Hachette's Grand Central Publishing will release the book in April 2014. [AppNewser]
Finally: Get ready for Dave Egger's new novel, to be published by McSweeney's at the end of this month. It's called A Hologram for the King and tells the story of an aging businessman's attempt to sell digital tech in Saudi Arabia to prevent his impending foreclosure. Oprah, are you listening? [Galleycat]
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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