How book publishing filled the coronavirus entertainment void


August is known in the book industry as the “dead zone“, when agents and editors take their vacations ahead of one of the busiest months in the publishing calendar, September. But there’s no summer doldrums this year: with movies and new TV in hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, books have remained one of the few forms of entertainment able to go on relatively unchanged – and they are successfully filling the void.

On Tuesday alone, a number of notable releases hit (virtual) shelves, including Caste: the origins of our discontent by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson. “It is an extraordinary document, which strikes me as an instant American classic and almost certainly the seminal non-fiction book of the American century so far,” said The New York Times. Oprah Winfrey, announcing Tuesday that Caste is her newest book club pick, told CBS This Morning that “all of humanity needs to read this” and that it could be “the most important book” she will ever read. selected.

On the fiction front, also Tuesday is Chandelier, the debut novel by Raven Leilani, described by BuzzFeed News as “the next great novel of the millennium.” The book has been buzzing for weeks – “don’t you think everyone is raving about this debut album?” The Millions wrote – but Luster stands out for “the quality of the writing itself”. After reading a first copy, I can attest: it deserves all the hype, and more.

Other late summer books also garnered praise – the memoirs Wandering in strange lands by Morgan Jerkins, collection of short fiction films by Laura van den Berg I hold a wolf by the earsthe novel Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy, the memoirs Memorial road by poet Natasha Trethewey – which makes it tempting to correlate the extraordinary summer edition with the pandemic. That might be overkill though: while some release dates to have been moved up, most August releases were set before the pandemic.

More likely, the absence of noise from the other usual spheres of entertainment means that the main releases of the edition particularly stand out. As Stephanie Meyer, the author of Midnight Sun, a new Twilight novel released on Tuesday, offered to investigate New York Times why this book, why now: “Because I finished it.” Also, “I get really excited when I have a book to read right now, because there’s not much else that’s exciting.”


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