Confession time, fellow readers, fellow bibliophiles, fellow bookaholics. Over the last month or so I've been reading my favorite book-centric publication (you're reading it) and holding back a rising tide of panic.
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As summer turns to fall, it brings the changing of the colors, and also, far too many books by big-time literary writers being released one on top of the other. My pile of purchased books to read is actually not a pile. It is three piles in three different rooms in order to hide my shame.
It happens every September and October. Fall has been long viewed as the proper debut season for literary fiction and the Big Five publishers – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette – roll out their heaviest hitters, week after week. It makes me feel like Lucy and Ethel in that candy factory except it's impossible to cram an entire Thomas Pynchon novel in my mouth.
In addition to Pynchon, the Sept. 15 issue featured former National Book Award winner Alice McDermott ("Someone"), former National Book Critics Circle Award winner Jonathan Lethem ("Dissident Gardens"), and "Enon," the first book from Paul Harding after he won the Pulitzer for "Tinkers."
Sept. 22: Stephen King with "Doctor Sleep," his sequel to "The Shining," which I read secretly as a 12-year-old and which made me too frightened to get up to use the bathroom at night, forcing me to relieve myself outside my bedroom window. Don't tell my mother.
That same issue brought news of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Lowland," which I've been anticipating for years.
Sept. 29: books from Elizabeth Gilbert, Nicholson Baker and Jamie Ford. The season has also seen new releases from Donna Tartt, Dave Eggers and "MaddAddam," the final book in Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake" trilogy. I mean, I read the first two. What am I supposed to do, just ignore the concluding episode like it's "Godfather III"?
While we can be thankful for fall's bounty, I think it comes with some downsides, especially in today's era of shrinking book coverage in major media outlets. All these Goliaths suck up the oxygen that might be able to breathe an unheralded David to respectable sales life.
Speaking of "David and Goliath," mega-selling journalist Malcolm Gladwell has a new book by that name. I can't even think about adding the desirable nonfiction to my list, so let's not go any further down that road.
This is one of those practices rooted in tradition, the same way summer is action blockbuster season for films, but neither of these traditions makes much sense upon examination. Why do we release the most anticipated movies during the months when it's actually pleasant to be outside?
As a reader of all of these writers, I have no real interest in seeing these books compete with each other, except there they are, in my pile(s), vying to see who gets my attention next. All I want is a little breathing room, some space to savor one feast before the next arrives.
Publishers should remind themselves that there's no specific publishing month for possible prizewinners. Last year's Pulitzer winner, "The Orphan Master's Son," by Adam Johnson was released in January, a month tailor-made for cozying up with a good book.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "The Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations
1. "The Dirt — Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band" by Mötley Crüe
2. "Dogwalker: Stories" by Arthur Bradford
3. "A Sport and a Pastime" by James Salter
4. "The Singing Wilderness" by Sigurd F. Olson
5. "How Music Works" by David Byrne
— Luke J., Hometown
With this list, the recommendation is a bit of a no-brainer for me. Luke must, must, must try out Don DeLillo's strange meditation on rock 'n' roll fame, "Great Jones Street."
1. "The Well of Ascension" by Brandon Sanderson
2. "All That Is" by James Salter
3. "The Dinner" by Herman Koch
4. "The Tenth of December" by George Saunders
5. "Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson
— Megan P., Santa Cruz, Calif.
We've got a four-book overlap here of books both Megan and I have read, which usually fills me with confidence, except "The Well of Ascension" is a bit of a wild card that's messing with my reception. I'm going to go with the sardonic humor of Francine Prose's "Blue Angel."
1. "Love All" by Callie Wright
2. "The Virgins" by Pamela Erens
3. "The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P." by Adelle Waldman
4. "My Ántonia" by Willa Cather
5. "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter
— Lori T., Lisle
On a recent flight, I was accompanied by Lauren Grodstein's new novel, "The Explanation for Everything." I've recommended her previous effort, "A Friend of the Family," in the past, and I'm pleased to say that I can offer a similar endorsement for her latest effort, and enthusiastically recommend it to Lori in Lisle.
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