The Biblioracle: As fall arrives, book piles rise

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Londoners enjoy the autumn leaves in Hyde Park

The Biblioracle wonders why so many big-name book titles all come out during the fall. (Oli Scarff, Getty Images)

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.


This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.


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

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