In the run-up to Book Expo America next week, I’m doing my exhibitor homework: assessing which autographed publications and advance reader copies would most interest Round Rock readers.
Paula Daly, I note, has Keep Your Friends Close due out in September. Her suspenseful fiction debut, Just What Kind of Mother are You? has checked out briskly since we acquired it last fall.
That ARC created an awkward scenario, now comical in retrospect. The co-worker whom I elected Reader #2–after me– was away at an outreach appearance. Rather than wait until our schedules coincided to hand off the copy in person, I propped it on the door frame, visible to anyone passing by.
Now imagine that you arrive at your workstation to spot an offering prominently emblazoned Just What Kind of Mother…?
Fortunately, this colleague (a) has a generous sense of humor and (b) is patently not a candidate for any degree of parenting criticism.
Not only do Daly’s titles demand our attention, they also mimic popular nonfiction themes. We tend to deflect acquaintances’ uninvited advice, but hints and tips packaged in snazzy covers by people unknown to us are practically irresistible.
Michael Korda’s Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999 (recommended by the RRNN/Barnes & Noble book group) documents both fiction and nonfiction, but Americans’ affinity for life-improvement strategies is clear. And purchasing trends in nonfiction mirror evolving society:
Choices scholarly by comparison to today: lots of memoir, history, poetry, biography. Yet Better Meals for Less Money and How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day reflect modern sensibilities.
Notables include The Art of Thinking; Etiquette by Emily Post; Economic Consequences of the Peace by John M. Keynes.
More of what we now term “self-help” emerging: Live Alone and Like It and Orchids on Your Budget by Marjorie Hillis; You Must Relax by Edmund Jacobson; How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Post-war, it’s no surprise that How to Stop Worrying and Start Living resonated in 1948; in 1949, two of ten bestsellers were about canasta.
The desire for high-quality everyday living inspires several from Betty Crocker and Better Homes & Gardens; Look Younger, Live Longer by Gayelord Hauer; How to Live 365 Days a Year by John A. Schindler.
1960s and 1970s:
Cookbooks now focus specifically: dessert, salad, casseroles, bread, chicken. And then: Sex and the Single Girl, The Joy of Sex, The Hite Report, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Were Afraid to Ask. Erma Bombeck (The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank) scores multiple chart toppers.
1980s and 1990s:
These speak for themselves: Richard Simmons; Beverly Hills Diet; Bill Cosby; Robert Fulghum; “Your Inner Child”; Rush Limbaugh, “Juicing”, Men Are From Mars, Who Moved My Cheese.
Finally, a few recent titles I’ve spotted that might, if left at your door, prompt examination of your co-workers’ motives:
If I Were You
Now Look What You’ve Done
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices
Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You, and
Wear No Evil.