An English Teacher Shoots His Shot With His Students’ Favorite Author

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Welcome to Today in Books, where we report on literary headlines at the intersection of politics, culture, media, and more.

Make No Mistake, Books Change Lives.

Quick: what’s the name of the English teacher who changed your life? Mine was Joe Hunsley, 9th grade honors. For students at Millennium Art Academy in the Bronx, that teacher is Rick Ouimet. Ouimet has been teaching Tommy Orange’s novel There There for the last three years and has seen it have a singular impact on his students, so when he saw that Orange would be in New York on book tour, he decided to shoot his shot. In an email to the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau, Ouimet explained: 

“In our 12th-grade English classroom, in our diverse corner of the South Bronx, in an under-resourced but vibrant urban neighborhood not unlike the Fruitvale, you’re our rock star. Our more than rock star. You’re our MF Doom, our Eminem, our Earl Sweatshirt, our Tribe Called Red, our Beethoven, our Bobby Big Medicine, our email to Manny, our ethnically ambiguous woman in the next stall, our camera pointing into a tunnel of darkness.”

It worked. Orange visited the school earlier this month and described his time with Ouimet’s students, many of whom have aced the AP English exam by writing about his book, as “the most intense connection I’ve ever experienced.” Feel that? It’s your heart growing three sizes.

Is the Worm Turning on Celebrity Book Clubs?

Hot on the heels of Emily Gould’s recent piece about how and why it seems like every famous woman has a book club now, author Leigh Stein turns her attention to daytime TV’s audience (or lack thereof) to discourage writers from being overly invested in the hope of a golden ticket by way of Jenna, GMA, or Joy Behar, to name just a few. Stein isn’t wrong to point out daytime TV’s dwindling prominence, but she misses the most important point of all: the vast majority of the books that are selected for celebrity book clubs don’t get a golden ticket. Scroll through the full list from Reese’s Book Club or Jenna’s picks and you’ll see a few smash hits (which very likely had sizable marketing budgets and would have been successful regardless of celebrity book clubs) amid a sea of midlist fiction. So, what are celebrity book clubs good for? Content, authors’ egos, and publicists’ portfolios. Being picked is like being given a lottery ticket; you’re almost definitely not going to win, but it feels good to play. 

Give Quinta a Blank Check Already

I didn’t have Quinta Brunson + Emma Cline on my list of 2024 predictions, but now that I know the Abbott Elementary creator wants to adapt The Guest, I have to have it. Vulture’s Jason P. Frank has it right: “After a hit like Abbott, Brunson should be handed the keys to the castle and allowed to do anything she wants.”

Polar Opposites

You’ll either love ‘em or you’ll hate ‘em. Here are 8 of the most polarizing romance novels ever written.

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