James Patterson’s Latest Literary Eruption

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

The NYT’s Best Books of the Year So Far

For my money, the New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of the Year is the best of the end-of-year highlight reels, so I was very curious about what clues their round-up of the best books of the 2024 so far might give about what we’ll see in December. I’m also curious about why they dropped a mid-year checkin when we’re only five months into the year, but that’s a question for another day. JamesWandering Stars, and Knife were basically givens. I’m delighted to see Marie-Helene Bertino’s weird, wonderful Beautyland get some attention, and while Martyr! wasn’t my jam (the writing is excellent; the coincidence that drives the resolution didn’t work for me), I do think it’s a good bet for both end-of-year recognition and awards nominations. And how refreshing to see a rom-com like Good Material make the list! I’ve been a little burned out on contemporary romances, but their write-up convinced me to give this one a go.

James Patterson’s Latest Literary Eruption

tl;dr: James Patterson has finished a Michael Crichton manuscript, and Ron Charles’s review in The Washington Post is virtually guaranteed to be a better read than the book itself.

Eruption, which comes out June 3, is about—you guessed it—a volcanic eruption that threatens to destroy the Big Island of Hawaii…and it’s also about a US military secret “far more terrifying than any volcano.” But is it more terrifying than how many copies this book is going to sell despite the fact that the dialogue is so bad, Charles says he might prefer to be submerged in lava? Or that one scene is “a reminder that the only thing more dispiriting than a mountain blowing up is a tense department meeting?” These two blockbuster names on one book cover are going to move some units, and it’s a good thing, too. You can underwrite the publication of a lot of debut novels and experimental poetry with one airport bestseller, and if it gives rise to reviews like this that are as entertaining as they are useful, even better.

Black Women Want Beach Books, Too

When she’s not cohosting The View, Sunny Hostin is making a name for herself as the author of romance novels set in historically Black “elevated beach settings.” Hostin was inspired to create her Summer Beach series (the third installment, Summer on Highland Beach, is out today) when she was browsing an airport bookstore and noticed it didn’t have any romances featuring Black women. (How many James Patterson books do you think it had shelf space for, though?) Hostin may have recognized a need in the market quickly, but publishers were slow to get on board. 

“The first two meetings I had were unsuccessful, because the people in the room didn’t get it. They just didn’t get it…I remember one executive saying, ‘Well, what’s the market for this?’ And I was like, ‘Black women.’ She was like, ‘Really? You think so?’”

Hostin was right. Her first book Summer on the Bluffs sold 25,000 copies in its first week, and Octavia Butler has signed on to produce and potentially star in an adaptation for Amazon Prime. May her efforts succeed! 

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