Attendees at today’s Adult Book and Author Breakfast can expect a heaping helping of truthiness alongside the traditional morning fare. When emcee Stephen Colbert takes the microphone, he’ll likely have witty things to say about the other speakers—Junot Díaz, Barbara Kingsolver, and Jo Nesbø. But he’ll also be plugging two new books of his own from Grand Central Publishing: his latest for adults, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, and his children’s title, I Am a Pole (And So Can You!).
With America Again, Colbert says, “We’re trying to capture the feeling that this is the greatest, most perfect nation God has ever created and we’ve got to fix it.” In true Colbert Report style, the book addresses many hot-button issues. “We take on all the big problems: unemployment, Wall Street, health care, the electoral process,” Colbert says. “The book is kind of like our [TV] segment ‘The Word.’ Each section introduces a problem and then offers solutions. And it’s in 3-D! Readers will get a 3-D, high-def experience. The book comes with glasses and everything.”
Inspiration for his children’s book took hold when Colbert was doing publicity for his I Am America (And So Can You!) in 2007. “I was being photographed for Vanity Fair,” he recalls. “There was a wind machine and a flag and a big flagpole. They told me to hold the pole up nice and straight, and I said, ‘I am a pole, and so can you!’ I thought, ‘I should write that.’ It’s been in the back of my mind for five years.” Yet it wasn’t until Colbert landed a prime sit-down with Maurice Sendak in January for his TV show that I Am a Pole was committed to the page.
“I was preparing for the Sendak interview, and my character’s motivation for the title was wanting to get into writing celebrity books, which we knew was something loathed by Mr. Sendak,” says Colbert.
He read the tale to Sendak in the interview. “I knew when he laughed throughout that it could be a real thing,” Colbert notes. Sendak’s exact assessment—“The sad thing is, I like it”—became a prominent jacket blurb.
Though Colbert does read books on his iPad, he says he prefers a physical book. “There’s nothing like the warmth of napping underneath a book,” he notes. “With a book on your face, far up enough that it doesn’t crush your nose, you have a lovely, fragrant tent. Pulp science fiction titles from the ’50s and ’60s are perfect. They have those crumbly, crackerlike paper pages—that’s the most intoxicating, narcotic smell to me.”
Colbert hopes to spread a bit of that enthusiasm during his breakfast hosting gig. “I know I’m going to have a good time,” he says. “And I’m going to encourage people to read books.”