Life in the 60s: Anna Quindlen Moves On

Although Anna Quindlen denies that Still Life with Bread Crumbs is autobiographical, she does concede that art imitates life in more ways than one in this, her seventh novel, which debuts at #4 on our Hardcover Fiction list. As Still Life with Bread Crumbs opens, middle-aged photographer Rebecca Winter, who’d once been rich and famous after accidentally taking the iconic photograph in her thirties that had launched her career, reflects on how the spotlight invariably shifts to younger artists while their predecessors are passed over. As her bank account continues on a downward spiral after her husband leaves her for a younger woman, Winter abandons New York City and moves to a cabin in the country. There, visits to the gym are replaced by shoveling snow; bagels from Zabar’s are replaced by homemade scones at the local tea house; and her ex-husband’s transgressions are forgotten when a younger man enters the picture. “I’m 61 and I’ve thought a lot about aging, and the stages of a woman’s life,” Quindlen says, acknowledging that her own life trajectory— writing a column for the New York Times called “Life in the 30s,” about being “stuck in the house with small children,” which unexpectedly catapulted her to fame—reflects that of her protagonist. While Quindlen contends that women’s art— especially if it arises from domestic life— is often minimized or denigrated in favor of “more sprawling, outward facing work” by male artists, she certainly isn’t finding herself being pushed to the periphery by younger writers. Not only is Still Life with Bread Crumbs receiving glowing reviews, but Quindlen’s previous six novels also have been bestsellers; three of them have been made into movies. Quindlen recently embarked on a 10-city tour that lasts through February.—Claire Kirch

An Author's Change of Pace: Allende Tries Writing a Mystery

Isabel Allende makes her first foray into crime fiction with Ripper, which debuts at #18 on our Hardcover Fiction list this week. As Lenny Picker notes in his recent PW profile of Allende, “Although it appears simultaneously in Spanish and English (a first for Allende) just two months after the 125th anniversary of Jack the Ripper’s murders in 1888 London, that timing is mere coincidence.”

According to Picker, “The actual inspiration for this major departure from her usual probing the mysteries of the human heart was Allende’s college-age granddaughter, Andrea Frias. Frias described an online role-playing game that she played called Ripper, and something about it intrigued Allende. Looking to take a break from more serious subject matter, and having considered taking a break from fiction altogether, she thought to try her hand at a genre that was unfamiliar.”

The end result is a tongue-in-cheek mystery featuring an online community of oddballs that includes a wheelchair-bound New Zealand boy; a shy teenager who for years only left his room to go to the bathroom; and an African-American orphan with a genius IQ who uses Sherlock Holmes as his screen name. Games master Amanda Martín persuades the players to shift their focus from the foggy streets of Victorian London to present-day San Francisco, where they match wits with the police in tackling modern crimes.

Allende is the author of 10 works of fiction, four memoirs, and three young adult novels, which have been translated into more than 27 languages with more than 57 million copies sold. Two of her novels were made into major motion pictures. In 2004, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Allende is the 2012 recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she lives in California. Her seven-city author tour will take her to New York, San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Columbus, Ohio, Miami, and Portland, Ore.—Peter Cannon

Love and Basketball: La La Anthony’s Relationship Book Debuts Big

Though I remember La La Anthony from when she was an MTV host, today’s readers know her as an actress, entrepreneur, star of La La’s Full Court Life on VH1, and of course, as the wife of New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony. Basketball metaphors abound in The Love Playbook: Rules for Love, Sex, and Happiness, which debuts at #2 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list. Writing with Karen Hunter, Anthony provides empowering advice on subjects such as fickle friendships, standing up for yourself, and making sure your partner learns how to treat a lady. As Anthony writes, “In both basketball and love, if you want to win, you have to work hard and have teamwork. But in basketball, there can only be one winner. In love, if you play the game right, you both win.” The book’s “play-by-play plans” include: “The Assist” (lessons from Anthony’s mother and grandmother); “One-on-One” (making sure friendship is the foundation of your romantic relationships); and “Game Time” (marriage vs. the wedding). Anthony’s national media blitz started on January 26 and lasted all week, with interviews on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, Good Morning America, the View, E! News, Bethenny, Katie, EXTRA, and the Arsenio Hall Show. She’s slated to appear on the Steve Harvey Radio Show, the Tom Joyner Show, and the Queen Latifah Show. Her bookstore appearances have included a q&a with Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland at Barnes & Noble in Manhattan (the Tribeca location), and signings at Books & Greetings in Northvale, N.J., and B&N at The Grove in L.A. —Jessamine Chan

Wake-up Calls for: DiCamillo and Floca: Awards Follow

On the mornings that the ALA’s annual Youth Media Awards are announced, the award committees place early morning telephone calls to the (often-sleeping) winners, telling them the good news. This year’s Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo, who won for Flora & Ulysses (#9 on our Children’s Fiction list), was awakened in her Minneapolis home at 5:30 a.m. CST by the Newbery committee. When she spoke with PW later that morning, DiCamillo (who also won the Newbery 10 years ago for The Tale of Despereaux) said she was “stunned” by the news that she’d been awarded the prize. She could not recall “a single coherent word” that she may have uttered to the committee, “and after I hung up, I started to think that I may have imagined the whole thing.” But she hadn’t, and on perhaps the coldest day of the year in Minnesota, with a wind chill of -35 in the Twin Cities, DiCamillo, who last month was named the country’s fourth National Ambassador of Children’s Literature, may have been the only person in the state who was not complaining.

For Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca (Locomotive, #17 on our Picture Books list), the phone call came at 6:46 a.m., awakening him from what he described as “a deep, deep REM state of sleep.” Floca said he could see it was a call from Pennsylvania, and he was aware that the ALA conference, where the awards were decided, was currently taking place in Philadelphia. “There was a part of me that really wanted to go back to sleep, and another part that thought it might be good news. And that got me to answer the phone. It was a little bit groggy, a little bit dreamlike, a little bit unreal, and just fantastic.” One of the first phone calls Floca placed after getting the news was to his editor, Richard Jackson, with whom he has been working for 20 years; Floca described their conversation as “gratifying and very rewarding.” And of the prize, Floca commented: “Any attention you get from librarians is great, welcome, and an honor. I’m happy for the book, happy that it will live a little longer and be seen by more people.” —Diane Roback

Rank Title Author Imprint This Week Units
1 Divergent Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 34,881
2 The Fault in Our Stars John Green Dutton 33,321
3 Duty Robert M. Gates Knopf 24,172
4 Until the End of Time Danielle Steel Dell 23,823
5 Insurgent Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 22,215
6 Home to Seaview Key Sherryl Woods Mira 21,884
7 The Witness Nora Roberts Jove 21,701
8 Allegiant Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 20,845
9 Hard Luck Jeff Kinney Abrams/Amulet 19,920
10 The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd Viking 18,476