MY LAST BOOK was nonfiction – Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America, which germinated in early 2009 as a cover story for Time. It’s a long essay but a short book. My argument is that the 2008-09 shock to the economic system and resulting national flux should enable us to rethink ingrained habits as a nation and as individuals, and focus more on the things that make us authentically happy by rediscovering American traditions of realism, pragmatism and common sense. Not everyone has taken advantage of the flux and new beginning in the ways I’d hoped.
MY LAST NOVEL, Heyday, was published by Random House in 2007, and won the Langum Prize as the best American historical novel of the year. It was a New York Times bestseller (as well as a Booksense, Publishers Weekly and Wall Street Journal bestseller). The story takes place in the middle of the 19th century, and the reviews called it “a major work” of “gorgeous, robust prose,” “exhilarating,” “enthalling,” “thrilling,” “joyful,” “sweet,” “stirringly original,” “uproarious,” “delightful” and “superb.” Find out more about the book here. The paperback came out in 2008. And there are editions in German (Neuland) and Italian (Mondo nuovo).
IN THE FALL OF 2006, Miramax Books published Spy: The Funny Years, a history and anthology of Spy magazine that I helped produce along with Graydon Carter and George Kalogerakis. It received shockingly good reviews.
MY FIRST NOVEL was Turn of the Century. It was a New York Times Notable Book and a national bestseller. You can read an excerpt that The New Yorker published here.
There are U.S. hardcover (Random House, 1999) and paperback (Delta, 2000) editions, as well as a casette-tape audio version and downloadable audio version, and British hardcover and paperback editions (Headline, 1999 & 2000). Translations have been published in Japanese
(Hayakawa, 2000), Dutch (Eeuwwisseling, Contact, 1999), German (Tollhaus der Möglichkeiten [Madhouse of Possibilities], Karl Blessing Verlag, 2000), French (Riches & Célèbres, Calman-Levy, 2002) and, theoretically, Chinese. The very cool cover on the U.S. hardcover edition was designed by Chip Kidd; the British hardcover edition has a red ribbon bookmark attached. Here are a bunch of reviews as well as some nice glancing references in Salon, strategy + business, Economist.com, the Sunday New York Times Book Review in 1999 and 2004,the daily Times in 2009, and Gawker. And here are a couple of newspaper stories about me from when the book was published. Turn of the Century appeared on the Newsday, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller lists.
I’m also the author or co-author of three humor books. The first was called The Real Thing (Doubleday, 1980; Holt, 1982), amd received nice reviews. It’s a book of very short essays around the idea of quintessentialism. (One of its chapters argued that the puppets Bert and Ernie are the archetypal modern gay couple – a whimsy that eventually led to protests by offended Christians, a short film called Ernest and Bertram, characters in the Tony-winning Broadway hit Avenue Q and endless denials [and a threat of litigation] from the producers of Sesame Street. On the occasion of Sesame Street‘s 40th anniversary, The Wall Street Journal took note.)
The second was Tools of Power (Viking, 1980), a parody of how-to-be-successful books that I wrote with Mark O’Donnell and Roger Parloff. The third was Loose Lips (Simon & Schuster, 1995), an anthology of edited transcripts of unintentionally entertaining conversations among and testimony by actual people, some of them famous. My co-authors were Jamie Malanowski and Lisa Birnbach, who were also my collaborators on an Off-Broadway show of the same name that we created with the director Martin Charnin. (And although they’re not really books, I also contributed during the 1980s to several national parodies — Off the Wall Street Journal, Not New York Post and a mock civil defense pamphlet called Meet Mr. Bomb.)
I wrote introductions to Laughing Matters: A Celebration of American Humor (edited by Gene Shalit, Doubleday, 1987): to Minus Equals Plus, (Harry N. Abrams, 2001), a collection of the work of the artist and illustrator Istvan Banyai; Public Relations and the Press: The Troubled Embrace (Northwestern University Press, 2007); and a new paperback edition of Heinrich Böll’s The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (Penguin, 2009).
I contributed to The Best American Magazine Writing 2008.