Plan your 2004 reading early with this preview of the year's most eagerly anticipated book releases
The Five People You Meet at Neverland -- In the sequel to her best-selling tearjerker "Tuesdays with Jacko," world-renowned entertainer/sponge LaToya Jackson describes the star-studded excitement and moving solidarity of an "innocence rally" at her brother's California ranch. Telling her story from the perspectives of all five of the attending glitterati, Jackson recounts what they ate, what they wore and how many ways they found to change the subject whenever their host suggested they all go into the house and watch Powder again.
Who's Ordering Out For You? -- Ever on the prowl for self-appointed cultural despots to dethrone, FOX megapundit Bill O'Reilly exposes the liberal cabal that exerts a viselike control over our nation's food-delivery operations. Of particular interest to O'Reilly: just what goddamn language you have to speak to get a decent spring roll these days, anyway.
The Deck the Walls Code -- International intrigue, cryptography and mall art collide in author Dan Brown's latest mystery, which puts a dry-mounting specialist on the trail of a centuries-old conspiracy perpetrated by a shady religious sect. Professional courtesy forbids us from saying any more, but it's the Lutherans.
Everybody Spooges -- In recent years, the nonfiction shelves have been of invaluable aid in teaching kids about sensitive bodily functions. A tradition of frank discourse begun with "Everybody Poops" reaches its logical conclusion in this lovingly rendered paean to the miracle of ejaculation. Simple, straightforward text and delightful illustrations help to jump-start your child's understanding of our friend the milkwad. Shame and misinformation go out the window as kids learn that it's no sin to let loose, as long as they can distinguish the wrong places to do it (like a seedy movie house on the outskirts of town) from the correct ones (like one of those totally bitchin' multiplexes with the extra-wide cup holders in the seats).
The Devil Wears Tommy Girl -- Proving that mass retail will be the "in" fiction environment next year, first-time author (and novice reader) Luann Levinstein mines satirical gold from the six months she spent working behind the cosmetics counter at Dillard's. The narrative hook here is the uproarious raging of department manager Amanda Christian, whom all but the dullest readers will recognize as a thinly veiled caricature of Sally, that bitch at the Tupelo store.
I Am Hobbled, or Going Blind, or My Head Hurts -- by Stephen King. Piss, moan, repeat.
The Porpoise-Driven Life: Whatever Are We Here For? -- Sociologist Mary Evans profiles seven SeaWorld employees grappling with job burnout. Following a painstaking approach to blue-collar biography that not even Studs Terkel could match, Evans shares the fruits of hours upon hours of taped interviews with her subjects, who are heard fretting over their thankless jobs, their slim advancement opportunities and "that briny smell that won't come out of your clothes no matter how hard you scrub." Early reports have it that Shamu takes a pasting.
The Rothenburg Diet -- During breaks in his murder trial, German cannibal Armin Meiwes penned this guide to the nutritional value of the human animal. Learn which organs are highest in polyunsaturated fat, which ethnic groups maintain the strictest avoidance of exercise and why today's "low-carb" prosthetic limbs may be anything but. The deluxe edition includes a double-sided, tear-out chart that can be used as both a weekly dietary planner and a blotter for legal notes.
Unraveling the Safety Net: Why Some Companies Succeed While You're Still Running a Day-Care Center -- Therapists call it "tough love," and it's what corporate titan Leo Schirm (CEO of the hugely successful Jerky Hut chain) has for the basement-level entrepreneurs who look up to his example while wondering why they can't get in on the action. Schirm's answer: They're craven cowards, beholden to the false gods of ethical conduct and social respectability. In a tough 140 pages, this hardened survivor of the boardroom wars implores tomorrow's Iacoccas to cut the trivial expenses that are eating away at their profits -- frills like spousal benefits, child care, health insurance and cubicles with heat. The paperback will include an extra chapter with tips for handling union organizers, including the use of boiling pitch as a negotiating tool.
Dwarfquest XXIII: The Jewel of Shanaraa -- Sure, Publisher's Weekly called fantasist Terry McSorley's ongoing series "painfully and thunderingly unreadable -- a callow sop to sword-and-sorcery fans starved for any prose purple enough to drown out their mothers' pleas to get out of the house." But until those know-it-alls at PW can pull it together to shoot 440 rejuvenating volts through Tolkien's corpse, this is what they're getting. Once again, word painter McSorley takes us on a phonebook-length journey through a mystical land of wizards, shield-wielding warriors and damsels in distress. A major player is revealed as the sister of another character not referenced since book IV, and we think somebody else gets killed. Plus, there's elves. Or gnomes. Or whatever the hell they want to be called nowadays.
The World According to Rerun -- Before he died, and at the urging of co-star Shirley Hemphill, Fred Berry (of TV's "What's Happening!!") cobbled together this miniature treasury of homespun wisdom. Among Berry's pearls: How to conquer a hater with love, why good things come in small packages and why you should never loan your car to Todd Bridges. At a slim 42 pages, it's best understood as a coffee-table book for people who don't particularly enjoy coffee.
While America Diddled: The True Story of the 9-11 Breakdown -- Sure to be one of the most talked-about books of this or any other year, this expos? of the Sept. 11 tragedy will end the conspiracy of silence that has obscured the worst security failure in our nation's history. Readers will receive a detailed rundown of the voluminous intelligence lapses that allowed terrorists to inflict irrevocable harm on our way of life. Names will be named, specifically catastrophic directives will be cited, and the attempts to bury these truths will be traced deep into the corridors of utmost power. The book will be ready for shipping on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2004.