E-book sales surge, but where's Oprah?

By Bob Minzesheimer

USA Today

Published: Saturday, Dec. 31 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Fifty years after his inauguration, President Kennedy and his wife remain the stuff of best sellers. "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy," edited by Caroline Kennedy, brought the first lady back through 8½ hours of interviews she did with Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a few months after her husband's assassination. JFK himself was the subject of a sympathetic biography — "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," by Chris Matthews — and Stephen King's time-traveling novel about the assassination, "11/22/63."

Talking-head historians

Chris Matthews, of MSNBC's Hardball, wasn't the only TV talk-show host who decided to weigh in on American president in book form. He was joined by Bill O'Reilly and his co-author, Martin Dugard, taking on Lincoln's assassination in "Killing Lincoln," and Glenn Beck, who joined the party with "Being George Washington" (see review above).

They can write, too

The flood of celebrity memoirs continued; a few even appeared to be written by the celebrities themselves. Diane Keaton says she worked for three years on "Then Again," about "the love of my life," her mother, Dorothy, who died in 2008 at age 86. And Rob Lowe's storytelling chops made "Stories I Only Tell My Friends" a best-seller and led Simon & Schuster to sign the actor for a second book, "Love Life," about sex, marriage, work and fatherhood. It's due in 2013.

She's a tiger ... mom

Few books ignited as much passionate debate as Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." A pre-publication excerpt in The Wall Street Journal, headlined "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," ignited a media firestorm over the "mommy wars," waged mostly by upper-middle-class parents. Chua, a Yale law professor and daughter of Chinese immigrants, made the cover of Time for her advice on strict parenting, Chinese-style.

Gone but not forgotten

Two popular and prolific writers — an intellectual contrarian and a populist curmudgeon — died.

Christopher Hitchens, 62, the combative and caustic British-American critic, intellectual, atheist and self-defined "conservative Marxist," died Dec. 15. His last book, "Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens," published in September, displayed his spectacular range of interests.

Andy Rooney, 92, died Nov. 4, just a month after ending his 33-year run as the closing essayist on CBS' "60 Minutes." Rooney liked to think of himself as a writer who appeared on television. A former war correspondent, he wrote 16 books — from "Air Gunner" (1944) to "Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit" (2009).

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