Modern First Editions 1990-1999
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
The author's third book about the Vietnam War and based on the author's own experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division, The Things They Carried is a collection of twenty-two linked stories. O'Brien includes himself as a character, and uses real places and names, blurring the lines between fiction and non-fiction and making novel seem like a war memoir. The author originally wrote the book to combat the ignorance he saw in people's understanding of the war. Considered one of the best books written about the Vietnam War, more than 2 millions copies have been sold and the book has been taught in classrooms throughout the country. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho is a psychological thriller and satirical novel by Bret Easton Ellis. The story is a post-modern look at the dangers of consumerism told in the first person by fictitious serial killer and Manhattan businessman Patrick Bateman. Set in Manhattan during the stock market boom of the late 1980 Bateman spends his days obsessed with appearances and money, and filling his nights with violent murders. A world where the surface was the only thing, Bateman recounts brutality the same way as menus and food and workouts. Discrepancies within the text show Bateman to be an unreliable narrator, and even through the end of the book it is unclear what has actually occurred, including the murders he's supposedly committed. Simon & Schuster originally contracted to publish the book in March 1991 after paying the author a $300,000 advance, but withdrew from the project because of "aesthetic differences." Vintage Books purchased rights and issued American Psycho in paperback; the book wasn't published in hardcover in the United States until 2012, when a limited edition was issued by Centipede Press. Following the first, paperback publication, Ellis received numerous death threats and hate mail, equating the brutality and misogyny of the character with the author himself, causing Vintage to cancel any book tour associated with the book as a precaution. Vintage also did not advertise the book at all, yet American Psycho quickly rose to cult status. It was famously banned in several countries, and many countries limit sales of the novel to those over 18, including Australia and New Zealand, or sell the book shrink-wrapped. The novel was turned into a 2000 film starring Christian Bale, William DaFoe and Reese Witherspoon.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Set in 1949, All The Pretty Horses is a Western-type novel about a 16-year old Texan named John Grady Cole. After his parent's marriage ends, he finds himself at the end of a long line of ranchers, without a family ranch to work so he sets out for Mexico on horseback with two companions to look for work as cowboys. The romanticism of the book, centered around Grady's ill-advised affair with Alejandra, the beautiful daughter of a Mexican ranch-owner, makes it different from many of McCarthy's other works. The first volume of McCarthy's Border Trilogy, the title comes from a popular lull-a-bye of the same name. The other works in the Trilogy are The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1998). A best-seller, All the Pretty Horses won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award.
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
Quoyle, a newspaper reporter from Upstate New York, has his life upended when his parents commit suicide and his wife leaves town with a lover aftering selling their two daughters on the black market. The cheating wife and lover are killed in an auto accident, and after Quoyle rescues his daughters he is convinced by his aunt Agnis to return to his ancestral home in Newfoundland. There he comes to terms with his ancestor's dark secret past, but is also transformed to be able to see love without pain and misery. The Shipping News is one of only six books that have won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Snow Falls on Cedars takes place on the coast of Washington State in 1954 and centers around the murder of Carl Heine, a respected fisherman in the small community. On trial for the murder is Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American, who, although a decorated war veteran, continues to face prejudice in the aftermath of World War II because of his race. Complicating matters more is the secret history of love between Miyamoto's widow and the local newspaper man covering the trial, Ishmael Chambers, who himself is a veteran and lost his arm fighting the Japanese. This first novel by Guterson was written in the mornings over a ten year period while he was a teacher. The success of the best-selling novel, which sold over 4 millions copies and was made into a film in 1999, allowed him to quit his job to write full time. Snow Falling on Cedars won the PEN/Faulkner award.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
This 1,100 page work, categorized as an encyclopedic novel, the novel is noted for its unconventional narrative structure and experimental use of end-notes. The story takes place in a future world where all of North America has unified to one superstate, where corporations bid on naming rights for the calendar year, and most of the action of the novel takes place in the "Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment." The narratives in the novel, revolving primarily around tennis and substance abuse, are connected via a film Infinite Jest, which is so entertaining the viewers lose all interest in anything else and eventually die. The book sold 44,000 copies in the first year of publication, and by 2016 had sold over a million copies. It is listed on Time Magazine's 100 best English-language novels published since 1923, is considered one of the most important works of American literature of the last 30 years.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
First published by Bloomsbury in the UK in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the first book of what would become a seven-book series quickly captured the imagination and admiration of children and adults alike. The story follows Harry Potter, a young orphan who has been bullied by his aunt, uncle and cousin until he receives word of his acceptance into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry learns that his parents, wizards themselves, were killed by Lord Voldemort but he was not, making him a hero in the magical community. This book and the others in the series follow Harry's heroic adventures at Hogwarts and against Voldemort. Hardcover first edition first printings of this 1997 book have become the 'Holy Grail' for Potter collector as only 500 were published and 300 went to libraries. In 2017 a pristine first edition sold for $81,250. The main characteristics of a 1997 first edition first issue are a print line that reads 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 and the crediting of "Joanne Rowling" not JK. There is a misprint on page 53, which lists "1 wand" twice in the school supplies list. There are countless different editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but there are a few notable collectible editions. The first US edition was published by Scholastic in 1998 under the revised title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, with small changes Americanizing some of the language. The first editions of the deluxe edition from 1999 are also desirable. Paperback first editions of the Philosopher's Stone are also quite scarce and collectible. An illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books, and it was illustrated by Jim Kay. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has been translated into over seventy languages, including Latin and Greek. It, along with the other six books in the series, has been cinematically adapted as well. An estimated 100-120 million copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone have been sold.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
This post-colonial story centers around the Price family, missionaries who move from Georgia to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The novel is narrated by the mother, Orleanna, and her four daughters. against the backdrop of political turmoil in the Congo in the 1960s. The novel highlights the cultural clashes between life in Africa and the evangelical Baptist family from the 1950s American South, with the largest lesson learned by the youngest daughter, who after meeting an untimely death realizes the unity of all life. Kingsolver's fourth novel, it was selected for Oprah's book club and a finalist for the Pulitzer prize, selling over four million copies.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
A debut collection of nine short stories by Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri, the stories address sensitive dilemmas in the lives of Indians or Indian immigrants, with themes such as marital difficulties, the bereavement over a stillborn child, and the disconnection between first and second generation United States immigrants. Interpreter of Maladies was the 7th collection of short stories to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature, and was also awarded the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. It has sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
Author Bio: Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.