I was really excited about this month’s crop of discounted ebooks at Amazon. Last week I wrote about their discounts on science fiction books and thrillers, but I forgot about an even bigger sale. Every month Amazon also highlights a special selection of ebooks — their “100 ebooks for $3.99 or Less”. As always, you can find the whole collection at tinyurl.com/399books — and this month’s ebooks look especially interesting.
But in addition to that, Amazon’s also trying a new kind of sale, called “30 Kindle Books for $3 Each”. You can find them on the same page (at the bottom), giving you 130 different ebooks to choose from for less than four dollar each. This month I actually recognized some of the titles, which is why I say the selection looks especially interesting. Besides some very famous authors — and some justly famous novels — there’s at least one novel thta I’d actually characterize as “notorious!”
Naked Came the Stranger by Penelope Ashe ($2.99)
“Naked Came the Stranger” was one of the most bizarre literary experiments ever. It was written by 24 different authors in 1969, each describing a different romantic encounter with a predatory talk show host named Gillian Blake. Amazon describes it as “A steamy, bestselling tale of Long Island lust, written as a daring literary hoax by Newsday columnist Mike McGrady and two dozen of his colleagues.” McGrady was trying to prove that books became bestsellers solely because they contained lots of sexy scenes — and then set out to prove it, by instructing his co-authors to just emphasize the sex in each part of the book (avoiding anything that would approach literary excellence). “Naked Came the Stranger was an attempt to produce the steamiest and most wildly over-the-top novel of all time,” explains Amazon’s description, “good writing be damned. A sensation upon its first release, forty years later the book remains one of the most sinfully amusing potboilers ever published…”) And according to Wikipedia, it ultimately sold more than 400,000 copies…)
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski ($1.99)
I’ve always been fascinated by poet/novelist Charles Bukowski, and Amazon notes his semi-fictional autobiography is widely hailed as the best of his many novels.” Written in 1982, when the author had just turned 60, it finds Bukowski describing a rough childhood in Germany, becoming an awkward teenager during America’s Great Depression, and “his adolescent discoveries of alcohol, women, and the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection of D. H. Lawrence….” It’s fun to read its reviews on Amazon, from fans who applauded “The Bard of Booze and Broads” to the woman who complained there was no redemption for the novel’s main character. (“I felt like there must be something wrong with me as I trudged through it, waiting for some kind of light at the end of the tunnel…”) But 192 reviewers have given the book a very high average of four and a half stars, and Amazon calls the book “crude, brutal, and savagely funny”.
The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker ($3.49)
She was the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple — but it was just 12 years earlier that Alice Walker published The Third Life of Grange Copeland as her very first novel. It’s a story about a tenant farmer who leaves the Deep South, fails, then returns to the family he left behind, and according to Essence magazine, Walker “dares to reveal truths about men and women, about blacks and whites, about God and love…And we, like Alice Walker’s marvelous characters, come away transformed by knowledge and love but most of all by wonder.” If you’re a fan of the author, there’s an additional treat at the back of the book — an illustrated biography including some rare photos from her personal collection.
The Year the Music Changed by Diane Thomas ($1.99)
My girlfriend loved this book — and I thought it had a fascinating premise. It imagines the letters between a teenaged music fan in the 1950s, and a young singer named Elvis Presley, just before he became a star. I liked how Elvis really became a character in the book, and the letters capture his voice the way you’d imagine it — friendly, humble, and struggling with the onset of success. But it’s really the story of the teenaged girl, wondering why her mother is so unhappy in her marriage, and some of the passages are beautifully written. The whole story is told in the form of letters where she opens up to Elvis — with his own smaller story told in his responses — and at 260 pages, one reviewer on Amazon describes it as “a fast, intensely satisfying read.” I ultimately couldn’t resist reading this book, just because of all the enthusiastic words being used to describe it, like the review in Publisher’s Weekly which described it as simply “Warm, lively and immensely readable.”
I’m always impressed by the variety of ebooks that Amazon is selling. They’ve separated them into seven categories — Fiction and Literature, general nonfiction, kids and teens, mysteries and thrillers, biographies, romance, and science fiction/fantasy. (If you remember R.L. Stine from the Goosebumps series, you might want to try his horror novel for adults — Red Rain.) This month Amazon is also selling nearly two dozen romance novels that have been discounted, with titles like “Standoff at Mustang Ridge”, from the Harlequin Intrigue Series, and “Three Cowboys: Virgil\Morgan\Wyatt”.
There’s even one called “Confessions of an Improper Bride,” plus a title that also seems like a rebuttal — “Ain’t Misbehaving”! But Amazon’s also selling a lot of good “literary” fiction too. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five is only $2.99, and there’s an intriguing novel by George Orwell about the life of an Englishman living abroad, called Burmese Days. So there’s something for everybody!