This Week in Books: Comic-Con is on, Kermit gets fired and Antarctica is breaking up

Pop quiz: Where can you go to hang out with director Steven Spielberg, Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot and a slew of Stormtroopers? If you said San Diego’s Comic-Con, then you’re probably already there. The once-humble gathering of geeks and cosplayers is now a massive showcase for some Hollywood’s splashiest blockbusters. Even if you’re sitting this one out, you can still get into the spirit of the event. Here are three stellar books making the leap from page to screen and generating buzz at this year’s convention.

 

Ready Player One
Wonderstruck
Valerian

Ready Player One: Ernest Cline’s debut novel, about a young man trying to win a pop culture-based virtual reality game in 2044, is beloved by Amazon customers, who give it  an average of 4.6 stars on more than 12,000 ratings. With all the book’s knowing winks to the 1980s, it’s no wonder that nostalgia buff Spielberg signed on to direct the film adaptation, due next March.

Wonderstruck: Author Brian Selznick adapted his own 2011 novel about a boy and a girl on separate quests 50 years apart. The two plotlines come together in ways you won’t see coming and won’t soon forget. You can read the book now, but the movie, starring Julianne Moore and directed by Todd Haynes, doesn’t arrive until October.

Valerian: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1: Before it became the most expensive foreign film ever made ($180 million), Valerian was a fan-favorite comic in Europe, written by Pierre Christin and drawn by Jean-Claude Mézières from 1967 to 2010. While noble Valerian and his partner, Laureline, have charming adventures through space and time in the books, the film (now playing) packs in jaw-dropping special effects.  

 

Massive piece of Antarctic ice shelf breaks off

TWIB-Shackleton200It began to crack before the first moon landing, and now a Delaware-size chunk of Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf has finally given way. Scientists first mapped the fissure in 1960, watching as it grew to more than 120 miles long and finally cleaved off a trillion-ton iceberg. The ice shelf is now the smallest it’s been in recorded history, making the continent a different place than it was in 1915 when British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew on the Endurance became trapped in Antarctic sea ice for months. Their ordeal is recounted in Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, which averages 4.8 stars from more than 2,000 Amazon customers.

 

WWII-era Enigma machine is flea market find to dream about

TWIB-Secret-Lives200A cryptography professor knew he’d discovered more than just an ordinary old typewriter as he rummaged through a Romanian flea market. The $115 find turned out to be a World War II-era Enigma machine, a device that passed coded messages among the German military, which he sold at auction for more than $51,000 last week. Thanks to the 2014 film The Imitation Game, British cryptanalyst Alan Turing often gets credit for cracking the Enigma code, but he didn’t do it alone. Sinclair McKay’s book The Secret Lives of Codebreakers tells the story of the people who worked alongside Turing at Britain’s top-secret wartime Bletchley Park codebreaking facility.

 

Epcot Center heads back to the future with major upgrade

TWIB-Walt200It was once the theme park of the future, but now Florida’s Epcot Center is getting an overdue upgrade. Disney has announced plans to spruce up the attraction with new rides based on the movies Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille. Disney also will update Epcot’s space ride simulator, Mission: Space. Walt Disney originally saw Epcot as a true city of the future, an even more ambitious vision than the futuristic center that opened in 1982. If you’ve forgotten what a true visionary he was, check out Neal Gabler’s definitive biography, Walt Disney.

 

Girl Scout troop growing to bring in more homeless girls

TWIB-How-Children200Girl Scout Troop 6000 serves a community all too often overlooked: the homeless. Based in a homeless shelter in Queens, the troop plans to expand to 14 more shelters in New York City. Said 11-year-old Karina at the announcement: “Now more girls just like me will be able to participate.” Author Paul Tough offers helpful advice for helping children overcome poverty in his 2012 best seller How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.

 

 

For voice of Kermit, it’s not easy being pink-slipped

TWIB-Jim-Henson200Steve Whitmire, the voice artist and puppeteer who played Kermit the Frog for 27 years, says he’s been fired. Whitmire said he was let go in October, although the news was only made public last week. Disney, which owns the Muppets, has cited Whitmire’s alleged “unacceptable business conduct,” while Whitmire suggests he was let go because of his views about the character’s direction. Whitmire had played Kermit since the 1990 death of Muppets creator Jim Henson, who originally voiced the character. For a look at happier days, read Brian Jay Jones’ best seller Jim Henson: The Biography.

 

Inside Amazon Charts: Meet Michael Connelly’s new detective

TWIB-Late-Show200A new character pops up on Amazon Charts’ Most Sold Fiction list this week, but don’t worry, she’s on the right side of the law. Los Angeles Police Detective Renée Ballard works The Late Show in the first novel of a new series from Michael Connelly. The author is best known for his long-running Bosch series, the basis for an Amazon Original video series now in its third season. “The midnight (police) shift in Hollywood is nicknamed ‘the late show’ because Hollywood has so many bizarre denizens, and they tend to come out late at night,” explained Connelly in an interview with The Amazon Book Review. It’s a brutal beat, Hollywood’s night shift, but fortunately for us the “fierce” Ballard can handle it.

 

Popular highlight of the Week: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

TWIB-You-Dont200“There are family mysteries I cannot solve. There are family mysteries I am unwilling to solve.”

Alexie cut short the book tour for You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, his acclaimed memoir about his difficult relationship with his late mother, Lillian, who died in 2015. He said he has been “retraumatizing” himself on the difficult tour and encountering haunting echoes of his mother.

 

 

 

Alynda Wheat is a senior writer for Amazon. She has previously written for People, Entertainment Weekly and Fortune.

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