Female readers are also showing a steady appetite for tough types of nonfiction. Dijkstra described two recent books she had sold--"Why Good Girls Don't Get Ahead" and "The Book of the Woman Warrior"--as "very, very aggressive" books. She predicted that the fierce tenor of the gender wars in books "is going to go on until the end of the century."
But people cannot live on conflict alone. Fortunately, said Lisa Johnson of E.P. Dutton in New York, there's sex to pick up the slack.
"When you're talking about trends for 1994, you're definitely talking about sex," Johnson said. A February title from Dutton, "Hot Monogamy" by someone whose actual name is Dr. Patricia Love (and a co-writer, with the less evocative name of Joe Robinson), should burn its way through the densest of brown paper wrappings.
In May, Dutton will bring out Lonnie Barbach's "The Erotic Edge," a collection of lusty stories for couples. Soon thereafter, Dutton is publishing Eva Margolies' "Undressing the American Male," to be followed by "The Faux Gourmet: A Single Woman's Confessions on Food and Sex," by Juli Huss.
At just about the same time from Random House, there is "A Natural History of Love," by Diane Ackerman--including a section of "sexual chic," or "perversion as fashion."
Although sex is obviously nothing new, what distinguishes these books, Johnson said, is a "very '90s" focus on commitment. "These are sex books for nice, normal yuppies," she said. "What they're saying is you can stay with someone and still have passion."
But in 1994, \o7 passion\f7 pledges to have a variety of implications. Baxter, a longtime observer of the book business, said he is particularly impressed with the intensity--passion, if you will--that top executives are bringing to the search for books for their work forces. Some companies even set aside on-the-job reading time, Baxter said. Often, the recommended titles focus on psychology or on family issues.
"They're recognizing that books are one way to address the health and well-being of their employees," Baxter said. "You're seeing the work/family equation make its way into the bookstore."
Books about business will also have a new slant. Greed, for one thing, will not be venerated with quite the same wide-eyed adulation it has enjoyed for the last decade or so. Instead, books such as Hyrum W. Smith's "The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management" (Warner Books) will seek to combine personal growth and professional prowess.
And rather than blindly extolling the virtues of the American Dream, "The Force: A Year in the Life of a Sales Team" (Random House), by David Dorsey, will offer "an utterly convincing fly-on-the-wall account of how the American Dream manipulates the lives of seven men and women."
It may sound sappy to say it, conceded Ellen Herrick of Warner Books, but "I think it's a real serious trend, this whole values thing."
The new spin to values in books is that "people are not just talking about doing good, but being good," Herrick said. "I think people are desperately casting about for new directions."
Counterbalancing this sense of altruism, however, is an apparently unbridled appetite for celebrity books--or what Kirshbaum calls "the book as National Enquirer special."
More reflectively, Harold Evans, the publisher of Random House, observed that in 1994, "the translation of the popular culture in the sense that it is represented by Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern" will be sought by ever-growing numbers of readers.
"I am always surprised by the quantities of people who want to read these books," Evans said. "There is something being said about American culture by these types of people that I myself can't fully fathom."
But perhaps, Evans said, 1994 will bring a reaction against "this vulgarity, this very, very narcissistic sort of publishing."
But conceding that he was feeling especially optimistic, Evans said: "I think that the common thread this year is books with a great deal of sympathy for mankind's predicament in them."