Ken Follett has dominated epic storytelling for three decades. With spy novels like Eye of the Needle and historical fiction like Pillars of the Earth, his worldwide sales have topped the 100-million-copy mark. Now, he's back with Fall of Giants, the 985-page first installment of a trilogy covering the 20th century. It spotlights five families from Wales, the United States, Russia and Germany as their countries hurtle toward World War I. Its themes range from class warfare between labor and aristocrats, to the suffrage movement, to the horrific ways in which WWI was fought. Follett is married to a former member of Parliament, Barbara Follett. Explaining his ability to write about high-level politics, he says: "For the last 13 years, Britain has been run by my friends ... the people we have dinner with, the people we go to the theater with, the people we go on holiday with ... [It] has been, frankly, a terrific help to me in writing."
The second of Jan Karon's Father Tim novels, In the Company of Others has retired Episcopal priest Tim Kavanagh and his wife, Cynthia, traveling to Ireland to explore their family's history. The pair settles into a countryside bed and breakfast owned by Liam and Anna Conor, where a series of bizarre crimes and quirky hotel guests reveal that Father Tim's family isn't the only one harboring secrets and sorrows.
Jimmy Carter, a former peanut farmer elected to the White House in 1976, has spent his recent years pursuing peace and human rights, efforts that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. In his new book, Carter says he pursued an overly aggressive agenda as president that may have confused voters and alienated lawmakers. But he says the tipping points that cost him the 1980 election were the Iran hostage crisis and the Democratic primary challenge by U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy. He is the author of more than 20 books, including Palestine Peace Not Apartheid in 2006, about his experiences in the Middle East, and 2005's Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis.
Three decades after Arianna Huffington immigrated to the U.S. from Greece, she says America has gone astray, though there is still no place she'd rather live. The co-founder of The Huffington Post sees mounting foreclosures; high levels of debt and unemployment; crumbling infrastructure; a skewed financial system that favors the rich; a broken political system and a shrinking middle class. In her book, Third World America, Huffington argues that the secure standard of living that Americans once took for granted is under threat. "There isn't a clear trajectory to get into the middle class and to stay there," Huffington told NPR's Jennifer Ludden. Individuals, and "the American can-do spirit," Huffington says, are the keys to holding elected leaders of both political parties accountable. "When we look at how we turn things around," she says, "we need to look at ourselves."
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.