Best-sellers such as ''Into Thin Air'' and ''Angela's Ashes'' convince other publishers to release similarly themed titles

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Publishers have always been quick to spot trends, but lately every hit seems to spawn at least three clones. ”One very, very conspicuous success leads to a lot of similarly themed books; if a certain genre seems to be working, it’s just natural to want to follow up on that,” explains Random House president Ann Godoff. But it doesn’t guarantee a best-seller. ”It really comes down to what a good read they are,” she says. ”That’s the telltale thing.” Here’s a look at some of the latest wannabes.

Breakthrough Hit: Incoming Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl’s savory food memoir Tender at the Bone (Random House, 1997)
Pale Imitations: Consuming Passions by Michael Lee West (HarperCollins, May); Dinner at Miss Lady’s by Luann Landon (Algonquin, May)
The Real Deal: Although she doesn’t match cuisine queen Reichl in terms of sheer experience, New York Times Dining In/Dining Out reporter Amanda Hesser holds her own in an ode to fresh produce, The Cook and the Gardener (Norton).

Breakthrough Hits: The terrifying adventure-lit double threat of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (Villard, 1997) and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm (Norton, 1997)
Pale Imitations: The Other Side of Everest by Matt Dickinson (Times, May); Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy (Algonquin, May)
The Real Deal: In High Exposure (Simon & Schuster, May), codirector and leader of the Everest IMAX filming expedition David Breashears recounts his experiences just a few thousand feet below Krakauer’s ill-fated 1996 mission.

Breakthrough hit: Frank McCourt’s heartbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his impoverished Irish-Catholic childhood, Angela’s Ashes (Scribner, 1996)
Pale Imitations: Besides brother Malachy’s A Monk Swimming, there’s 44: Dublin Made Me by Peter Sheridan (Viking, May); and More Bread or I’ll Appear by Emer Martin (Houghton Mifflin).
The Real Deal: Playwright/actor/stand-up comic Brendan O’Carroll’s The Mammy (Plume, April), an irreverently comical story of a widow raising seven children in a Dublin suburb. As with Ashes, a film version is in the works.

Angela's Ashes
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  • R
  • 145 minutes
  • Alan Parker