By Keith Staskiewicz
Updated July 30, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

The thrill of it all
While Beck will occasionally feature nonfiction writers on his program, thrillers are where his heart lies. ”I originally fell in love with thrillers a while back because I realized that the authors were some of the only people left who could write the unvarnished truth as they saw it,” says Beck. Since then, he’s had a number of the genre’s giants on his show, including Harlan Coben, James Patterson, and Nelson DeMille. Beck’s own political thriller, The Overton Window, recently debuted as a No. 1 best-seller.

Politics and prose
It isn’t an exaggeration to say the outspoken conservative host is a divisive figure. However, Beck sees his show’s literary moments as mainly apolitical. ”We have a saying at the Thanksgiving table: People don’t just talk about one subject like politics,” he says. ”We try [to] present serious issues along with fun stuff.” He has no compunction about interviewing liberal writers whom he admires, such as Andrew Gross.

The new Oprah
Much like the Queen of All Media herself, Beck credits his viewers with the influence he wields. ”I can love a book and talk about it every day,” says Beck, ”but if my audience doesn’t care enough to follow through and read it themselves, then it wouldn’t matter. Anyone who says that conservatives aren’t fans of books or history should spend a little time with my audience.” And how does he feel about the comparison to Ms. Winfrey? ”The real question is, how does she feel about being called ‘the old Oprah’?”