Bicycle Diaries: <i>Isaiah Berlin</i> is back

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Isaiah Berlin is back

one of the hottest books in New York
appears on no best-seller list

Thanks to Thomas Stoppard whose epic three-part play, The Coast of Utopia, opened last November at Lincoln Center in NYC. Inside the show’s playbill is For Audience Members Interested in Further Reading, a short but weighty list that includes Russian Thinkers, a '78 collection of essays on 19th-century Russian intellectuals by Berlin.

As a result, the out-of-print book is all but impossible to find. Although it's completely out of stock, Penguin quickly ordered 3,500 new copies earlier this month. It was the first time in 12 years Russian Thinkers has been printed, to satisfy more than 2,000 suddenly unfilled orders.

The Oprah Effect actually started with an article in the New York Times just before the play opened. The newspaper's former legendary restaurant critic, William Grimes, urged readers to do some reading before seeing the play. With tongue only slightly in cheek, he listed no less than 11 volumes that would repay the effort under the title Required Pretheatre Reading, and with the pay-off: That should do it. You are now ready to see the play...

But when Stoppard read the article his blood ran cold: The title should have been Recommended Post-Theatre Reading, he said in a letter to the newspaper. He then added,
What kind of madman would write a play that requires the audience to read a dozen books in advance? Come as you are; you'll be fine.

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