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U.S. Book Show - May 26, 2021 Report

Day 2 of the U.S. Book Show amped up the fun with more book and author showcases, including two up-close spotlights with Pulitzer-Prize winner Anthony Doerr and musician/actor and now author Stevie Van Zandt. Suffice it to say, my TBR pile is going to be overflowing this fall!

The day began with a thoroughly insightful keynote by So You Want to Talk about Race author Ijeoma Oluo. Next were numerous editor/book panels (organized by genre) highlighting buzzed-about books coming in late summer/fall. Two amazing Author Spotlight discussions and a Book Buzz segment about Indigenous Voices were interspersed among the panels. Hightlights? Stevie Van Zandt's home decor--it's as cool as he is. Angeline Boulley, the author of the stellar Firekeeper's Daughter (one of my top two of the year so far), speaking about being told Barack Obama was reading her book AFTER a phone interview so she'd remain calm. Anthony Doerr discussing the genesis of the truly unique narrative of what I think will be THE book of the fall, Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Below I give the highlights of each segment. All in all, another amazing day. I'm looking forward to the finale tomorrow!

Keynote: Ijeoma Oluo Talks Inspiring Change

Ijeoma spoke about the prevalence of systemic racism and, in particular, how the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the resulting protests reignited interest in her groundbreaking work, So You Want to Talk About Race. She pointed out that although her book spoke to the moment, many authors and activists have been working/writing day in and day out for years to root out systemic racism and create lasting change. Humble, sharp, strong, and inspiring, Oluo is a force in the movement and also a damn good writer. Her next book, Be a Revolution, will explore how everyday people work to create meaningful change in their communities.

Anthony Doerr Talks Writing "A Book in a Book"

Like Oprah, Anthony made me smile talking about his love of books and reading. Through reading he's "transported out of his boring caucasian body" to new worlds. In his latest book, Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony takes this goal and runs with it, setting his story in three different places--and times: 15th century Constantinople; present-day Boise, Idaho; and 22nd century space. What ties all three together? A book. I love books about books (and authors who are as giddy about books as I am) and this one sounds especially creative and compelling. I also love humble authors and Anthony is definitely that. He said he considers it a privilege to play in a world he loves, the world of books.

Stevie Van Zandt Talks Music and Memoirs

With his trademark super-cool vibe, musician, actor, and writer Stevie Van Zandt teased his memoir, Unrequited Infatuations. He shared tidbits about his life, including the epiphany that encouraged him to pursue music. This book promises to be as interesting as Stevie's amazing room decor!

Indigenous Authors Spotlight

Native authors Angeline Boulley, Firekeeper's Daughter; Christine Day, The Sea in Winter and I Can Make This Promise; David A. Robertson, On the Trapline; and Jesse Thistle, From the Ashes: My Story of Being Indigenous, Homeless, and Finding My Way, plus moderator Cynthia Leitich Smith discussed the growth of stories by Native American authors and how they each ended up getting their books published. Especially interesting was Thistle's story. All in all an informative and inspiring panel.

Books, Books & More Books...

The biggest chunk of the day was the book panels--organized by genre--each showcasing eight books picked by PW editors. The editors of the books spoke about their book, giving a general description; shared some fun, behind-the-scenes scoop; and talked about how the book fit into broader narratives affecting our world. I watched all of them, but didn't detail each book. For the ones I didn't summarize, I still put a star by the ones that are must-reads for me. All in all, we readers are lucky to have some truly amazing books hitting shelves later this year. I'm beyond excited about what's around the corner.

Also, as a self-described book-cover-art fangirl, I have to say, the book covers being produced are STUNNING. The art, illustration, typography (yes, even that!), and overall design is an art form in its own right. I love the rich colors, eye-catching art, and overall design. Keep up the phenomenal work, artists/designers!

Mystery/Thrillers Showcase

City on Fire by Don Winslow

Publisher: William Morrow

Pub Date: 9/21

This “modern-day Illiad” touches on loyalty, betrayal, corruption, and honor as it chronicles the life of a longshoreman who's also the “muscle” for the mob in 1986 Rhode Island. It’s the first in a new trilogy from the beloved crime writer.

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

Publisher: Soho Crime

Pub Date: 8/3

Drawing on 30 years of research about Japanese-American history, Edgar-Award-winning Hirahara crafts a fascinating mystery about a young woman named Aki Ito’s search for the truth about the death of her sister. After being released from the Manzanar concentration camp and resettled in Chicago, Aki and her family find her sister dead and have more questions than answers.

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge

Publisher: Kensington

Pub Date: 10/26

This first in a new historical mystery series, this book features Phyllida Bright, the fictional housekeeper for none other than Agatha Christie. After a dead body is found in the library of the home Agatha shares with her husband Max Mallowan, ex Army nurse Phyllida must solve the mystery.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

Publisher: Riverhead

Pub Date: 8/31

Unlike Paula’s two previous best sellers, this “juicy story of psychological suspense,” is written in the third person. After a man is murdered on a houseboat in London, three women, for various reasons, are looking for revenge. You’ll cry, rage, and shudder through this twisty-turny tale.

My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa

Publisher: Berkley

Pub Date: 9/14

Jayatissa’s debut is a psychological suspense set in Sri Lanka and San Francisco. Paloma is cut off from her parents' funds and finds her roommate murdered in their apartment--the roommate who was blackmailing her. It’s “fun, playful, twisty” with “surprises you won’t believe.”

Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Pub Date:

This space/Cold War thriller is from real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield. After losing an eye in a tragic accident, Kaz can’t be the astronaut he had hoped to be. Instead, he ends up managing the Apollo 18 mission from Earth--but a murder leaves the fate of the mission and the astronauts on it up in the air.

The Heron’s Cry by Anne Cleeves

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Pub Date: 9/7

The second novel in Ann’s Two Rivers series, this mystery finds Detective Matthew Venn investigating a murder at the rural home of a community of artists. Things get even more complicated when Matthew discovers that a friend of his husband is a suspect.

Much Ado About Nauticaling by Gabby Allan

Publisher: Kensington

Pub Date: 7/27

The first in the new Whit and Whiskers series, this book introduces readers to Whitney Dagner, a woman who escapes the corporate world to return to California to help her brother run Nautically Yours, the family tourism business. When a dead body shows up under the glass-bottomed boat, the fun really begins.

Biography/Memoir Selections

The Breaks by Julietta Singh (Coffee House)

Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age by Debby Applegate (Doubleday)

Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor by Anna Qu (Catapult)

[Catapult graciously approved an e-galley of this, so I will have a review close to the publishing date.]

Miss Chloe and Good Negress: A Literary Friendship with Toni Morrison by A.J. Verdelle (Amistad)

Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller by Nadia Wassef (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (Gallery)

Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller (Grove)

Three Girls of Bronzeville by Dawn Turner (Simon & Schuster)

Literary Fiction Showcase

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pub Date: 9/7

Four people--sometimes friends, sometimes lovers--go through their lives growing individually and in their relationships with each other. Themes of work, religion, love, and friendship are explored as this quartet tries to find their place in the world.

L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón

Publisher: Flatiron

Pub Date: 9/7

This book follows the Mexican-American Alvarado family as they brave the weather of L.A. and the challenges of their life as a family and individuals. It sounds fun, profound, and relatable.

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Publisher: Riverhead

Pub Date: 9/7

I'll admit, Lauren Groff is one of my favorite writers. Her short stories and novels are superb and ones that I seek out and pick up the minute they're published. This new novel sounds equally amazing. Set in the Middle Ages, it follows the life of Marie de France (a real historical figure but little is known about her) and work at an impoverished abby and how it informs her spiritual and earthly lives. You had me at Lauren Groff!

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Publisher: Holt

Pub Date: 10/5

Johnson's electrifying debut is a collection of short stories and one novella that explores race and racism in America. The title novella sounds so intriguing: a descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings is part of a diverse group of neighbors fleeing white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in the not-so-distant future. This collection sounds like a must-read.

Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart

Publisher: Random House

Pub Date: 11/2

It's March 2020 and the pandemic hits, causing a group of friends to wait it out holed up in a country house in upstate New York. Reminiscent of a great Russian novel, this timely story documents the emotional turmoil and triumphs of the pandemic through complex characters, heart, and humor.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo

Publisher: Catapult

Pub Date: 11/5

Anna is a mixed-race woman at a crossroads in her life. After her mother dies, she finds information about the African father she never knew. It seems he was involved in radical politics in Africa, even becoming the leader (some would say dictator) of a small nation in West Africa. He's still alive, so Anna goes searching for him and finds out more about herself and her place in the world along the way. Catapult again approved an e-galley of this for me, and I can't wait to dig in.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Publisher: Putnam

Pub Date: 10/26

English soldier Ulysses Temper finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa where he meets art historian Evelyn Skinner. This novel spans the next four decades of his life as he finds solace and meaning in both art and the harsh realities of war, love, and life. This novel sounds lovely.

The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish

Publisher: Knopf

Pub Date: 9/7

Corey Goltz is a 15-year-old boy who's estranged from his father and ends up being the primary caretaker of his mother who is diagnosed with ALS. When his father re-enters the picture, Corey's must fight against his father's neglect and cruelty, while meeting his mother's needs. This book promises an unflinching look at a father-son relationship.

I mean, is there even one on here that doesn't sound terrific? I want to read them all!

Current Events Selection

A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis by Vanessa Nakate (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias by Jessica Nordell (Metropolitan)

Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter's School by Courtney E. Martin (Little, Brown)

The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Age of Fentanyl and Meth by Sam Quinones (Bloomsbury)

The Power of Women: Learning from Resilience to Heal Our World by Dr. Denis Mukwege (Flatiron)

Refugee High: Coming of Age in America by Elly Fishman (The New Press)

The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scamsters, Politicians, and Preachers Behind the Nation's Greatest Electoral Fraud by Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner (University of North Carolina Press/Ferris and Ferris)

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