On Sunday, I recapped my experience at Book Expo America (BEA), and today I’m excited to share some of the books I brought home. This year, I brought home 22 books, which is about half of last year’s number. ( I feel very good about this.) Some of them are books I was hoping to pick up, others were pitched to me, and a few simply reeled me in with enticing covers and titles. I’m really looking forward to reading all of them, but in the interest in keeping this post relatively readable, I’d like to feature the ten titles I am most excited about.*
1. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (Henry Holt | Aug. 11). After a long period of joblessness, Josephine lands a job inputting numbers into The Database. But as time passes, Josephine feels increasingly anxious. As strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine’s work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her.
This sounds delightfully creepy, and it already has Shannon‘s mark of approval!
2. Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson (Random House | Aug. 18). Adam Johnson follows up The Orphan Master’s Son with a collection of short stories that are comic, tender, absurd, and totally universal. In post-Katrina Louisiana, a young man and his new girlfriend search for the mother of his son. And in the stunning title story, a woman with cancer rages against the idea of her family without her.
I missed Johnson’s last, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, but I’m psyched to catch his next book.
3. The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Graywolf Press | Sep. 1). A postapocalyptic novel set a thousand years in the past, The Wake brings to life the Buccmaster, an English landowner seeking revenge in the aftermath of the Norman Invasion of 1066. Written in an updated version of Old English, The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction.
I’ve loved everything I have read from Graywolf, and this book sounds irresistibly ambitious.
4. Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | Sep. 1). After a powerful silk factory owner runs down the buggy of Constance Knopp, a rebellious woman with a family secret, a dispute over damages turns into a war as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.
This book, written by the author of The Drunken Botonist, just sounds like so much fun. Also, the author was a guest on the Nerdette podcast a few months ago, and she was wonderful.
5. Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (Gallery/Scout Books | Sep. 8). On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is devastated when a disaster takes the lives of her entire family. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.
I’m not familiar with Bill Clegg, but the signing line for this book was the longest I waited in — and that intrigues me.
6. Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy (Picador | Sep. 8). Doctor Damon Tweedy examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine, illustrating the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of most health problems in the black community.
We’ve been talking about race a lot lately, but this is one area (of many, I’m sure) I haven’t thought much about. I’m excited to learn more!
7. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Riverhead | Sep. 15). Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
I loved Arcadia, and Groff’s new book sounds like it’s 100% in my wheelhouse.
8. Sweet Caress by William Boyd (Bloomsbury | Sep. 15). In this enthralling story of a life fully lived, illustrated with “found” period photographs, William Boyd has created a sweeping panorama of some of the most defining moments of modern history, from late 1920s Berlin to ’30s New York to the blackshirt riots in London to WWII France, told through the camera lens of one unforgettable woman, Amory Clay.
Found photographs, a trail-blazing female photographer, and a story spanning decades? I’m in.
9. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (Hogarth | Oct. 6). From the author A Constellation of Vital Phenomena comes a collection of dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interconnected stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.
I loved the beautiful writing, fully realized characters, and intricate connections of Marra’s first novel, and I can’t wait to read his new book.
10. City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (Knopf | Oct. 14). When the infamous blackout of July 13, 1977 plunges New York City into darkness, the entangled lives of nine all-too-human characters will be changed irrevocably.
Weighing in at over 900 pages, this debut novel received a $2 million advance — and that, my friends, is enough to get my attention.
The rest of my BEA book haul:
Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner — Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert — Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy — Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg — The Double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck
Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart — The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa — The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth — Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson — Slab by Sala Saterstrom
The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips — Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith — Dietland by Sarai Walker — The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra — The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallbarg — Deep South by Paul Theroux — Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins — Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff — Sweet Caress by William Boyde
*All descriptions are borrowed from Goodreads and edited for length.