Book Expo America (BEA) is North America’s annual publishing conference where publishers, booksellers, authors, press, bloggers, and others gather to nerd out about books, in particular upcoming 2017 / early 2018 new titles.
My day job isn’t in the book industry, so I take vacation days to go to BEA and I’m grateful I get to attend. It’s also very convenient for me when it’s in NYC: it makes the cost of attending much cheaper and I don’t have to fit all my new books into a suitcase at the end! (Just my apartment, which is its own challenge.)
Here’s a recap of the new books I’m most excited about, some of the authors I met, and the event that made my brain melt with excitement on Thursday evening.
^ Thursday’s book stack.
Thursday at BEA was all about author signings for me. First on my list was Gabrielle Zevin, signing her new novel Young Jane Young. I enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and her latest book sounds even more intriguing.
I happily stood in a very long line for Kristin Cashore, who was signing her new book Jane Unlimited. (This book sounds so strange and amazing.)
I’ve never read anything by Jesmyn Ward before, but she’s high on my Need To Read list. It was lovely to meet her and I’m excited to have a copy of her latest novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing.
My final signing on Thursday was the author I was most excited about this year at BEA: Gretchen Rubin. I’ve been a fan of her books (and podcast) for years, but haven’t had a chance to go to one of her events. I’m very excited to read her new book, The Four Tendencies.
And now I must tell you about Thursday night. I signed up to attend BEA in March, and two months later I got an email that a special event was just added: An Evening with Hillary Clinton. (!!!!!) I immediately clicked on the link, trying to decide the maximum amount of money I would be willing to spend on a ticket to see her while the link was loading. (Most of BEA’s special events, such as the author breakfasts, have an extra cost that can be quite pricey.) But when the page loaded I learned it was free. One click later, and I had a free ticket to see one of my feminist heroines.
So, Thursday evening I was sitting in my seat, eagerly waiting for this incredible experience to start. There were two seats on the stage, so it looked like she’d be chatting with someone, but I had no idea who. The president of Simon & Schuster, Hillary’s publisher, came out to introduce her. Then she told us that Hillary would be interviewed by Cheryl Strayed. The entire room gasped, sat in stunned silence for 3 seconds, and then burst into cheers and applause. My brain melted. One of my feminist heroines would be interviewed by another of my feminist heroines. (Cheryl Strayed is the author of Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, co-hosts Dear Sugar Radio, and is one of the kindest, smartest, most empathetic, and wisest women of all time.)
They had a funny and beautiful conversation about resilience, life, hiking, books and reading. Mashable has a great post highlighting the bookish side of their conversation, 6 things we learned about Hillary Clinton, Book Nerd, where you can read about her love of Nancy Drew, The Brothers Karamazov, and what genre she reads to escape.
Hillary is still writing her memoir that will come out this fall (and holy crap I cannot wait to read it), so there are not galleys yet. But we did get signed bookplates, which I’m looking forward to sticking in the front cover of her new book on September 26th (and am now terrified of misplacing in the meantime—I might store it with my passport).
Friday was a little more low key—most of the author signings on my list were already complete. But I chatted with a few publishers and got some galleys that I’m very excited about. Most notably: The new book from A. J. Jacobs, It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree, and The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It by Joanna Scutts.
I also attended ReadingGroupGuides.com’s annual “Book Group Speed Dating” event, which is always marvelous. You sit with about 7-9 other people at a round table covered in piles of books, and publicists rotate to each table for 9 minutes each and pitch you their books, specially chosen for great discussion / book group convos. I tried to restrain myself somewhat, but still came home with a lot of great sounding books:
- Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali: “Available in English in the United States for the first time, this best-selling Turkish classic of love and alienation in a changing world captures Berlin between the two world wars.”
- The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott: “In Catholic Brooklyn, in the early part of the twentieth century, decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man’s brief existence, and yet his suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives–testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations.”
- Sourdough by Robin Sloan: “In his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra s 24-Hour Bookstore.”
- Lover by Anna Raverat: “Told with warmth, wit and grace, Lover is a novel about marriage, family, and work – an unforgettable account of having the strength to find one’s place in the world.”
- Green by Sam Graham – Felsen: “A novel of race and privilege in America that you haven’t seen before: a coming-of-age story about a life-changing friendship, propelled by an exuberant, unforgettable voice.”
- World Without Mind by Franklin Foer: “Elegantly tracing the intellectual history of computer science – from the Descartes and the enlightenment to Alan Turing to Stuart Brand and the hippie origins of today’s Silicon Valley – Foer exposes the dark underpinnings of our most idealistic dreams for technology. The corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, he argues, are trampling longstanding liberal values, especially intellectual property and privacy.”
That’s it for my BEA17 experience! I have a few extra books that I grabbed to give away on my blog, so stay tuned for that!