For librarians and other professional book lovers, going to Book Expo is like riding the Polar Express to the North Pole to meet Santa. Every galley, every publisher book buzz panel, every in-booth author signing, generates the kind of giddy excitement usually reserved for an 8-year-old stuffed with sugar plums. This year there were manymanymany books that intrigued me (if my overloaded dining room table is any indication). But have to admit that I didn’t get a sense there’s a couple of titles flying under the radar, just waiting to swoop up the bestseller list. I’m hoping I’m just jaded and wrong.
What I *did* find this year are a galley of riches for my book groups and other thoughtful readers whose orbits I pass through. These are the types of books that would make fantastic tent-pole author event programs. They will encourage lively conversation among book group members and intelligent consideration of the subject matter’s place in our society. Put these on your radar for fall.
Book groups just tend to gravitate towards books about books. No doubt they will zero in on So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and How it Endures by Maureen Corrigan, NPR book critic for “Fresh Air.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby has a devoted following in the U.S. and last year’s movie boosted interest in the Jazz Age tale of careless insouciance.
Corrigan takes a different tack with the high school English class staple. She points out that 11th grade may have been too early for many of us to experience the finer points of the novel’s humor and social commentary. She examines the humor and hard-boiled noir element Fitzgerald places subtly in the book and larger themes of class, race, and gender.
The author’s enthusiasm for the American classic is palpable. Share it with your book group right after it hits publication in September from Little, Brown and give some consideration to reading The Great Gatsby side-by-side.
Book group favorite, Azar Nafisi, is back in October with The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books from Viking. Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran was a staple of book group reading lists when it was published and Nafisi’s follow-up may prove to be the same. Challenged to prove that Americans care about books and reading as much as the Iranian girls did, Nafisi throws herself into three American classics: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
Nafisi energetically shows that fiction has as much to teach as nonfiction. But most readers know this. It’s the way Nafisi presents her biblio-memoir that will bring new fans into her circle of friends who share a passion for reading. Again, consider having copies of the three classics on hand for book group participants to use for easy reference during discussion of Republic of Imagination.
Tickle the brains of book group readers with a penchant for mysteries by giving them The Forgers by Bradford Morrow. A literary thriller about the murder of a reclusive rare book collector. His body is found amidst many valuable tomes in his collection, defaced and ruined. The collector’s sister, Meghan, and her lover, an expert in literary forgeries and a forger himself, are haunted by the death and soon become targets of the mysterious killer. An intriguing page-turner for bibliophiles, look for this one in November from Mysterious Press.