31 May 2011

BEA: Adult Book and Author Breakfasts

As many of you know, I was in New York last week for Book Expo America (BEA), the major annual trade show for the U.S. publishing industry.

One great result of BEA deciding to return to a three-day conference is that there were two adult book and author breakfasts. Both were absolutely fabulous and I am thankful for the opportunity to hear these authors speak and to be introduced to eight great titles.

Wednesday Morning (no cover image for one of the books)

The emcee for Wednesday morning was actress Mindy Kaling from The Office. Her book of personal essays--Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? (Crown Archtype)--covers a little bit of everything: humor, advice, and Hollywood stories.
Comedy's fastest-rising star takes to the page in a book of essays, personal anecdotes, and impassioned pleas. Multi-hyphenate Mindy Kaling is an Emmy-nominated writer, the actress famous for playing the beloved Kelly Kapoor on The Office, and the author of one of Twitter's most popular and quoted feeds. She is a keen and witty observer of life, romance, and pop culture, whom the New York Times recently called "an entirely original and of-the-moment" performer and Entertainment Weekly deemed “one of the ten funniest actresses in Hollywood.”

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy shares her observations, fears, and opinions about a wide-ranging list of the topics she thinks about the most: from her favorite types of guys (including Sherlock Holmes, NBA players, Aaron Sorkin characters, and 19th-century fictional hunks) to life in the Office writers' room to her leisure pursuit of dieting (“I don’t travel, speak other languages, do crafts, or enjoy sports, but I love reading about new diets”) and how much she loves romantic comedies. Loaded with personal stories and laugh-out-loud philosophies, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a must-read by one of the most original comedic voices working today.
Diane Keaton's moving tribute to her mother, Then Again (Random House), seems like a must read. Keaton was blessed to have a mother with whom she could be best friends, and she wrote about their relationship in a loving memoir. At the breakfast, Keaton read from the book--the entire audience was crying, including the author.
This is not an autobiography about the film sets and awards shows and celebrity friends, but about an American family and their shared and individual dreams. To write about herself, Diane realized that she had to write about her mother, too, and how their bond came to define both of their lives. In a remarkable act of creation, Diane not only reveals herself to us, she also lets us meet, in intimate detail, her mother. Throughout her life, Dorothy kept eight-five journals--literally thousands of pages--writing about her marriage, her children, and most probingly, about herself. In her journals Dorothy reveals herself to be a woman restless with intellectual and creative energy struggling to find an outlet for her talents and thwarted by society's expectations of what it means to be a good wife and mother. Dorothy also records memorable stories about Diane's grandparents. Diane has sorted through all these pages to write an unflinching portrait of her mother as well as her entire family--a story that spans four generations and nearly a hundred years.

Although the autobiography of a legendary actress, this is a book about a very American family with very American dreams. Diane will remind you of yourself, and her bonds with her family will remind you of your own relationships with those you love the most.
Jefferey Eugenides's newest book, The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), doesn't yet have a cover image, but don't let that stop you from adding this to your wish list. The novel, out in the fall, looks like another fantastic character study set in a fascinating time.
Madeleine Hanna was the dutiful English major who didn't get the memo. While everyone else in the early 1980s was reading Derrida, she was happily absorbed with Jane Austen and George Eliot: purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. Madeleine was the girl who dressed a little too nicely for the taste of her more bohemian friends, the perfect girlfriend whose college love life, despite her good looks, hadn't lived up to expectations.

But now, in the spring of her senior year, Madeleine has enrolled in a semiotics course "to see what all the fuss is about," and, for reasons that have nothing to do with school, life and literature will never be the same. Not after she falls in love with Leonard Morten--charismatic loner, college Darwinist and lost Oregon boy--who is possessed of seemingly inexhaustible energy and introduces her to the ecstasies of immediate experience. And certainly not after Mitchell Grammaticus--devotee of Patti Smith and Thomas Merton--resurfaces in her life, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

The triangle in this amazing and delicious novel about a generation beginning to grow up is age old, and completely fresh and surprising. With devastating wit, irony and an abiding understanding and love for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides resuscitates the original energies of the novel while creating a story so contemporary that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.
What can I say about Charlaine Harris? You all know how much I love Sookie and the Southern Vampire series. I was thrilled to get a chance to hear Harris talk about Sookie, the novels, and the HBO show True Blood. Her newest novel, Dead Reckoning (Ace/Penguin Group USA) will not disappoint.
With her knack for being in trouble's way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte's, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but her attention is divided when she realizes that her lover Eric Northman and his "child" Pam are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, Sookie is drawn into the plot--which is much more complicated than she knows. . . .
What a way to start out the day! My pick for the day is Then Again.

Thursday Morning

The final breakfast was hosted by the wonderful Jim Lehrer. Lehrer introduced us to his memoir Tension City (Random House) which offers an insider's view of televised presidential candidate debates. I can't wait to read about what happened when the cameras were turned off or turned away. Lehrer also discusses the purposes of these debates and how they affect voters.
From the man widely hailed as “the Dean of Moderators” comes a lively and revealing book that pulls back the curtain on more than forty years of televised political debate in America. A veteran newsman who has presided over eleven presidential and vice-presidential debates, Jim Lehrer gives readers a ringside seat for some of the epic political battles of our time, shedding light on all of the critical turning points and rhetorical faux pas that helped determine the outcome of America’s presidential elections—and with them the course of history. Drawing on his own experiences as “the man in the middle seat,” in-depth interviews with the candidates and his fellow moderators, and transcripts of key exchanges, Lehrer isolates and illuminates what he calls the “Major Moments” and “killer questions” that defined the debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain.

Oftentimes these moments involve the candidates themselves and are seared into our collective political memory. Michael Dukakis stumbles badly over a question about the death penalty. Dan Quayle compares himself to John F. Kennedy once too often. Barack Obama and John McCain barely make eye contact over the course of a ninety-minute discussion. At other times, the debate moderators themselves become part of the story—and Lehrer is there to give us a backstage look at the drama. Peter Jennings suggests surprising the candidates by suspending the carefully negotiated rules minutes before the 1988 presidential debate—to the consternation of his fellow panelists. Lehrer himself weathers a firestorm of criticism over his performance as moderator of the 2000 Bush-Gore debate. And then there are the excruciating moments when audio lines go dead and TelePrompTers stay dark just seconds before going on the air live in front of a worldwide television audience of millions.
Although I watch a ton of movies, I can't really call myself a movie buff. I know very little of the ins and outs of film, actors, and critics. That's why I turn to people like Roger Ebert, whose memoir, Life Itself (Grand Central), gives us a look at the life of true movie expert. Using computer-generated speech and with the help of his wife, Ebert entertained us with stories of Letterman, Siskel, and other people he has been fortunate enough to have met.
Roger Ebert has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. The first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize, he has been a fixture on television for over 30 years, co-hosting Siskel & Ebert at the Movies until Gene Siskel's death in 1999, and then with Richard Roper until 2006. Then, complications from thyroid-cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career. He chronicles his loves, losses, and obsessions; his recovery from alcoholism, his marriage, his politics, and his spiritual beliefs. He also provides details about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, his friendships with Oprah Winfrey, Studs Terkel, and others, insights into stars like John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and Robert Mitchum, and his perspective on such influential directors as Ingmar Bergman, Martin Scorsese, and Werner Herzog.
Anne Enright's latest novel, The Forgotten Waltz (Norton), sounds like another winner from one of my favorite authors. Set in Dublin in modern times, Enright explores the far-reaching after effects of a love affair.
The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for ‘the love of her life,’ Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina waits the arrival on her doorstep of Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie--the complication, and gravity, of this second life.

In this extraordinary novel, this opening book of secrets, Anne Enright speaks directly to the readers she won with the success of The Gathering. Here, again, is the sudden, momentous drama of everyday life, the volatile connections between people; that fresh eye for each flinch and gesture; the wry, accurate take on families, marriage, brittle middle age. The same verve and humor and breathtaking control are evident; the ability to merge the ordinary and the beautiful. With The Forgotten Waltz Enright turns her attention fully to love--you might even call it romance--as she follows another flawed and unforgettable heroine on a journey of the heart. Writing at the height of her powers, this is Anne Enright’s tour de force, a novel of intelligence, passion and real distinction.
Another favorite author in my house is Erik Larson, and his forthcoming book, In the Garden of Beasts (Crown), looks at an American family and their life in Berlin during the 1930s, when Hitler was gaining political strength.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the "New Germany," she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance--and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler's true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Goring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
Really? You expect me to have a pick of the day? Okay: my pick of the day is Life Itself.


Helen Smith 5/31/11, 6:15 AM  

Thanks for the round-up. I'm so sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you at BEA. Life Itself looks wonderful. I definitely want to read that one.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 5/31/11, 6:23 AM  

Glad to hear that you had a wonderful time. The Forgotten Waltz is on my wish list; sounds really good.

Sandy Nawrot 5/31/11, 7:08 AM  

Holy cow, that is a heart palpatation on a platter! I don't know which would have excited me the most. Eugenides is rock star status after "Middlesex", Larson is as well after "Devil in the White City", and I've always admired Diane Keaton, from The Godfather and Baby Boom (not so much some of her newer stuff). That was a freaking big day!

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 5/31/11, 7:36 AM  

Wow, wow and wow! I really REALLY want to go next year. This is awesome. It really is. I would have passed out to hear Eugenides's speak. Glad it turned out well, this year. Thanks so much for sharing!

JoAnn 5/31/11, 8:33 AM  

Great post, thanks! Wish I'd been there...

Nise' 5/31/11, 9:31 AM  

Great looking titles. I am fortunate to count my mom as a best friend too. Will have to check out Diane's books.

Zibilee 5/31/11, 9:34 AM  

Oh my! You got the chance to see some awesome speakers, and like Sandy, I don't know who to gush over first! It sounds like it was a fantastic time, and those titles look great too! Lucky you!

Diana Abu-Jaber 5/31/11, 9:43 AM  

So happy to see your blog--I'd left on Weds morning and missed all these events! Esp want to read the Diane Keaton and Eugenides. Thanks for this great coverage.

Alison's Book Marks 5/31/11, 10:19 AM  

I only got to one of the breakfasts last week, and I missed a lot! Thanks for the re-caps!

Martha@Hey, I want to read that 5/31/11, 10:54 AM  

Wow, what a remarkable group of authors. What a wonderful way to have breakfast.

Barbara 5/31/11, 11:30 AM  

I am so jealous! I love Diane Keaton and I was also close to my mother, named Dorothy. Roger Ebert is one of the best writers I know. And I'm also anxious to read Larson and Lehrer. Boy, what a post.

Heather 5/31/11, 11:31 AM  

Even by just attending the author breakfasts it would make my week. Wow, so many books to check out.

BookGeek 5/31/11, 12:46 PM  

Nice round up! I can't choose amongst so many great authors and novels. Though, I might have to give Mindy Kaling's book a shake first. Thanks for highlighting these amazing people!

Beth Kephart 5/31/11, 12:54 PM  


I want them all.

Julie P. 5/31/11, 1:32 PM  

I'm with Beth K! I want them all....

bermudaonion 5/31/11, 1:56 PM  

I don't think I can read Diane Keaton's book anytime soon. She had me crying so hard at the breakfast I thought I was going to have to leave the room.

Melissa (Avid Reader) 5/31/11, 2:40 PM  

So many good books! I can't wait.

Julie 5/31/11, 2:44 PM  

I am off to order Mr. Eugenedis newest book, having read his others. This will no doubt leave me thinking.

Andi 5/31/11, 2:48 PM  

What a treat these events must've been! Of all the authors and books mentioned here, I'm most interested to get hold of Eugenides' newest!

Debbie 5/31/11, 6:42 PM  

I love a good memoir, so can't wait to read Diane's book. And how lucky you were to be "there" in the midst of all thos authors, publishers, book people and mostly all those other bloggers! What fun!

Joy Weese Moll 5/31/11, 9:17 PM  

Wow! Those all sound excellent. I think I'll have to start with Diane Keaton's and Roger Ebert's.

Jenners 5/31/11, 9:25 PM  

Wow ... another great set of panels. I must try to get to BEA next year. I'm really excited about the Eugenides book!

Margot 5/31/11, 10:27 PM  

How fantastic to hear about all these great books and hear such great speakers. So glad you shared it with us.

Michelle 6/4/11, 6:17 PM  

OH! Charlaine!! How timely given our recent resurgence in adoration for a certain yummy looking swedish vampire. ;)

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