05 June 2014

BEA 2014 Book Group Speed Dating Session: Part 1

As many of you know, last week I was in New York to attend Book Expo America, the major annual publishing industry conference. Every year I remind you that my favorite panel is the one geared to book clubs: Book Group Speed Dating, presented by Reading Group Guides.

During the session, representatives from the major publishing companies and imprints present their top recommendations for readers looking for the perfect book club selection. Here are the books I learned about (with my summary) and my top pick from each presentation (with the publisher's summary).

Bloomsbury USA

  • The Impulse Society by Paul Roberts: nonfiction; how corporate America is tapping into society's need for instant gratification to the detriment of country's future needs.
Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre. A novel about Iraq and how veterans fare once they've returned home. From the publisher's summary:
Lieutenant Donavan leads the platoon, painfully aware of his shortcomings and isolated by his rank. Doc Pleasant, the medic, joined for opportunity, but finds his pride undone as he watches friends die. And there’s Kateb, known to the Americans as Dodge, an Iraqi interpreter whose love of American culture . . . is matched only by his disdain for what Americans are doing to his country.

Returning home, they exchange one set of decisions and repercussions for another, struggling to find a place in a world that no longer knows them. A debut both transcendent and rooted in the flesh, Fives and Twenty-Fives is a deeply necessary novel.
Grove Atlantic
  • The Undertaking by Audrey Magee: historical fiction; about marriage and love in World War II; from an Irish author.
  • Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly: thriller; takes place at a B&B in the English Lake District; when a friend gets just a little bit too close to a young couple.
Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks. Set in 1950s Montana, a woman archaeologist meets a horseman with a dark past. Think Kent Haruf or Annie Proulx. From the publisher's summary:
Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her—a canyon “as deep as the devil’s own appetites.” Working ahead of a major dam project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is familiar—the vastness of the canyon itself mocks the contained, artifact-rich digs in post-Blitz London where she cut her teeth. And then there’s John H, a former mustanger and veteran of the U.S. Army’s last mounted cavalry campaign, living a fugitive life in the canyon. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than just the vanished past. Painted Horses sends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future, often make strange bedfellows. It establishes Malcolm Brooks as an extraordinary new talent.
Hachette Book Group
  • A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin: contemporary fiction; after being falsely accused of a crime, a man learns the true meaning of love and success; a literary Nicholas Sparks.
  • The Moment of Everything by Shelly King: contemporary fiction set in California; the novel features a bookstore, a book club, and a woman on a journey of self-discovery
  • Reunion by Hannah Pittard: contemporary fiction; a woman who is reunited with her many siblings and step-siblings after their father's suicide; themes involve family secrets, forgiveness, and acceptance
  • Delicious Foods by James Hannahan: contemporary fiction; while grieving the death of her husband, a woman makes some questionable decisions and must struggle to find a way back to normalcy.
Neverhome by Laird Hunt: historical fiction; based on the true stories of women who disguised themselves as men to fight in the U.S. Civil War. From the publisher's summary:
She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the [war]. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?
Henry Holt
  • The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel: contemporary short stories; themes include marriage, politics, British culture, and love.
The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan: contemporary fiction set in Montana; the unlikely friendship between an aging killer and a younger small-town deputy; good vs. evil and thin line that separates them; think Cormac McCarthy. From the publisher's summary:
At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.
Stop back tomorrow when I present the books from Penguin Group USA, Picador, and Simon & Schuster. On Monday, I'll talk about the HarperCollins imprints.


Anonymous,  6/5/14, 7:14 AM  

I'm glad you shared this, because you must have been on the opposite side of the room during this event - I only saw about half of the imprints you have here. Totally interested in The Undertaking and The Ploughmen, though!

Laurie C 6/5/14, 7:23 AM  

Ooh, Keep Your Friends Close By sounds intriguing! Also, the contemporary fiction titles, especially the "literary Nicholas Sparks" (Poor Nicholas, but I guess it's better to be best-selling than literary!) Looking forward to hearing about the next batch, too.

(Diane) bookchickdi 6/5/14, 7:44 AM  

I always enjoy the Speed Dating at BEA, and this year was no exception. You saw different publishers than I did and so I'm happy to hear your impressions.

Jenn's Bookshelves 6/5/14, 8:00 AM  

I always find this to be one of the most informative sessions at BEA!

bermudaonion 6/5/14, 9:08 AM  

That panel is always one of my BEA highlights!

Beth Hoffman 6/5/14, 9:34 AM  

I'm really drawn to NEVERHOME, and REUNION grabbed my attention, too. I just added them to my list.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 6/5/14, 8:07 PM  

I loved this panel! There are so many books I want to read - I put my sheet from this in a box - hoping g it is here soon so I can review :)

Unknown 6/5/14, 11:22 PM  

Keep Your Friends Close and The Ploughman sound very interesting to me. This sounds like a fun event, with a lot going on. This fall is looking good for books.

Daryl 6/6/14, 10:17 AM  

its like being in a candy store ... so much to see/taste i suspect i would go crazy at the convention

Marisa@TheDailyDosage 6/9/14, 8:23 AM  

I think I had the same panel. There are so many great reads coming soon. I am most interested in The Ploughmen, Keep Your Friends Close and Neverhome. Nice recap!

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