With BookExpo America just over a week away, independent booksellers from around the country are looking forward to converging on the Javits Center in New York City to learn more about this year's bumper crop of new books. To get an idea of what the summer and fall have in store for book lovers, Shelf Awareness has reached out to publishers and booksellers to compile this list of buzz books. Today's installment, fiction, features a host of debut authors as well as a few returning favorites (installments on nonfiction, YA and middle grade, and children and early readers will run over the next few days).
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg is one of the year's most hotly anticipated books. The novel, about a community struggling to put itself back together in the wake of an horrific accident, is due out on September 8 from new Simon & Schuster imprint Scout Press. Clegg, a literary agent in New York, has written two bestselling memoirs--Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man and Ninety Days--but this is his debut novel (and Scout's debut title). Anna Micklin, the self-publishing coordinator at University Book Store in Seattle, Wash., called Clegg a "sensitive and insightful author," who "brings his characters to life in this heartbreaking novel about family tragedy and remaking yourself." Sarah Bagby, the owner of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kan., said it was a "very layered, carefully scaffolded novel" about what we do when at our most desperate and "the beautiful grace we find in community."
Another big debut, also from Scout Press, is Ruth Ware's thriller In a Dark, Dark Wood, in which a reclusive English crime writer is invited to spend a weekend at a glass house deep in the countryside by a friend she hasn't heard from in years. She wakes up two days later in a hospital bed, with no memory of the previous 48 hours, and must work to uncover the truth about what happened. In a Dark, Dark Wood will be featured on an Editor's Buzz Panel at BEA, and Courtney Flynn, the bookstore manager at Trident Booksellers & Cafe in Boston, Mass., reported that her colleagues have loved it. It'll be in stores August 28.
Garth Risk Hallberg made headlines in 2013 when Knopf acquired the rights to his debut, City on Fire, for close to $2 million. The sprawling, 944-page novel, about a group of disparate characters brought together by a shooting in New York's Central Park and the blackout of July 13, 1977, is slated for release on October 13 with an announced first printing of 200,000 copies. As one might imagine, expectations are high. The book will be featured on an Editor's Buzz Panel next week, and Christine Onorati, the owner of WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., said that her booksellers have hailed it as a rich, experimental debut novel. Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books and Books in Coral Gables, Fla., reported that the book has received "a lot of wonderful reads" from his staff, and Watermark's Sarah Bagby found it to be an "exciting, wonderful first novel about New York City in the 1970s" with broad appeal.
J. Ryan Stradal's Kitchens of the Great Midwest, coming July 28 from Pamela Dorman Books, is another hotly anticipated debut. The story centers on Eva Thorvald, who is raised by her father, Lars, after her mother leaves when she's just a baby. From a young age, Eva inherits her father's love of food, and it is that love, paired with an impeccable palate, that guides Eva as she grows and becomes more and more involved with the ingredients and flavors native to Minnesota. At turns humorous and poignant, each chapter of Kitchens of the Great Midwest focuses on a different dish and character as Eva's culinary journey is recounted. Christine Onorati of WORD Bookstore said it was one of her staff's favorite reads for the summer, and Valerie Koehler, the owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex., was "very excited" about it.
Rounding out today's selection of debut novels is Sloane Crosley's The Clasp (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), due out on October 6. Crosley is the author of two bestselling collections of essays: I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number. The Clasp, her first foray into fiction, focuses on three college friends--Kezia, Nathaniel and Victor--who are reunited at a wedding. The trio quickly relapses into something of a love triangle, and, amidst all the wedding celebrations, Victor learns of a priceless necklace that disappeared during World War II. The three friends set out on an adventure across the United States and France to find the missing jewelry. "It's sort of a contemporary novel of manners," said Sarah Bagby. "It's very entertaining. The characters are funny, the dialogue is very crisp and clean. It's kind of a caper."
New Books from Returning Favorites
First on the list of new books from returning favorites is Jonathan Franzen's Purity. Set for release on September 1 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Franzen's latest opus tells the story of a young woman named Purity Tyler, who goes by the nickname Pip. Saddled with debt from student loans and with a strained relationship with her only family, Pip falls in with a group of traveling German activists. She follows them to South America for an internship with an enigmatic organization called the Sunlight Project, where she finds herself inexorably drawn to the group's founder, Andreas Wolf. As the relationship between Andreas and Pip intensifies, Pip is led closer and closer to danger. Franzen will appear at BEA on May 27 for a conversation with Salon's Laura Miller, and FSG will do an ARC giveaway at its booth. Sarah Bagby is excited for a more plot-driven story from Franzen, and Mark LaFramboise, the head buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., named it as one of his most anticipated reads for the fall.
For fans of speculative fiction, N.K. Jemisin's newest novel, The Fifth Season, is out from Orbit on August 4. The first in a planned trilogy called the Broken Earth, The Fifth Season begins with a woman named Essun discovering that her husband has murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. As she sets out to track down and rescue her daughter, the mighty Sanze empire is crumbling and the world itself may be coming to an end. Jemisin's past work includes the Inheritance trilogy and the Dreamblood series, and she's been nominated for multiple Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Said WORD's Christine Onorati: "Our staff loves it."
Both Christine Onorati and Sarah Bagby picked Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies (Riverhead) as an exciting upcoming release. Groff's previous work includes The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, both New York Times bestsellers. Her newest work, scheduled to hit stores on September 15, traces the marriage of Lotto and Mathilde over 24 years. As the novel progresses, the reader comes to understand that beneath the marriage's glamorous exterior are many complicated secrets. "It's a really good one," enthused Bagby. "The way she uses language, and what it says about art and life and marriage, is just mesmerizing." --Alex Mutter