Continuing our hunt for titles to look forward to after December, we found two books about families cited by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's John Dally. Live through This by Debra Gwartney (February) is a riveting memoir about the aftermath of her divorce, when her two young teenage daughters ran away and her search for them. It deals with a parent's worst fears, and he says it touched his heart. My Abandonment by Peter Rock (HMH, March) is a novel about a homeless father and daughter who live in a park until they are caught. "Exquisitely written, with a lot of heart." Dally calls it Swiss Family Robinson meets the urban jungle. He's also keen on How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, saying there are a lot of books like this, but it's both intellectual and easy to read and "makes you feel smart."
Macmillan's Krista Loercher likes an oversized graphic novel, Britten and Brülightly, a highly original noir mystery from Metropolitan by Hannah Berry (March) with stunning artwork. It's about two detectives, one of whom is a talking teabag, who at one point says to his partner after a stressful moment, "Look, I'm sorry: I infused in your waistcoat." It's a good choice for those who are already inclined towards noir and open to graphic novels. Definitely adult. Reed Oros, also from Macmillan, is enthusiastic about two Graywolf titles: Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Bliss (February), essays about race and racial identity; and Castle by J. Robert Lennon, a novel he compares with The Last Unicorn. Oros says that All the Living by C. E. Morgan (FSG, April) is an in-house favorite, a novel for fans of Marilynne Robinson. Oros also likes The Music Room by Namita Devidayal (Thomas Dunne, February), a fascinating look at Indian musicians' lives that was a literary sensation in India. It reminds him of Vasari's Lives of the Artists combined with the intimacy of Coming Into the Country (what a hook!). Both Peggy Lindgren and Krista Loercher are enthusiastic about Lamentations, a fantasy novel due in February from Tor. The author, Ken Scholes, got an unprecedented five-book contract for his vision of another world. It's lyrically written with interweaving storylines, told from four characters' point of view, and (I can attest) is absolutely enthralling.
Another good hook, and book, comes from Chris Satterlund, Scholastic: she says Lisa Yee's new novel, Absolutely Maybe (February), is Patty Jane's House of Curl crossed with Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl, and is a breakout book for Yee.
Perseus Book group's Matty Goldberg picked Don't Stop Believin' by Brian Raftery (Da Capo, December). It's a karaoke memoir. Enough said, but do discuss author appearance possibilities with your rep. Adam Schnitzer recommends The Bloody White Baron for fans of The Red Prince and anyone who likes history, biography and the bizarre. Baron Ungarn, a Russian aristocrat, was psychotic, sadistic and delusional, leading an army of White Russians, Japanese and Mongolians against the incipient Red Army. Filled with bizarre spirituality and richly drawn characters, Schnitzer says it reads like a dream. Da Capo's Kevin Hanover mentioned a November book by Steve Fainaru, Big Boy Rules: In the Company of America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq. He compares this story of men who are in the war for thrills, money or because they have no other options with Black Hawk Down.
John Eklund of Harvard/Yale/MIT unhesitatingly chose a stunning photography book by the brilliant Rosamund Purcell called Egg and Nest (Belknap/Harvard, October). Purcell's photographs of the ornithological collection of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in California are ethereal. Some of the eggs marked with camouflage, for instance, look like they have been painted with sumi-e brushstrokes.
Patrick McNierney, Penguin Group, selected The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (Penguin Press, February), a literary mystery with a very eccentric protagonist and highly unusual twists--a classic page-turner. He also liked Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden (Viking, March), a somber story about Cree Indians in Ontario; it's the truest he's read about reservation life, aside from Sherman Alexie's writings. He also mentioned English by Wang Gang (Viking, April), a novel about a teacher during the Cultural Revolution who has to go underground to teach other languages.
An over-the-top debut thriller is Tom McIntyre's (Hachette) pick, Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell (Little, Brown, January), which has a Tarantino feel and one of the greatest endings of anything he's read. It's about an intern who is on his last nerve, who's a former mob hit man in the witness protection program. One morning he runs into his worst nightmare, a terminally-ill patient who recognizes him and promises not to rat him out as long as the patient lives. I read it on the train home and agree with McIntyre: very dark, completely outrageous and a wow ending. Jennifer Royce from Hachette wanted to mention The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, October); although Connelly hardly needs encomiums, she thinks it's the best thing he's written. Royce has also devised a good bookseller service and give-away: she hands out a galley checklist to booksellers, they indicate what they want to read, she puts the galleys into a nifty bag, and people pick it up at the end of the show.
Consortium's Bob Harrison chose a great gift book from Abrams--Three Wishes: An Intimate look at Jazz Greats (September). In the 1950s, '60s, and '70s a woman named Pannonica de Koenigswarter lived in New York, loved jazz and befriended many musicians. She took hundreds of snapshots of the jazz world and asked musicians what three things they wished for. Thelonius Monk answered, "To be successful musically, to have a happy family, and to have a crazy friend like you." Delightful.
George Carroll from Redsides was typically contrarian with his pick: The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel by William Goldboom Bloch (Oxford, August). Why? "I love this because I don't understand it." A quick perusal backed up his assertion, but what a great book to leave casually lying around when guests come over.
He's not a rep, but Nick DiMartino from University Book Store and Shelf Awareness reviewer is someone whose enthusiasm is worth paying attention to. He said, "How can I rationalize the fact that my two favorite books at PNBA were both children's books? I go to the show looking for new international fiction. Instead Madeline and the Cats of Rome (Viking, September) and Two Bobbies both broadsided me without warning." Two Bobbies (Walker, August) is a picture book, the true account of two pets abandoned during Hurricane Katrina, Bobbi the dog and Bob Cat, who refuse to be separated when abandoned and manage to stay together and escape alive from flooded New Orleans. Gorgeous artwork, an emotional punch, and "the stubborn power of friendship."
And that's what it's all about, in the end: discovery, and belief in the power and comfort of books. What a pleasure to have so many books to look forward to.--Marilyn Dahl