Books We Can’t Wait to Read: Lea’s and Lydia’s 2018 Picture Book Picks

For our final TBF 2018 Book Picks preview, our resident #KidLit nerds Lea and Lydia are looking at some of the amazing picture books coming out this year! The majority of these books are spring and summer catalogs, and there are so many more exciting picture books coming out this year. Lea’s already hustling to bring many of these authors to Texas elementary schools for Reading Rock Stars visits, and we can’t wait to see these books on the shelves and in the hands of young readers.

And don’t forget: you can check out the rest of our 2018 Book Preview posts here.

Happy reading, y’all!


Mae Among the Stars

Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington; January 9

We’re so excited to have Roda as one of our Reading Rock Stars authors in Dallas and Fort Worth this year! It’s easy to fall and in love with and be inspired by Dr. Mae Jemison’s story. The book is the perfect way to start to talk to children about their dreams and how they can achieve them.







Junot Díaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa; March 13

One of the most anticipated picture book releases of the year! Junot Díaz’s first picture book started with a promise to his goddaughters “two decades ago, when they asked him to write a book that featured characters like them, Dominican girls living in the Bronx.” With Díaz’s brilliant storytelling touching on the themes he does best—immigration and traditional culture, family and memories, and finding where you belong—along with bright, fluid illustrations from Leo Espinosa, this book is sure to be one you read over and over again.

Don’t miss Junot Díaz speaking and signing copies of Islandborn at Bookpeople, April 4 at 6:30pm




Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Loren Long; January 9

I LOVE Matt de la Peña! Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this book shows children all the different ways love can be expressed. Share it with the child in your life to start a conversation about all the different ways you love them and that they can love others. An inspiring and heartwarming story, you definitely need this on your shelf!


Don’t miss Matt de la Peña and Loren Long speaking and signing copies of Love at Bookpeople January 20, 11:30am.



Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and The Rainbow Flag

Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno; April 10

I have become such a fan of non-fiction picture books and I cannot wait to see this one! The Rainbow flag feels like it’s been a symbol of queer pride forever, but that’s not the case! This picture book brings the story of the flag and will teach children about the inspiring Harvey Milk. It’s a great primer on activism and I’m saving a spot on my shelf for it!






Alma and How She Got Her Name

Juana Martinez-Neal; April 10

When read this book, I couldn’t help but say “awwwww” this entire time! A veteran Reading Rock Stars author/illustrator, Juana Martinez-Neal takes you through sweet Alma’s name and her family history. It’s a wonderful way to talk to your children about family, their history and why it’s important to feel pride in your story and your uniqueness. Beautifully illustrated, I am looking forward to sharing this with students as soon as I can!




They Say Blue

Jillian Tamaki; March 13

Jillian Tamaki has been one of my favorite graphic artists since I first read Skim, the YA graphic novel she co-wrote with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, and her following books This One Summer and Super Mutant Magic Academy have only cemented her place on my best bookshelf. Her first picture book, which follows a young girl exploring the colors of the world around her, is a gorgeous, wonder-filled ode to the beauty of nature and perspective.





The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra

Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ana Aranda; March 7

I laughed out loud the entire time  I read this adorable book. While it has been out awhile, I am looking forward to having its illustrator, Ana Aranda, join us for Reading Rock Stars in the Rio Grande Valley. It’s such a silly feel good book! The illustrations are so fun and you and your child will be sure to laugh and wonder how the goats will escape the mighty chupacabra!






Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea

Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Rebecca Green; May 1

Rebecca Green is one of my favorite illustrators, and this story by Elizabeth Suneby about a resourceful, science-loving boy who devises a sustainable way to make the monsoon season in Bangladesh safer for his mother is a sweet, inspiring story about sustainable technology and family love.







Books we haven’t read yet but can’t wait to get our hands on:


Books We Can’t Wait to Read: Lydia’s 2018 Middle Grade picks

Happy 2018, y’all! I started off the New Year making a list of all the books I desperately cannot wait to read this year, and even though I’ve gotten a good start, the list keeps growing.

Part 1 was my preview of young adult books I can’t wait to read, and this part 2 is a list of many (but of course, not all) of the middle grade books (books aimed for ages 10 and up) coming out this year that I’m excited to read and share with other readers. There’s stories of magic, family ties, first love, first grief, growing up, or in some tragic stories, not being able to grow up because life was taken away. I’m especially drawn to authentic coming-of-age stories told by #OwnVoices authors about children and lives we don’t see too often in books and media. Add some magic, mystery, and maybe a witch or two, and I’m not leaving my couch until the book is done. Happy reading!

Don’t forget: check out Julie’s 2018 adult fiction and non-fiction picks and Lydia’s 2018 YA picks too!


Books I’ve read and loved (and will re-read and re-read):


Love, Sugar, Magic: A Dash of Trouble

Anna Meriano; January 2

I have been holding my breath waiting for this book for almost a year, ever since Houston author Anna Meriano told me about her story of the youngest sister in a family of Mexican-American pastry brujas, and all the anticipation only made it that much sweeter (sorry, I had to).

Set in small-town Texas, youngest sister Leo finds out more than she ever expected when she sneaks into her family’s pastry shop the day before Día de los Muertos (when she’s supposed to be at school) and witnesses a magical coming-of-age ceremony for her older twin sisters. The following adventure mixes all my favorite ingredients of family love (and rivalry), friendship, good intentions gone awry, and even features real recipes you can try yourself (the magic is optional). I’m already waiting for the next in the series.


Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring

March 27: Angela Cervantes

Have you always wished you could run away and secretly live in a museum, bathing in a fountain and uncovering the secret of an ancient statue, just like in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler? Did you love Under the Egg and Chasing Vermeer as much as me? Well good news: 2018 is THE YEAR of the Art History Mystery (yes, that’s a genre, I just made it up), and we’re off to a great start with this gem by Angela Cervantes.

Paloma wanted to spend the summer reading Lulu Pennywhistle mystery books by the pool, but instead she’s visiting Mexico with her mother. She isn’t looking forward to being away from her friends and taking summer Spanish-language classes, though she is hoping to find out more about her late father, who grew up in Mexico. Immediately after arriving, however, Paloma makes new friends and is drawn into the mystery of Frida Kahlo’s missing peacock ring. she sets off to solve a few mysteries of her own.


Ghost Boys

Jewell Parker Rhodes; April 17

This new book by the award-winning author of Towers Falling, Ninth Ward, and many other celebrated books broke my heart—as it should. The titular ghost boys are spirits of the many, many young black American boys murdered in racial violence. One of these is the main character, Jerome, a timid twelve-year old boy gunned down by a racist police officer while playing in the lot next to his house, and readers follow his confused, frightened ghost as he wanders the city, stuck, wishing he could either go back to his life or move on to what comes next. He’s joined and comforted by the ghost of Emmett Till, who helps him understand why he was murdered, why the police officer is claiming he did the correct thing, and why there are so many ghost boys like him and Emmett. Jerome ends up becoming friends with the only living person who can see him: Sarah, the daughter of the police officer who murdered him, a white girl his own age, and she joins him on his search for understanding and change.

This story hurts. Rhodes doesn’t offer any easy answers, and while her prose is beautiful and there are moments of sweetness and even triumph, it is not an easy read. However, I recommend it as one of the most important books coming out this year.


Drum Roll, Please

Lisa Jenn Bigelow; June 26

Growing up is hard, and even harder when several big changes come at the same time. Quiet Melly dreads her summer music camp, even though her best friend is going with her, because she’s already homesick: not just for her house, but the home she has with both her parents, who have just decided to split up. It’s even harder when her best friend ditches her at camp, she starts to worry she’s not good at playing the drums, even though she loves it, and she starts to develop a crush on another girl, Adeline.

Anyone who’s ever felt overlooked, “like a mouse,” and felt too scared to even talk to the person they like will love cheering Melly on as she finds her inner rockstar and drums up the courage (pun lovingly intended) to share her feelings with the girl she likes. I’m recommending this sweet, authentic story to everyone this year.



Currently Reading:


J.A. White; July 3

Neil Gaiman famously misquoted G.K. Chesterton in his epigraph for one of my all-time favorite novels, Coraline. The original Chesterton quote went something like: “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.” I whip that quote out whenever I hear someone say a piece of media might be “too dark” or “too scary” for the age group it was intended for—usually for books like Coraline, and, I expect, Nightbooks.

Yes, this book is scary, but it’s clever and fresh and stars the sort of tentative, anxious underdog I love to root for. The idea of a vicious witch luring children into her Brooklyn apartment and imprisoning them in the library is not an impossible stretch of the imagination for a kid (nor is her booming side business of selling magic-infused essential oils to hipsters), and the frightening here is balanced with Alex’s creativity, bravery, and refusal to give up.


Books I haven’t read yet, but CANNOT WAIT to get my hands on:



Cynthia Kadohata; February 6

The 11:11 Wish

Kim Tomsic; February 13

One True Way

Shannon Hitchcock; February 27

Midnight in the Piazza

Tiffany Parks; March 6

The Night Diary

Veera Hiranandani; March 6

Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort

Will Taylor; March 14

Hurricane Child

Kheryn Callender; March 27 – Recommended to me by the fantastic Kelly Starling Lyons!

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Roshani Chokshi; March 27

Out of the Wild Night

Blue Balliett; March 27

The Parker Inheritance

Varian Johnson; March 27 – Johnson is a local Texas author!

Gone to Drift

Diana McCauley; April 3

You Go First

Erin Entrada Kelly; April 10

Be Prepared

Vera Brosgol; April 24

All Summer Long

Hope Larson; May 1

Amal Unbound

Aisha Saeed; May 8

Lions and Liars

Kate Beasley; June 5

Flor and Miranda Steal the Show

Jennifer Torres; June 12

The Girl with the Ghost Machine

Lauren DeStefano; July 3

Where the Watermelons Grow

Cindy Baldwin; July 3

City of Islands

Kali Wallace; July 3


Abby Cooper; July 17


Barbara Binns; July 31

Books We Can’t Wait to Read: Lydia’s YA picks

Happy 2018! I never make official New Year’s resolutions, but every January I tell myself, “Okay, this is definitely the year I’m going to read at least 150 books and keep track of every book I read in this handy reading tracker app/ spreadsheet/ Goodreads/ fancy journal,” and then somehow every December I find myself racking my brain, trying to remember all the amazing books I read and re-read that year. I read a lot, I’m just not very organized about it.

But for real! 2018 is my year, and it is already off to an amazing start for literature as a whole, but especially in young adult and middle grade books. 2018 is so promising, in fact, that I’m splitting my “2018 books I’m excited about” lists into two parts, for YA and middle grade.

This first part, a collection of YA books I’ve read and love or am greatly looking forward to, is a subjective puddle of unbridled and disorganized enthusiasm, with titles listed in order of publication date.

Obviously, this list is based both on my own taste and on the limited publishing catalogs available for 2018 (you’ll see it’s very front-loaded). There are certain things I’m predisposed to like in a book: if there’s a murder at a boarding school, preferable a boarding school that has the potential to be blanketed in a suffocating layer of beautiful, deadly snow, I’m there in a heartbeat. Is the story an inventive take on existing legends, folklore, or religion, such as the Robin Hood tale or West African folklore? I need it.  If the premise just sounds banana-pants crazy and amazingly hilarious—say, a high schooler leading a gang of resurrected teenage girls, or a teen journalist getting kidnapped by reclusive Siberian hermits—I want to have read it yesterday. My biggest soft spot is for real world/slice of life stories of complicated families, positive/realistic portrayals of queer life and love, and books that tackle all-too-real issues in today’s turbulent social climate (which are even better with a side of triumph and indefatigable humor).

Also, if you’re looking for some stellar “adult” fiction and nonfiction recommendations, our Literary Director Julie Wernersbach has a great list of 2018 books to check out.

Happy reading, y’all!


Read It, Loved It, Super-Duper Recommend:


Truly Devious  Maureen Johnson; January 16

From the moment I opened this book, I knew it was for me. The dedication reads: “For everyone who has ever dreamed of finding a body in the library.” How does she know, I whispered, and turned the page.

Johnson’s new book is a clever mystery about an 80-year-old unsolved murder at a progressive self-guided boarding school in remote Vermont, but it’s also a coming-of-age story starring Stevie, an observant true-crime aficionado dealing with imposter syndrome, great ambition, an anxiety disorder, and a modern-day copycat murderer. With the current resurgence in true crime media and interest in criminology, Stevie’s struggle to solve these mysteries—while learning where the line between investigation and invasion is—will resonate with a lot of readers.


The Prince and The Dressmaker  Jen Wang; February 13

Confession: I’ve read this perfect gem of a graphic novel twice and I will re-read it so many more times in the future. This friendship-turned-love-story between an ambitious, brilliant dressmaker and a delightful, sensitive prince who plays with gender expression is sweet, unique, and perfect for Valentine’s day. Wang’s art is fluid and lively and gorgeous, and her deft storytelling enchants as well as avoids the expected. I’m buying another copy the moment this book is published so I can loan it to everyone I know. Happy Valentine’s day, y’all.


Children of Blood and Bone: The Orisha Legacy  Tomi Adeyemi; March 6

Let’s be real: it’s impossible not to judge this book by its gorgeous cover. I’ve had this book on my GIVE IT TO ME list ever since the cover reveal, but even with my expectations set that high, I was not once disappointed. This smartly paced, brilliant fantasy built on West African culture and folklore features immersive world-building and my favorite sort of slow-burn, conflicted romance. Children of Blood and Bone has been collecting rave reviews and deserves every word.


Inkmistress  Audrey Coulthurst; March 6

I adored Coulthurst’s debut last year, Of Fire and Stars, and was so happy to get my hands on her second book, whose story follows Asra, a troubled demi-god and healer fighting to save Ina, the girl she loves, after a risky spell goes horribly awry and Ina sets out to seek revenge against the king. Coulthurst’s second novel is a darker, deadly return to the fantasy world we first saw in her debut and offers the same intricate plotting, fantastic world-building, and original, genuine queer relationships I loved in her first book.


The Astonishing Color of After  Emily X. R. Pan; March 20

This was another book I’d been watching for advance copies of ever since I heard of it, and I’m so glad I read it this early in the year, since I’m definitely going to read it again. Emily X. R. Pan’s lyrical debut is a heartfelt portrait of grief and the haunting magical realism that grows out of loss. Leigh’s story of discovering herself through art, family, and navigating different cultures will stay with you for a long time.


Emergency Contact  Mary H.K. Choi; March 27

This delightfully snarky and unexpectedly soft-hearted modern-day romance has some local excitement for us Texans. Penny is a freshman starting at University of Texas and dealing with all those freshman woes—finding her groove, missing (and not missing) her mom, getting used to her new roommate, and getting involved with her new roommate’s super-cool friend (who the new roommate has made her promise to not date). Choi’s writing is thoughtful and witty, and you can’t help but fall in love with Penny and Sam as the two slowly, carefully unwrap their own hearts over text and try not to wonder what might—or can’t—come next.


Dread Nation  Justina Ireland; April 3

Buckle up, y’all, this is one wild ride from start to finish, and I cannot think of two characters I’d rather accompany on a zombie-infested trek through post-Civil War America than Jane and Katherine, two outstanding students at the prestigious Ms. Preston’s School of Combat for ladies. This fantastical take on the years following the Civil War was partially inspired by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but takes a fun premise and turns it into powerful allegory for the black American experience through history and the way black lives have been (and still are) valued in American society.



Currently Reading:

People Like Us  Dana Mele; February 27

We’re not yet a month into 2018 and I’m already reading my second Boarding School Murder Mystery novel (and I’m not even sorry). So far, this story has a promising cast of characters, including a bi/pansexual main character, a cyber-puzzle with deadly consequences, the usual backstabbing and toxic gossip, and of course, murder most foul. 2018 is looking like a promising year if we’re already blessed with two stellar, unique examples of this quite specific flavor of book.


The “I’ve never hit pre-order so fast” list (e.g., authors I already adore whose forthcoming books I am desperate to get my hands on):


The Belles  Dhonielle Clayton; February 6

Co-founder of Cake Literary, co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things series, COO of We Need Diverse Books, take no nonsense writer, lauded sensitivity reader, and all around rockstar-with-great-shoes Dhonielle Clayton brings us the opulent WOC-led fantasy of our dreams.



Leah On the Offbeat  Becky Albertalli; April 24

This third installment comes from the author of Simon VS. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited, and gives us more of the cool, cynical, rockstar we loved in Simon. I can’t waaaaait.




On the Come Up  Angie Thomas; May 1 (no cover art yet)

I read The Hate U Give twice last year, and gave a copy of it to all of my friends. Getting to see Angie Thomas at Austin’s African American Book Festival was one of the highlights of my year, and I can’t wait to read what she’s recently called “the book of my heart”.



Ship It  Britta Lundin; May 1

I’ve followed Britta Lundin on Twitter for a while now so I’m already familiar with how hilarious and nerdy she is, and have been loving her work on this little show called Riverdale (maybe you know it?) Now she’s written a coming of age novel about fandom and the queer teens learning about themselves through fanfiction and fanart and, of course, shipping fan pairings. I wish I could go back in time and hand this book to my teen self, but I’m happy to read it as a grown-up too.


Puddin’  Julie Murphy; May 8

Julie Murphy is back with another wickedly funny and super sweet story featuring hilarious, stereotype defying characters you spend the whole book cheering for. We were so lucky to have  her at the Texas Book Festival and now we’re even luckier she has another book coming out already! If you liked you Dumplin’ and Ramona Blue (and who didn’t!), hit that pre-order button now.



From Twinkle, With Love  Sandhya Menon; May 22

Did you love When Dimple Met Rishi as much as I did? Did you fangirl over Sandya Menon at the Texas Teen Book Festival as hard as I did? Are you as ready for Twinkle and her equally-instagrammable cover as I am? *fans self in anticipation*




A Thousand Beginnings and Endings   Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (editors); June 26

This anthology of 15 stories re-imagining folklore and mythology from East and South Asia features some of my favorite authors and is edited by two brilliant people whose taste and authority I trust implicitly. I don’t read enough short stories, and I’m so looking forward to diving into this collection.



Finding Yvonne  Brandy Colbert; August 7

We were so lucky to get to host the inimitable Brandy Colbert at the 2017 Texas Book Festival for her dazzling book Little & Lion, and I can’t wait to dive into what promises to be another heartfelt story of beauty and hurt and the sort of honest, complicated truths we learn from real life. Colbert doesn’t give her readers any easy answers and I’m here for it.




Uhhh, That Sounds Awesome (or, books by authors I haven’t read yet but the premise has me hooked):

Love, Hate, and Other Filters  Samira Ahmed; January 16

Let’s Talk About Love  Claire Kann; January 23

The Dangerous Art of Blending In  Angelo Surmelis; January 30

The Hazel Wood  Melissa Albert; Jan 30

This Is Not A Love Letter  Kim Purcell; Jan 30

Winterfolk  Janel Kolby; February 6

After the Shot Drops  Randy Ribay; March 6

Tyler Johnson Was Here  Jay Coles; March 20

Picture Us in the Light  Kelly Loy Gilbert; April 10

The Way You Make Me Feel  Madeline Goo; May 8

Undead Girl Gang  Lily Anderson; May 8

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants  Florence Gonsalves; May 15

Anger Is a Gift  Mark Oshiro May 22


Mariam Sharma Hits the Road  Sheba Karim; June 5

The Bird and the Blade  Megan Bannen; June 5

Dear Rachel Maddow  Adrienne Kisner; June 5

Monday’s Not Coming  Tiffany D. Jackson; June 5

Sometime After Midnight  L. Phillips; June 12

Not The Girls You’re Looking For  Amina Mae Safi; June 19

Notes from My Captivity  Kathy Parks; July 10

I’m Not Missing  Carrie Fountain; July 10

Wrong in All The Right Ways  Tiffany Brownlee; July 17

Heretics Anonymous  Katie Henry; August 7

The Forest Queen  Betsy Cornwell; August 7

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish  Pablo Cartaya; August 21

In Another Time  Caroline Leech; August 28










From the Lit Director Desk: 2018 Reads

It’s been very cold here in Austin. Sam and I have been bundling up in our library. 


I am nothing if not ambitious. With 2018 upon us, my list of books to read in just the first half of the new year is… well, it’s maybe all just a bit unwieldy. And I perhaps am not awake enough hours of the day to read every single book I’m excited about thus far in 2018. But, oh, I can dream! And I can list.

Below are some of the books that I’ve read and loved so far (largely fiction) along with lists of even more 2018 reads I’m excited to jump into. This is by no means a comprehensive or “best of” list, it’s simply what I’ve read and particularly enjoyed and those additional books that have intrigued me as I’ve gone through publisher catalogs, read excerpts here and there, and perused the thousands of other 2018 book lists making the rounds. It isn’t even close to the number of books I’ve tagged on Edelweiss, goodness knows.

In addition to the books below, I happily point you to this phenomenal list, generated by 2018 novelist R. O. Kwan, of 46 Women Writers of Color to Read in 2018. Read widely, my friends. Read everything. I am trying to.

If you’re still working your way through your 2017 TBR pile, allow me to please pour upon you all of the books I was excited about in the first half of last year. Now, let’s all quit every responsibility, pull up a comfy chair and start pre-ordering some new reads from your local indie bookstore.


Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro
On Sale 1/9/18

Jamie Quatro is on fire. This novel of desire, spirituality, infidelity and temptation is a meditative, passionate dive into the nuances of love and mercy. When an intellectual affair becomes something more, obsession takes over, as does guilt, want and the deep examination of a faithful and meaningful life. Indeed, it is difficult not to be obsessed with this story that is by turns sultry, psychologically astute, emotionally wrenching, and obscenely well-written. I snapped through these pages and cried in public at the end. A divine and devouring book.


Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
On Sale 2/6/18

This book reads like a wildfire. Full of ferocious intellect, searing emotion and fearless self-examination, Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir surges through the complexity and conflict of love, trauma, identity and mental illness with language that crackles and burns right off the page. I was blown open reading her honest dispatches of life with her mother, the madness of romantic heartbreak, and her ventures toward love and stability. Brave is an easy word to describe this book, but it isn’t enough. Resilient, courageous, powerful, aware, alive, unforgettable; this slender memoir is huge.


An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones
On Sale 2/6/18

Beginning with an accusation that tears apart a passionate young newlywed couple, this novel examines the deep consequences of America’s racially-biased criminal justice system, the pressures of family expectation, and the effects of years piled up on young love. Chapter to chapter, I held my breath as Jones built an emotionally complicated, multi-layered relationship between Celestial and Roy, casting their fate as a couple against the inevitable evolution of their independent lives and teasing out the ways in which we hold on to and let go of the ones we love most. Celestial’s journey of self-actualization in respect to her art is particularly compelling. Brilliantly paced and beautifully written, An American Marriage dives into the gray areas of love both romantic and familial, presenting a triangle of desire without any easy answers and a stark, powerful rendering of personal loss in the face of injustice.



The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border by Francisco Cantú
On Sale 2/6/18

Cantu’s mesmerizing chronicle of his life as a border guard opens up an important perspective on the urgent conversation of migration over the Mexico/U.S. border. This beautifully written, immersive firsthand account of Cantu’s work put me squarely in his shoes, walking those southern trails and coming face to face with both the people making the life-threatening journey north and the people tasked with tracking them. Cantu’s clean style lays bare his earnest effort to understand both sides and to portray the humanity of the migrants and of his fellow guards. This book is also a valuable crash course in the history of the border, the reason for surges in migration, and how the issue has played out over decades. The Line Becomes A River should be required reading, right alongside Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How This Ends.


White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom
On Sale 2/13/18

If there’s any single living novelist I would want to tell the story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, it’s Amy Bloom. No one writes intimacy and desire the way she does. Bloom weaves history and heart from the imagined, companionable voice of Hick, a writer who raises herself by her own gumption, work ethic and skillful pen from a cold, poor childhood home into the White House, where she becomes First Friend to the First Lady. This is a terribly romantic novel about two extraordinarily talented women whose love lasted decades, through war and White House politics and arguments and other lovers, through FDR and old age and the tumult of a connection and affection that could have destroyed them all, if it had been made public. I’m so grateful to Amy Bloom for casting this epic American love story in her gorgeous prose. Enchanting and endearing, White Houses is an irresistible read.


Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester
On Sale 3/13/18

Clear you calendar, turn off your phone and put up an away message before you sit down with this book. I’m giving you fair warning, because once you start turning these pages, you won’t want to stop until you’re done. Everyone Knows You Go Home begins with the appearance of a dead father on his son’s wedding day, an engaging, mesmerizing opening that kicks off this novel about family truth and fiction, the ways in which the past plays on the present, and the extended experience of families who immigrate north over the border between Mexico and the United States. Chapters pivot in time between a couple making their way over the border and the family that subsequently grows up in Texas. Sylvester has a keen talent for submersing readers in a character’s emotional psychology while keeping the story snapping along, building a gripping, tender narrative populated by rich and memorable personalities. Who writes a family’s history? What truths and fiction create our family dynamics? How do those stories travel across countries? I loved every page of this novel.


The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
On Sale 4/3/18

Robust, immersive, and socially engaging, The Female Persuasion strikes up conversations about feminism, youth, privilege, activism and family in a story perfectly poised to get readers talking. Each distinct, deeply thoughtful character presents an opportunity to consider our own expectations of the world at large, who we think we are, and who, in the end, we turn out to be. Juxtaposing a young woman in her twenties with a feminist icon in the late stages of her career, Wolitzer casts an interrogative eye on the evolution and presumptions of American feminism. The strength of this novel lies in Wolitzer’s keen talent for presenting morally ambiguous decisions, fully inhabiting her characters and the psychology of their choices. Bring your book club. You’re going to want to talk about this one.


And Now We Have Everything by Meghan O’Connell
On Sale 4/10/18

Informative, entertaining, and real as f*ck, this book is an investigation into what no one ever fully tells you about pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and motherhood. Meaghan O’Connell holds nothing back, laying out everything from lofty pre-pregnancy expectations to the surreal trip of childbirth to the turbulent postpartum months. Her searing honesty and biting humor make this an indelible, personal read. I felt like I was getting all of the real dirt on this whole having-a-kid-thing from my very best friend. If your friend just had a kid and you don’t know what to say, give her this book. If YOU just had a kid and are wondering if you’re losing my mind, holy pajamas, read this book!


There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange
On Sale 6/5/18

This kaleidoscopic novel examines the lives and relationships of Native Americans in modern Oakland. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, giving this the feel of a linked collection of stories that build in urgency as they overlap and zero in on the story’s central event, the Big Oakland Powwow. Orange is a powerful writer with a searing ability to cut through to dynamically different characters’ world views. It’s staggering that this is his debut. The voices in There There include an adolescent boy dancing in regalia behind his aunt’s back; a woman struggling to maintain sobriety and reconnect with her family; an internet-obsessed boy who tracks down his father; a college-age young man attempting to document the individual stories of indigenous people living in modern Oakland. The characters in this novel cover wide ground as they define themselves in the traditions they hold or shirk, the violent history that has been airbrushed with Thanksgiving stories, the addictions and loss that tear through families, and the meaning and consequences of what ultimately happens at the Powwow. Pre-order this one now and wish for June to get here already.


Currently Reading: 










Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Girls Burn Brighter: A Novel by Shobha Rao
Speak No Evil: A Novel by Uzodinma Iweala
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath
by Leslie Jamison
All the Names They Used for God: Stories by Anjali Sachdeva



Up Next (the TBR Shortlist): 

Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Tomorrow or Forever by Jack Kaulfus
Florida: Stories by Lauren Groff
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
The Beekeeper: Saving the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail
The Parking Lot Attendant: A Novel by Nafkote Tamirat
Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey
How to Love the Empty Air Cristin Aptowicz
See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary by Lorrie Moore


The Ever-Growing TBR Longlist for the First Half of 2018, in No Particular Order and with Absolutely No Regard for the Realities of Time, Space and Any Life Responsibilities Beyond Reading, Because I Just Want to Read It ALL:











When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullor and asha bandele
The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
Lake Success: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart
My Own Devices by Dessa
How to Love a Jamaican: Stories by Alexia Arthurs
Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers
The Mars Room: A Novel by Rachel Kushner
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Warlight: A Novel by Michael Ondaatje
All Our Wild Wonder by Sarah Kay
Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave by Zora Neale Hurston











A State of Freedom: A Novel by Neel Mukherjeea
Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital
Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai
Red Clocks: A Novel by Leni Zumas
Tropic of Squalor: Poems by Mary Karr
Neon in Daylight by Hermione Hoby
The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani
Whiskey and Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith
Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change by Tao Lin











Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell Jackson
If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi: Stories by Neel Patel
Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Sadness is a White Bird: A Novel by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Stray City by Chelsey Johnson
Open Me by Lisa Locascio
A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis by Seamus McGraw
Whiskey by Bruce Holbert
The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
Motherhood: A Novel by Sheila Heti
Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
Collision Theory by Adrian Todd Zuniga
The Third Hotel: A Novel by Laura van den Berg
Don’t Skip Out on Me: A Novel by Willy Vlautin











Austin Author Bonus! 

I highlighted 10 Books Coming from Austin writers in 2018 for the January issue of Austin Monthly.


Phew! And we haven’t even seen fall catalogs yet. I’d better get back to turning pages. Happy New Year, book lovers!


Book Club Guide to Texas Book Fest

Calling all book clubs! The Texas Book Festival is a great opportunity to discover your group’s next big read and to meet the authors you’ve been reading and discussing all year. This year, we’ve curated several sessions with book clubs in mind. Of course, we hope you’ll join us at EVERY session this year (and as soon as you figure out the human cloning technology to make this possible, please do let us know). All of these sessions are FREE and open to the public. The authors will sign copies of their books immediately afterwards. 



Sunday, November 5 3:00-4:00
Bring Your Book Club!

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweenty, Rumaan Alam, Amita Trasi
Location: Omni Hotel Ballroom
Bring your book club to the Festival to meet authors Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (The Nest), Rumaan Alam (Rich and Pretty) and Amita Trasi (The Color of Our Sky) as they discuss their new work. With wit, style, and characters you won’t stop discussing, these authors explore family, friendship, self-discovery and more in page-turning stories you’ll be eager to share.



Saturday, November 4 10:30-11:15
Family Forms
Amanda Eyre Ward and Emily Robbins

Moderated by Jardine Libaire
Location: Capitol Extension Room 2.016
The boundaries of love are tested in new novels by Texas writers Amanda Eyre Ward (The Nearness of You) and Emily Robbins (A Word for Love). From surrogate parenting to being a third party witness to a clandestine affair, Ward and Robbins discuss the particular nature of love just to the side of center and what draws them to write about the gray areas of human family and connection.



Saturday, November 4 11:00-11:45
Thank You For Being A Friend
Lisa Ko and Rakesh Satyal

Location: Capitol Extension Room 2.026
Sustaining friendships are at the centers of new novels by Lisa Ko (The Leavers) and Rakesh Satyal (No One Can Pronounce My Name). The friendships formed by characters as they immigrate to America and acclimate to life in New York and Cleveland become fundamental to their development and to the story. Join Ko and Satyal as they discuss writing foundational friendships.




Saturday, November 4 11:30-12:15
A Piece of The World
Christina Baker Kline and Sarah Bird

Location: Omni Hotel Ballroom
Celebrated Texas writer Sarah Bird sits down with Christina Baker Kline, friend and author of the mega-bestselling book club favorite, Orphan Train Girl, to discuss following up on her phenomenal success, the joys of the writing life, and Kline’s stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, A Piece of the World.





Saturday, November 4 12:15-1:00
Vintage Writers on Reading
Will Schwalbe and Ariel Lawhon

Location: Capitol Auditorium
An intimate seminar for readers interested in the behind the scenes of being a writer. William Schwalbe (Books for Living) and Ariel Lawhon (Flight of Dreams) will talk about their respective reading and writing habits. Special tote bags with complimentary advanced readers copies will be handed out!





Saturday, November 4 12:15-1:00
Family History, Family Destiny
Min Jin Lee and Hala Alyan
Location: Capitol Extension Room 2.014
Setting their new novels against the backdrop of very different, very contentious points in history, Min Jin Lee (Pachinko), Hala Alyan (Salt Houses) and Rodrigo Hasbún (Affections) open up generational stories of displacement and destiny in Korea, Kuwait City, Bolivia and beyond. Join them as they discuss how political forces shaped the lives, structures and fates of their characters and how history drew each of them to the page.




Saturday, November 4 2:15-3:00
Stephanie Powell Watts and C. Morgan Babst

Location: Capitol Extension Room 2.016
What does it mean to come home again when home has been ravaged by a hurricane, or family neglect, or poverty, or time? What would constitute home then? In new novels by C. Morgan Babst (The Floating World) and Stephanie Powell Watts (No One Is Coming to Save Us), characters learn that not all homecomings are created equal. Join them as they discuss writing about what comes after the storm of time.





Sunday, November 4 1:30-2:15
Unexpected Connection

Rachel Kadish and Jessica Shattuck in Conversation
Location: Omni Hotel Ballroom
Soon after meeting in a Boston writers’ group, Rachel Kadish (The Weight of Ink) and Jessica Shattuck (The Women in the Castle) learned that they shared an unexpected bond: Kadish’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors; Shattuck’s were members of the Nazi party. Join them as they discuss their friendship, the questions they asked one another, and how their family histories informed their new historical novels–and offer context for current event.




Sunday, November 5 2:00-2:45
It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s…. My Family?
Ladee Hubbard and Daryl Gregory
Location: Capitol Extension Room 2.012

You think your family is strange? Master storytellers Ladee Hubbard (The Talented Ribkins) and Daryl Gregory (Spoonbenders) introduce us to vastly different families with talents the likes of which you’ve never seen. But these powers are not all they’re cracked up to be. These authors will challenge what you think you know about human limitations and the strength of human spirit.




Sunday, November 5 11:00-11:45
Unraveling WWII
Cristina García
Location: Capitol Extension Room 2.036
Cristina García, bestselling author of the classic Dreaming in Cuban and finalist for the National Book Award, talks with author Natalia Sylvester about García’s new novel, Here in Berlin. This portrait of a city through snapshots excavates the stories and ghosts of contemporary Berlin, still pulsing with its past and WWII.






Browse More TBF Book Club Books!



From the Lit Director Desk: What I’m Reading

IMG_9937I’ve been to some very cold places this year in the name of books. 


The beginning of February saw me return from one book conference in time to promptly turn around and fly out to another book conference. I had just enough time to empty my suitcase of one load of books and make room for another. (Pity me, I know. Play the world’s smallest violins. My dishes were dirty for weeks! The cat did not learn how to do laundry in my absence!)

The great thing about flying in airplanes is that I’m too terrified to look out the window (the ground is so far away) or into the faces of my fellow passengers (which one of these people will be the one to fix the mask over my face when this steel machine goes down???) so I keep my head down and read. And drink tiny little bottles of airplane wine. And hope for the best. I read quite a lot this month. Here are a few of the books that stood out to me. There have been tons of great new books to read and 2017 has barely begun. Get to a bookstore! Browse around! There are good books afoot!


right way to be

The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability
edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen and Annabelle Hayse

Available now! // Cinco Puntos Press

I’m so grateful to Cinco Puntos Press for sending this beautiful anthology my way. Twenty-seven writers present stories about “disability” in all ways the word can be defined. This is the first time – the first time – that short fiction by writers with disabilities, featuring disabled characters, has been anthologized. In addition to unfolding underrepresented perspectives, this book is just chock full of beautiful, lyrical writing. I am mesmerized, story to story. I’m a fan of anthologies in general and love being able to flip between a panoply of voices and styles between two covers. I’m thrilled to have this collection on my shelf.



Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
On sale May 16 // Transit Books

I’ve just begun this sweeping story of family, inheritance and history by Ugandan novelist and short story writer Makumbi. Longlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Debut African Fiction, Transit Books is publishing this debut novel in the US in May. Moving through time, it follows the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan across generations. I’m really getting into the layers of Kintu Kidda’s journey and family life early on in the book, in the section set in 1750 in Buddu Province, Buganda. The tension of ritual, of tradition adhered to, subverted and manipulated, runs through Kintu’s large family and underscores the violent political turmoil incited by the region’s royalty. The ways in which the characters are bound to one another by blood, tradition, social norms, expectation, love and friendship create a rich and engaging emotional plot. There’s a lot more of this story to come, which is amazing, because Makumbi has already packed so much into the first 100 pages. This book already feels like several novels in one.


we are never meeting

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby
On sale May 30 // Vintage

Hallelujah, all praise be, our year is saved thanks to Samantha Irby. This collection of ab-so-lute-ly hilarious essays reads like a long, wine-laced night with the good friend with whom you can discuss all of your totally honest and unpopular opinions about sex, life, love, mental health, aging, family, money, work, and being alive in a seriously less-than-perfect world. Irby is by turns irascible and endearing, self-deprecating and self-assured. In fashioning herself as an anti-hero with a penchant for cheap and dirty meals, doomed relationships and a happy life of cranky spinsterhood, Irby cracks sharp jokes with one hand while revealing poignant emotional vulnerability with the other. I don’t know whether or not it’s a good idea to glean dating advice from this book, but, I have to say, I have found her stories of romance and relationship-building both informative and reassuring. (Date someone who is the opposite of you, that person will know how to pack real road trip snacks; I will remember this advice forever.) If you’re shy and prefer to avoid attention in public, do not read this book outside of your home. You will laugh out loud, a lot, and people will look at you. I also do not recommend attempting to read this book at the gym. Especially don’t try to read the essay about exercising while you are trying to exercise. Take it from me: you cannot laugh this hard and elliptical at the same time. Samantha Irby is also the author of the essay collection Meaty and writes this blog over here.


goodbye vitamin

Goodbye Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong
On Sale July 11 // Henry Holt and Co.

I ate this book right up. Yes, it has a tremendous cover, a cover that, at thirty-almost-six years old, intimidated me just a smidge. Am I hip enough to read this book?! Embrace the lemons, my friends, and get to page one, because you’ll forget yourself and be hooked straight away. This book is all humor and big, big heart. Told in dated entries that begin on December 26, it’s the story of Ruth Young, a thirty year old woman recovering from major heartbreak in her parents’ home, where she stays on after Christmas to help her mother manage her father’s rapidly developing Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s and broken hearts sound like a hoot, I know, but I promise, Khong delivers the hard stuff of heartache and health in memorable characters and tender, hilarious situations. This book has some of that oddball Miranda July dark humor I enjoy, with notes of Palahniuk’s ‘broken humans in extreme but somehow functioning and believable circumstances’ style, along with some deadpan emotional lines that punched me right in my Amy Hempel heart. As Ruth comes to terms with her parents’ marriage, her relationship with her father and family, and her own messy emotions, the story lifts right off the page and soars with hope. Khong was executive editor of Lucky Peach and is also the author of All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World’s Most Important Food. This book will be called the perfect summer read, because it comes out in July, but, I promise, you’ll love it any time of year.


abandon-me separation-kitamura dear-friend

New Books On Shelves Now That I Really Enjoyed:

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
Why I Am Not A Feminist by Jessica Crispin
Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders


exit-west all-grown-up sorry to disrupt the peace

Books to Look for in March: 

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
White Tears by Hari Kunzru
South and West: From A Notebook by Joan Didion
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace : A Novel by Patty Yumi Cottrell
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hanna Tinti

TBF + BookPeople Present: ANTHONY DOERR

Anthony Doerr Web Slider (1)

We’re pleased to announce we’ve teamed up with BookPeople to welcome Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, to Central Presbyterian Church in Austin to speak about and sign his highly acclaimed novel on Thursday, April 6th at 7:00PM.

Tickets are now available and include a paperback copy of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.
VIP tickets support the Festival and come with a set of limited edition TBF cards featuring the art of Jack Unruh!


IMG_0081 IMG_0080


If you, like us, are among the thousands of readers who were stunned by Doerr’s beautiful, wrenching novel set during World War II, don’t miss this opportunity to hear him discuss this unforgettable story and meet him in person. Doerr will be signing books at Central Presbyterian Church after he talks. We hope you’ll choose to support the Texas Book Festival’s literacy programs by selecting a VIP ticket. Every dollar funds our mission to connect readers with authors and to strengthen libraries and literacy across Texas.

In addition to his phenomenally bestselling, award-winning recent novel, Doerr is also the author of two story collections Memory Wall and The Shell Collector, the novel About Grace, and the memoir Four Seasons in Rome. He has won four O. Henry Prizes, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, the National Magazine Award for fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Story Prize.

Here’s a little preview of what we have to look forward to on April 6th: 


We hope you’ll join us and BookPeople for this very special event. Purchase your tickets now!

From the Lit Director Desk: What I’m Reading

FullSizeRender (11)(Getting the hard work done.)


Greetings from the new year! I’ve been busy powering through my early 2017 reading list while I start to get things up and running for this year’s Festival. (This year’s Texas Book Festival takes place November 4-5 here in Austin.) Here’s a quick look at the books that have stuck to the top of my pile. They all come out in The Future, which isn’t always convenient for those of us who live in The Now, so I’ve also put together a quick list of books to look for this month, as well as new books that have recently hit shelves.


what it means

What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
(Riverhead, April 4)

Sharp and surprising, fantastic and dark, human and heartbreaking, this debut collection by Lesley Nneka Arimah is a must-add to your short fiction list this year. Arimah covers a lot of ground in these stories, digging into the tension of parent-child relationships (particularly mothers and daughters), the hollows of loss, and the small ways in which we move forward, sometimes with hope and sometimes not. Elements of magical realism drift through this collection, creating a world in which human babies begin as handmade bundles of found material and a dead mother steps out of a photograph and back into life. I was met with the unexpected, story after story, page after page. I loved every minute of reading this book.



Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2)

I’m about halfway through this absorbing story by Palestinian-American poet and debut novelist Hala Alyan. Opening with the wedding of Alia in 1967, the novel tells the story of a Palestinian family over the course of generations, beginning with the Six Day War, as they’re uprooted physically and emotionally by political violence. This is the book I’m itching to stop everything and read during those awful moments when I’m forced to do other things like go to work and talk to humans. Alyan’s well-drawn characters are a personal, poignant lens on the effects of the long conflict, presenting history in its human details; a New Year’s celebration underpinned by dread, marital spats grown out of the grief of unspoken tragedy, children born into a word changed in manners they don’t even know. Alyan’s attention to visual detail underscores the poignant emotional tension of the story, creating a world I can feel in all senses. Beautifully done. I can’t wait to finish this blog post and read more.


the rules do not apply

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
(Random House, March 2017)

I started reading this memoir with many plans on deck for that day; now, hours later, the dishes weren’t done, I was still in my pajamas, and I’d wholly consumed this story, cover to cover. Levy writes of being a woman in her late thirties who has proudly built an unconventional life as a globe-trotting journalist and wife, only to watch the elements of her security and success come apart in perfectly human ways she did not expect. The consequences of presumption underscore each chapter; the presumption that a marriage built on love will survive unscathed; the presumption that you can have everything you set out to want in life and not expect to want more; the presumption that a life carefully and joyfully planned will play out precisely according to script. When presumptions fail, then what? The writing is sharp and vibrant (Levy is a journalist) and swept me right along. This book is recommended for anyone staring at the rest of her life, whatever joys and tragedies may lay in her wake, and wondering, What could possibly come next?



Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
(Scribner, September 2017)

This novel absolutely blew me away. Jesmyn Ward is the author of the 2011 National Book Award-winning novel Salvage the Bones, the memoir The Men We Reaped, and is the editor of the 2016 essay collection, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. Sing, Unburied, Sing is her first novel since winning the National Book Award. It’s been at the top of my most-anticipated books of 2017. Ward is a phenomenal writer with a classic style. Each sentence in this novel feels forged from the blood and dirt of the human heart, visceral and precise, vital and inevitable. Chapters alternate perspective between Jojo, a boy coming of age on his grandparents’ farm in Mississippi, and his mother, Leonie, whose drug addiction pitches the family into a steady thrum of danger that ratchets up page by page. I loved this book, even during scenes when the tension was excruciating. I held my breath for Jojo, for his two year old sister, Kayla, for their grandfather, for Leonie. Ward weaves tremendous tenderness in with the tension, binding the family in deep love and haunting history. Supernatural elements sew their generations together, dissolving time and lighting up the long effects of racism, incarceration and grief. As soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to discuss Sing, Unburied, Sing with someone. An unforgettable story, told in unforgettable writing. I wish it was September so we could all get together and talk about this book together right now.


Books to look for in February

the refugees more-beautiful-beyonce abandon-me

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward


New Books Out Now To Keep On Your Radar

selection day lucky boy history-of-wolves

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Selection Day by Aravind Adiga
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller
Human Acts by Han Kang
My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King



January Book Club

Welcome to 2017! Maybe your reading resolutions sound something like. . .

  • Read more.
  • Read more nonfiction.
  • Read more local authors.
  • Read more women.
  • Read more authors of color.
  • Read the classics I never read but say I did (Moby Dick)
  • Actually read every book for my book club, and go prepared ready to discuss with thoughtful and provoking questions.

If you have any book-related resolutions, share them with us on Facebook and Instagram! Maybe it’s to finish writing your own book! Whatever it is, good luck, and here are a few selections to start your year out.


New Paperback Releases!


Good as Gone by Amy Gentry (288 pages)

2016 Festival author Amy Gentry’s thriller will keep you on the edge january-book-club-collageof your seat, plus this debut novelist is based right here in Austin, Texas! If you liked Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, this is an excellent next choice.

Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts.



Quicksand by Henning Mankell (320 pages)

Prolific and celebrated author Henning Mankell is well-known for his Kurt Wallander series, which were adapted into a PBS series starring Kenneth Branagh. Mankell died in 2015, but leaves behind a rich oeuvre of novels including this introspective memoir.



We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (352 pages)

In case you missed it, 2016 Festival author Kaitlyn Greenidge shared a panel with Jacqueline Woodson as they discussed cultural unity and overcoming institutionalized racism. It’s not too late to read Greenidge’s debut novel!

This shattering novel is filled with storytelling sleight of hand. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race.


TBF Favorite

Jacob the Mutant by Mario Bellatin (156 pages)

Mario Bellatin is a prolific Mexican writer, and this novella translated by Jacob Sternberg is an excellent introduction to Bellatin’s work, complete with illustrated maps by Zsu Szkurka.

Conceived of as a set of fragmentary manuscripts from an unpublished Joseph Roth novel, Mario Bellatin’s Jacob the Mutant is a novella in a perpetual state of transformation—a story about a man named Jacob, an ersatz rabbi and the owner of a roadside tavern. But when reality shifts, so does Jacob, mutating into another person entirely, while the novella mutates into another story.


Share what your book club is reading on Facebook and Instagram!

New Books to Check Out in May

A new month means a fresh crop of books on bookstore shelves. Here are a few we’re adding to our To-Be-Read pile this month.


the after party

The After Party by Anton DiSclafani (May 17)

DiSclafani is the author of the well-received, book club-ready novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (I will spend the rest of my book career attempting to spell Yonahlossee right on the first try and failing every. single. time.) This new novel is set in Houston in the late 1950s and tells the story of two socialites and good friends in their mid-twenties; one who has it all, the husband and house and adorable kid, and one who has everything else – the attention of any man she wants, the freedom to do as she pleases, and the eyes of Houston society upon her.  There’s glitz, glamour, money and the obsessive, escalating tension between two friends whose relationship has evolved in unforeseen ways.


how to be a texan

How To Be A Texan: The Manual by Andrea Valdez (May 3)

With more and more people moving to Texas every day, we are in dire need of a guide to hand the Austin hipster in the pearl snap shirt and clean new cowboy boots who’s still struggling to spell y’all. (It’s okay, it’s okay, Texas wants you anyway.) Andrea Valdez is keeping our roots real by offering step-by-step instructions for how to fly the Texas flag; pronounce Burnet, Bowie, New Braunfels and Waxahachie; choose a belt buckle; get Big Hair; and so much more. This is not a tongue-in-cheek guide, but rather an earnest encyclopedia of how to live in and understand the Lone Star State. (Think Dangerous Book for Girls/Boys, but with instructions for how tailgate and wrangle a rattlesnake.) Of course, you don’t have to be a transplant to enjoy this book. Native Texans will get a kick out of this clear, concise guide, as well. (And we won’t tell anyone if you learn a thing or two yourself.)


in the country we love

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero (May 3)

Diane Guerrerro may be familiar to you from her role on the hit show Orange is the New Black. Before she was an actress, she was a fourteen year old girl who arrived home from school one day to discover her family gone. While she was in class, her parents and brother – undocumented immigrants – had been arrested and deported. In her new memoir, Guerrero, who was born in the U. S. and stayed in the country to continue her education, recounts a shocking story that’s all too familiar to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. You can listen to her read an excerpt from the book via Entertainment Weekly.


eleven hours

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens (May 3)

This absorbing, slender new literary novel demands to be read in a single sitting. Clear an afternoon and pick up this story of two women; a mother in labor and the hospital nurse who tends to her. Moving back and forth between their perspectives chapter by chapter, Erens reveals the deeper and deeper turns in their personal stories and psychologies. Lore, in labor and alone, comes to terms with the relationships that brought her to this moment. Meanwhile, Franckline, holding memories of the family who exiled her in Haiti, moves with the knowledge of her own delicate pregnancy. Absorbing, riveting and beautiful, this is a novel to read and pass on to friends.


imagine me gone

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (May 3)

From Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Adam Haslett comes a novel that has received a tremendous amount of pre-pub buzz. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly said, “Haslett’s latest is a sprawling, ambitious epic about a family bound not only by familial love, but by that sense of impending emergency that hovers around Michael, who has inherited his father John’s abiding depression and anxiety….This is a book that tenderly and luminously deals with mental illness and with the life of the mind….In Michael, Haslett has created a most memorable character. This is a hypnotic and haunting novel.” Check out a Poets & Writers podcast interview with Adam right over here. 




Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (May 10)

Texas native (and Texas Book Festival alum) Stephen Graham Jones returns with a dark novel about an adolescent boy raised by an aunt and uncle who live on the fringes of society, and with good reason – they’re werewolves. Jones wrote a great post about his fascination with writing werewolves and shares how this novel was, in its way, a long time coming.


And for the kiddos…..


Our Great Big Backyard by Laura and Jenna Bush (May 10)

Just in time for road trip season, a delightful new picture book for reluctant young outdoor adventurers, penned by Festival co-founder Laura Bush and her daughter, Jenna, and illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers.  Jane is looking forward to spending her summer plugged into computer games, YouTube videos and movies. When her parents announce a road trip to national parks instead, Jane is more than a little dismayed. As she discovers the wonders of the Everglades and Big Bend National Park, however, Jane’s outlook begins to change. This book commemorates the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service.


There’s plenty more to come this month, including new novels by Don DeLilloRichard Russo, and Louise Erdrich; a funny new debut you’ll want to check out: The Assistants by Camille Perri; and a novel that’s getting a lot of bookseller buzz, set in a version of England where evildoers are recognized by tell-tale emissions of smoke, Smoke by Dan Vyleta. Happy reading!