2018 Texas Book Festival Dates Announced!

The Texas Book Festival is proud to announce its 2017 Festival Weekend was the most successful on record, with 50,000 attendees coming together on November 4 and 5 in the largest celebration of books and literacy in the Festival’s history. The Texas Book Festival will return for its 23rd year on October 27 and 28, 2018, and will once again be held in and around the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin.

The 2017 Festival Weekend featured more than 300 authors, including Tom Hanks, Dan Rather, Gail Simmons, Attica Locke, Min Jin Lee, Mark Bittman, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, and more. Held November 3 at the Four Seasons Hotel, the annual First Edition Literary Gala raised more than $630,000 for the nonprofit organization and its literacy programs. Additionally, the TBF gave more than $100,000 in grants to Texas public libraries in 2017 and, through its Reading Rock Stars literacy program, provided more than 9,300 books to students in Title I schools this year. The Texas Teen Book Festival, held on October 7, also drew thousands with its all-star lineup of YA authors including Jason Reynolds, Marie Lu and many others, as well as an interactive iTent space, writing workshops, panels, and more.

“2017 was an epic year in so many ways, from standout literary talent across so many genres to incredible attendee turnout. We are as starstruck as anyone about the big marquee names at the Festival, but our true stars are the children, schools, and libraries we are able to impact across Texas, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and supporters,” says Lois Kim, executive director. “We’re setting our sights even higher in 2018 for our outreach programming and an amazing Festival Weekend.”

Book lovers can expect to see more of what 2017 offered during next year’s Festival Weekend – a great author lineup, book signings, food trucks, cooking demonstrations, author sessions and panels, live music, a Saturday night Lit Crawl, and more. Submissions to participate in the Festival will open on Monday, January 11. For book submission guidelines, please visit our submissions page.

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!

 

Vote! 2018 Fresh Ink Fiction Contest Theme

The 2018 Fresh Ink Fiction Contest opens to submissions this month! Before we can accept work from eligible young writers, however, we need your help choosing a theme. Last year’s theme was “Funny Running Into You Here.” Vote for this year’s prompt below!

Hosted by the Texas Book Festival and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) at the University of Texas at Austin, and with generous support from AT&T, the Fresh Ink Fiction Contest encourages creative writing in Texas schools.

Junior and high school Texas students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length. The submissions are judged by Texas Book Festival authors, local educators, and leaders in the publishing industry. Submitted entries are considered in three divisions: grades 7-8; grades 9-10; and grades 11-12. Contest submissions open January 22. 

Contest winners receive cash prizes, their own Festival panel, and other honors. Read all about what’s in store for winners!

Which theme will inspire young writers most? Which one inspires YOU? Vote! Vote! Vote! We’ll announce the winning theme on January 19.

 

Texas Writer Award: Dan Rather

 

The Texas Writer Award is given by the Texas Book Festival to a Texas writer in recognition of outstanding contributions to Texas literature. The award recipient is honored at the Texas Book Festival. Recipients include Robert Caro, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Tim O’Brien, Sandra Cisneros, and many others. We are honored to announce that the 2017 Texas Writer Award is given to journalist, writer and Wharton County native Dan Rather.

 

“In an age of pervasive video content, there remains an enduring power in the written word.” – Dan Rather

 

With a storied career that has spanned more than six decades, Dan Rather has earned his place as one of the world’s best-known journalists. He has interviewed every president since Eisenhower and, over that time, personally covered almost every important dateline in the United States and around the world. He has also written several books, including Rather Outspoken; The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation; America at War; Deadlines and Datelines; and The Camera Never Blinks: Adventures of a TV Journalist.

Now, Rather writes and publishes daily as President and CEO of News and Guts, an independent production company he founded that specializes in high-quality nonfiction content across a range of traditional and digital distribution channels. His new book, What Unites Us, is a collection of original essays that offer up an intimate view of history, tracing where we have been in order to help us chart a way forward and reflect on what it means to be an American.

Join us on Saturday, November 4 at 12:00pm when we present Dan Rather with the Texas Writer Award at his Festival session at First Baptist Church. Seating for the general public will open on a first come, first serve basis at 11:50AM. Doors open for Book Ticket holders at 11:00AM. 

 

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
Homecoming
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!

 

 

Announcing the 2017 Texas Book Festival Poster and Featured Artist

With much fanfare and excitement, we are thrilled to unveil the official 2017 Texas Book Festival poster! Each year, our committee gathers to consider the work of Texas artists and discuss the artistic vision for the annual Festival. We’re happy to announce this year’s poster artist is Joel SalcidoAustin-based photographer and author of the new book, The Spirit of Tequila. His stunning image of a pitayo cactus at sunset evokes the wide-open sense of possibility and awe that draws us west and south to the limitless vistas of Texas and beyond: the same feeling we have each time we open a good book.

“For this photograph to be at the forefront of this year’s Book Festival is an absolute joy and somewhat surreal. Being selected as the Texas Book Festival’s 2017 artist is a true honor for which I’m incredibly grateful.” – Joel Salcido

 

Salcido explains the origin of the photograph in his forthcoming book, The Spirit of Tequila (Trinity University Press, November 2017): 

“I arrived in Atotonilco el Alto, in the highlands of Jalisco, home of some of the best tequila distilleries, where the iron-rich soil, elevation, and climate favor the blue agave plants. Standing guard to the agave fields is the pitayo cactus, which eventually morphs into a spiny tree bearing the exotic pitaya fruit. Most of Mexico’s beauty is entrusted to ancient and adolescent landscapes where sunlight, blue agaves, and the pitayos claim their territorial majesty.”


Joel Salcido grew up with one foot in Mexico and the other in the United States. He was a staff photographer for the El Paso Times and has also traveled extensively in Latin America for USA Today. He has received numerous awards, including several for his coverage of life in Cuba and inhalant abuse on the U.S.-Mexico border. His images appear in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the El Paso Museum of Art, the University of Texas Harry Ransom Humanities Center, and the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. Additional acquisitions have been made by the Federal Reserve Bank, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. The image from this book, Atotonilco el Alto, is in Mexico’s National Art Heritage Series.

The Spirit of Tequila includes nearly ninety photographs that reveal not only the tequila-making process but also the culture and traditions of the region where it’s made. Joel Salcido traveled across Jalisco and neighboring Mexican states capturing images of distilleries and artisanal tequileras, including blue agave fields at sunset, the agave’s pineapple-like centers (piñas), elegantly shadowed barrel rooms (añejos), and the agave farmers themselves. The result is a celebration of the tradition and culture of this iconic drink. The book will be available in November.

Many thanks to this year’s poster committee, and to DJ Stout and his team at Pentagram, for their input into the selection process and for creating the final poster. The 2017 poster will be available at this year’s Texas Book Festival, taking place in Austin November 4-5. We’ll see you there!

 

 

2017 Texas Teen Book Festival Keynotes

The Texas Teen Book Festival has announced its 2017 keynote authors!

“TTBF 2017 is shaping up to be amazing!” says Festival Director Shawn Mauser. “I could hardly keep the keynote news to myself. Connecting teens with authors they love is the core of what we do. We’re thrilled to give Texas teens the opportunity to meet these exciting, inspiring writers.”

Head to the Texas Teen Book Festival site to check out this year’s fabulous keynote authors!

Join us at St. Edward’s University on October 7 for another jam-packed day of all things YA. The Texas Teen Book Festival is, as always, free and open to the public. Stay tuned to #TTBF on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for up-to-the-minute news and announcements about this year’s Fest. Sign up for the TTBF mailing list to have all of the latest information delivered straight to your inbox.

This is only the beginning. So much more big news to come! We can’t wait for October 7!

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

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

2017 Internship Opportunities!

Join the Texas Book Festival Team as an Intern!

The Texas Book Festival and the Texas Teen Book Festival offer ongoing unpaid internships designed to expose qualified applicants to editorial, marketing and publicity, and development work, and other aspects of publishing, nonprofit organizations, and event planning. We’re now accepting applications for 2017 internships!

Take a look at the full list of available internships.

From programming to outreach to development and graphic design, we’re looking for help! Festival internships are particularly valuable for those interested in publishing, journalism, creative writing, and nonprofit operations. Interns receive a front row view of the inner workings of book marketing, publicity and event management, as well as gain an understanding of the rhythms and cycles of publishing, nonprofit fundraising, and community engagement.

Full disclosure: if you intern for the Texas Book Festival, there’s a 95% chance you will be asked to pose for Instagram. It’s painless, we promise. Look at these happy interns:

 

 

And also sometimes there’s dancing!

 

APPLY TO BE A FESTIVAL INTERN!

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

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

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