It's a "perfect loop"—of editors, sales reps, and booksellers—who create buzz for the books they love, an excitement fueled by trust, faith, and knowledge, noted moderator Betsy Burton, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, during Wednesday afternoon's Editors' Buzz panel. Six editors introduced the upcoming releases they are most excited about to a packed room of 500 booksellers, publicists, editors, and media.
This year's buzz books were a mixed selection, including four nonfiction releases and two novels, presented both by young editors and seasoned veterans. Two of the three nonfiction titles started out as magazine articles, one was based on a serendipitous discovery in Soviet archives, and the two novels were debuts, one by an editor, the other by a librarian. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editor Deanne Urmy kicked off the session with Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower, a history professor at Claremont McKenna College and research associate at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. "It's original, rigorous research—she asks brave questions," Urmy said, explaining that Lower had delved into newly opened Soviet archives and had discovered that "at least 500,000" German women had been in "direct contact with Nazi atrocities" on the eastern front as witnesses, accomplices, or murderers. Hitler's Furies profiles 13 of these women. Foreign rights have been sold in a dozen countries "based just on the book proposal."
Moving from fact to fiction, editor Lise Mayer celebrated that The Facades by Eric Lundgren was the first Overlook title to be included on a buzz panel. It's a novel about "self-deception and self-discovery" as a young man, Norbert, searches for his missing wife in the streets of Trude, a once-great Midwestern city that has fallen into ruins. Disclosing that she has read The Facades seven times, and "each time it breaks my heart," Mayer promised that readers will be "instantly blown away" by Lundgren's debut, which was recently selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover New Voices pick.
Anna de Vries described The Affairs of Others, the debut novel by Byliner Inc. editor Amy Grace Loyd, as a story that New Yorkers can relate to, as well as any woman of a certain age. "This is a sexy book," de Vries said, about a widow, haunted by memories of her husband, who is drawn into the affairs of the neighbors in her small apartment building. "I hope you understand [Celia] and even like her as she rages against fate," de Vries said, drawing laughs when she disclosed that this was the first time she'd ever received critiques of her editing by one of her authors.
Five Days at Memorial by Pulitzer-winning journalist Sheri Fink will be released in early September, eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and six years after Fink started researching the suspicious deaths of 45 patients at Memorial Hospital there. Crown editor Vanessa Mobley called it "masterful storytelling" by a writer with "impeccable" credentials. Even though Five Days tells the story of how doctors hastened the deaths of some of their most critically ill patients, "it's a book teeming with life," filled with characters "with memorable names and colorful personalities."
Scribner editor Whitney Frick's presentation was probably the most moving, as she related Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by "care over cure" advocate Katy Butler to her own family's situation. While editing Butler's account of her parents' deaths—her father's an agonizing and drawn-out process, and her mother's a "graceful" one—Frick's 93-year-old grandmother was hospitalized. "Katy was giving me and my family a gift," Frick said. "We were able to have that conversation with my grandmother." Comparing Knocking on Heaven's Door to Andrew Solomon's Far from the Tree and Anne Fadiman's Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Frick praised Butler's "lyrical" writing, declaring that her voice "transcends the serious subject matter." It's also a book "that is extremely timely," Frick pointed out: 24 million baby boomers are caring for aging parents.
Moving to the other end of the spectrum, Ecco editorial director Lee Boudreaux finished up the session with her presentation of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. "I didn't think all joy and no fun would be the common theme of this panel," Boudreaux joked, saying that Senior spent three years researching modern parenthood at three stages: newborn, middle-grade, and teen. "This is not a parenting book," Boudreaux emphasized, calling All Joy and No Fun the sequel to What to Expect When You're Expecting. "This is a parenthood book. It describes the topography of our lives, what it's like to be a parent in this day and age." "You will recognize yourself on every page of this book. You are not alone," Boudreaux said.