Thursday's relative quiet was followed by a much busier Friday, with aisles buzzing, lines snaking too far to find the end. Fairgoers stood patiently, waiting to meet the author and get that coveted signature on the title page of the giveaway galley. Over at Random House, mid-morning, I spotted a bookseller; I dutifully copied the information from his badge (Harvey Finkel, Clinton Bookshop, Clinton, N.J.), before I asked him: "So what books have you seen that you're really excited about?"
"I'm just on line for Carl Hiaasen," he said, and not much else. And sure enough, looking up and down and around, I saw that Hiaasen line. And the author himself, handsome, blue-eyed, beautifully if casually dressed, was standing with Paul Bogaards, Knopf's publicity director, at the signing table, waiting for the signing (of Hiaasen's YA debut, Skink: No Surrender) to officially begin.
Bogaards, a reliable source of what's big, hot, or in demand, told me, "The tension of the show is informed by the quality of the publisher's list," and alerted me to Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, which he called "tender and flinty"; he added that the new James Ellroy, Perfidia, which starts on December 6, 1941, is "the book."
Back on the floor, Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books in Oxford, Miss., was touting Trinity University Press's list and the books from Barbara Rice: "They have a fabulous list. They're publishing Rebecca Solnit (Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness) and Peter Turchi (A Muse and a Maze)
"It looks like it's going to be an indie fall to me, a diversity of books," said Chuck Robinson, owner of Village Books in Bellingham, Wash. "One big book doesn't do it for me—unless it's from Hachette," he said wryly.
"These are the things we're most interested in," said Paul Yamazaki, buyer for City Light Books in San Francisco, who came to BEA with a half-page single-spaced-typed list of books after making a first run through publishers' catalogues. He singled out a couple of titles from the list: The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami (Knopf), and Geek Sublime by Vikram Chandra (Graywolf), who, if you remember, had that huge novel, Sacred Games, from HarperCollins.
Jorge Guttormsen of Books Inc. is touting the novel Painted Horses from Grove by Malcolm Brooks. "Loved the story; the characters stayed with me," as well as Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a Knopf Buzz Panel book.
Anmiryan Budner, a buyer for Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, Pa., is betting on Lila by Marilynne Robinson: "I enjoy Robinson's characters and getting to see this family through different eyes over time. The wife was always enigmatic to me. I always wondered how she got there." Budner also said that she herself is not a religious person, but that Robinson's spirituality "infuses what she says. I find it clarifying. It never feels proselytizing or didactic or pedantic."
Budner is also high on The Bone Clocks—"David Mitchell could write the phone book and I would read it," she said—and The Miniaturist (Ecco's Buzz Panel book from Jessie Burton) "looks fabulous." Another Budner pick: The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sunday Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp. "It looks really fun. It's a fantasy, and there's a highwayman in there. There are illustrations throughout the text, too."
Terry Labandz of University of Minnesota Bookstores, Minneapolis, is looking forward to Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members (Random House). "It's an epistolary novel about a Midwestern English professor. It's so funny; it's so dry. She's published a couple of adult and YA books before, and I hope this is her breakout book." Also on Labandz's list is Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal by Sigrid Undset. "I'm really looking forward to this book, as the University of Minnesota doesn't do a lot of fiction, so I am interested in that aspect. This is the first book that Undset wrote, when she was 24."
Another David Mitchell endorsement: "I'm really jazzed about The Bone Clocks", said Catherine Weller, Weller Books, Salt Lake City. "It's the kind of book that my booksellers love and love to sell. It's fantastic."
Bookseller A.N. Devers of Brooklyn's Community Bookstore's pick is Eula Biss's On Immunity: An Inoculation, Graywolf's Buzz Panel book. "I loved her first book and I read an excerpt of this one. She is a remarkable writer. There's a measles outbreak in New York because too many people have not been vaccinating their children. This is an important and relevant issue. People are turning against common sense and science, and she investigates why that is." Anderson Bookshop (Naperville, Ill.) co-owner Becky Anderson's fiction choice is Lin Enger's The High Divide (Algonquin). "This novel was written by Leif Enger's brother, and it takes place in the Midwest. A girl is headed to school in Wisconsin and she disappears. The story is told from multiple perspectives and it sounds great. It sounds fantastic."
Susan Morton from Byrd's Books in Bethel, Conn., must have been on that Hiaasen line for Skink: No Surrender. "Amazing," she says.
John Evans from Diesel Books in Oakland, Calif., is upbeat about Euphoria, the novel by Lily King, and also Tibetan Peach Pie (Ecco), Tom Robbins's memoir. (Is he really an octogenarian? He sure doesn't look it.)
The booksellers are a powerful source for sales and buzz, but we couldn't talk to all of them, so we want to add our picks for the show's big books. We are excited for We Are Not Ourselves, a debut novel by Matthew Thomas from Simon & Schuster that Marysue Rucci bought for beaucoup bucks at London. And Scribner's The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs; The Wolf, Lorenzo Carcaterra's new thriller from Ballantine; Jodi Picoult's Leaving Time, with a main character who's involved with elephants; Marco Malvaldi's Game for Five, the first in a mystery series about the denizens of a small Tuscan town who hang out in the Bar Lume; A Story Lately Told, from Scribner, Anjelica Huston's second memoir, in which we hear about Jack; Greg Baxter's Munich Airport, from Twelve; Those Who Wish Me Dead (Little, Brown) by Michael Koryta; Jessica Treadway's Lacy Eye from Grand Central; The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis from Little, Brown; The Good Girl (Harlequin) by Mary Kubica; Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the revealing memoir from New York Times columnist Charles Blow; The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec (Other Press), her international bestselling debut novel; Thrown by Kerry Howley (Sarabande), literary nonfiction about two cage fighters.
No doubt, booksellers and librarians are packing their bags and boxes with all of the publishing industry's highest hopes and fondest dreams.
To read about the big children's books of the show, click here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed Becky Anderson's quote to a different bookseller.