For the big children's books of BEA 2012, click here.
The quest for booksellers on the floor of BookExpo America can take some unanticipated turns, like meeting Richard Ford at the entrance to the show. His latest book, Canada, he says graciously, is "old news," and he's just arrived at BEA, but he's looking forward to James Salter's new book, Cassada, out on September 11 from Counterpoint. "My God," he says, "it's going to be a great book because a book from Jim Salter is a reason to stop the trains."
September 11 is a popular day this year, with Kevin Powers's debut, a war novel about two soldiers in Iraq, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown), generating a lot of excitement. Mark LaFramboise from Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., read it in one sitting. Actually, he says, he read parts of it "standing up," he was so impressed. A big fan, he intends to do everything he can to promote it, not only because of the subject but because of the language. "It's visceral; the language is so poetic, so literary." His enthusiasm is matched by Calvin Crosby from Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif. "I'm dying to get back to it," he says. "To have captured the experience of Iraq while it's so current is amazing to me. Usually, like with Vietnam, there needs to be some distance, but Powers did it without that distance."
"War seems to be a theme," Crosby says. He's also excited about In the Shadow of the Banyan (Simon & Schuster) by Vaddey Ratner, a novel about the coming-of-age of a young girl during the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s. Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. "It's history that I knew so little about," Crosby says. "I wept for over half the book, it was so beautiful, well crafted, and honest."
Jodie Vinson from Brookline Booksmith in Massachusetts is eager to read the new Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead) and also Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior (HarperCollins), set in Appalachia. Vinson heard both authors speak at the author breakfast, which whetted her interest. Kathleen Millard from Elm Street Books in New Canaan, Conn., really wants to read The Art Forger (Algonquin) by B.A. Shapiro. "I'm always fascinated when famous art goes missing and stays hidden for so many years." She's also anticipating the new Tom Wolfe, Back to Blood (Little, Brown). "He's a classic. He'll live through the ages. We're looking for another Bonfire." Peter Malizia of Costco, Canada, is also high on Tom Wolfe. "He's a big name. If you sell in the States, you sell in Canada."
Tigers in Red Weather (Little, Brown), Liza Klaussmann's debut novel, set at the end of WWII, is generating buzz. (Klaussmann is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville.) Margie Scott-Tucker of Book Inc. in San Francisco says she "loved it" and thinks it will be a big book club book. She also "loved, loved, loved" The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce's novel (another debut from Random House). "Everyone over 50 should read this book," she says.
For Bill Cusumano, of Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, Mich., it's John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (Grove). Cusumano calls the story of the orphan, kitchen boy, and finally, master chef, set in 17th-century England "just a wonderful book." He's also excited to read Jon Meacham's biography of Thomas Jefferson (Random House) because "there hasn't been a full biography of Jefferson in 30 years." And then there's J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown). "This is the book everyone is scared of. We're really worried. What if people tell their friends it's not Harry Potter?"
Land Arnold, of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., in addition to the new Barbara Kingsolver, is looking forward to The Vanishing Act (Norton) by Mette Jakobsen. Arnold's business partner, Jamie Fiocco, says that "it does seem to have a lot of buzz." The other book she's really enjoying is The Orchardist (HarperCollins) by Amanda Coplin, a big debut book that's getting a lot of great prepress.
Elliott Bay's Rick Simonson is betting on Telegraph Avenue (HarperCollins) by Michael Chabon, the new Junot Díaz, Zadie Smith's NW (Penguin Press), and casts another vote for Vaddey Ratner's debut, In the Shadow of the Banyan. Telegraph Avenue takes place in the Oakland neighborhood where Diesel Books is located. "This will be our big book," co-owner Alison Reid says. "It's wonderfully written and has real-life characters from my neighborhood—I know everybody in this book." The book's launch party will be held at Diesel, and the store is planning a major event for it.
Rosanna Nissen of Barrett Bookstore in Darien, Conn., is eagerly awaiting Sweet Tooth (Doubleday/Talese), the new novel from Ian McEwan. She's also looking forward to The Smitten Kitchen, a debut cookbook by popular blogger Deb Perelman (Knopf). "It's a great combination of humor and wonderful recipes," Nissen said.
Lanora Haradon, owner of the Next Chapter, Mequon, Wis., is talking up City of Women (Putnam/Amy S. Einhorn) by David R. Gillham. "It's another World War II novel. I was skeptical at first, but after four pages, I was so enamored, I was sucked right in. Amy [Einhorn] has done it again."
For Gerry Donaghy of Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., Prisoner of Heaven (HarperCollins) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón has bestseller potential, as does The Twelve (Ballantine) by Justin Cronin. On the line to see Cronin, talk was all about how his was "the book they weren't going home without." Donaghy is also excited about Jonathan Evison's The Revised Fundamentals of Caretaking (Algonquin) and Mark Helprin's In Sunlight and in Shadow (HMH). Richard Russo's Elsewhere: A Memoir (Knopf), he added, will likely be a big hit for the store in November.
And don't forget Kind One by Laird Hunt from Coffee House; Twelve's Schroder by Amity Gaige and Albert of Adelaide by Howard Anderson; Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt (Grove); The Polish Boxer from Bellevue Literary Press by Eduardo Halfon; Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan (Free Press); from Knopf: Jo Nesbø's Phantom, Harry Hole's ninth outing, and Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace (Penguin/Blue Rider). Patti Smith interviewing the rock icon was the big ticket event at BEA.