Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj on CBS's The Big Bang Theory, hosted Thursday morning's Adult Book & Author Breakfast, which offered a combination of inspiration and humor. Thriller writer Lee Child, record-breaking swimmer Diana Nyad, and blogger-photographer-turned-bestselling-author Brandon Stanton also spoke.
Nayyar kept things breezy and funny, particularly as he described his first book, a collection of autobiographical essays about growing up in New Delhi called Yes, My Accent Is Real (Atria, Sept.), which includes stories about why he came to America (for sex with blondes) and his seven-day wedding to Miss India. "I hope this book makes people laugh," said Nayyar, who also wanted them "to feel what it means to be a fish out of water, and to teach you a little bit about India—and why I had eunuchs in my wedding."
Child, whose Jack Reacher novels have hit 100 million copies worldwide, and who is about to publish his 20th, Make Me (Delacorte, Sept.), spoke about his long and unlikely writing career—not that he ever wanted to be a writer, even now. "I wanted to entertain an audience," he said, a concept he brought with him from his earlier career as a presentation director for Granada Television in the UK. Answering one of the questions that frequently come on book tour, he explained why he's so thin. He only eats from two food groups: caffeine and nicotine. As to how he's managed to keep his current job for so long, he said, "Obviously readers, obviously my publishers, and in the middle of them booksellers. Nobody walked out of a store with my book without the enthusiasm of booksellers. They created my career. Please keep on doing what you do."
Quoting poet Mary Oliver—"Tell me what it is you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life of yours?"—swimmer Nyad, author of the forthcoming memoir Find a Way (Knopf, Oct.) talked about how she decided to go after her dream. Twenty months ago, at the age of 64, she swam from Havana to Key West, a journey thought to be impossible. At the breakfast, Nyad played her favorite song, "Revelry," on a trumpet and exhorted booksellers, "If you don't give up, you'll find a way."
Five years ago, Stanton, who had lost his first job, decided to follow his dream. In his case it meant putting aside career plans, moving to New York, and taking photographs. The results turned into the popular blog Human of New York, which then became the bestselling book, Humans of New York. Today he has more than 15 million followers on several social media platforms, and has done two books, with a third on the way: Humans of New York Stories (St Martin's, Oct.). Stanton said he decided that if he could get up the courage to ask strangers if he could take their picture, he would also ask them the important questions about their biggest successes and failures, which became material for the book.
But, of course, stories wouldn't reach their audience without help. PW honored those helpers at the breakfast. Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., received the PW Bookseller of the Year Award; Jennifer Sheridan, children's specialist at HarperCollins received the PW Rep of the Year Award; and recently retired sales representative Ted Heineken was given the first Lifetime Achievement Award.