It’s Book Expo 2018 and the aisles and tote bags are full. What are booksellers excited about? One of the most talked-about galleys wasn’t even present: Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming (Crown). The publisher has postcards of the book’s cover, but no galleys to distribute of the hotly anticipated title.
Gail Brilling of T'was Brilling Books in Kirkland, Wash., says: "I think Michelle Obama is one of the most respected women in the world, so classy, such integrity. This book is going to be big."
On the other side of the country, at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, N.J., Jonah Zimiles agrees: “Maplewood is the heart of Obama country, so we can’t wait!” Zimiles is also touting Gary Shteyngart’s new novel Lake Success (Random House), as is David Enyeart of Common Good Books, St. Paul, Minn. “It feels like a breakout novel for him,” says Enyeart. “Contemporary, funny, smart, a rollicking good story for tough times.”
Mike Fusco-Straub of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y., grew up in Florida, and says Lauren Groff’s story collection Florida “describes feelings I’ve never read before: the beautiful, sticky, angry unease of living in one of the country’s weirdest places.”
Jonathan Lethem’s new novel, The Feral Detective (Ecco), is one that Anne Holman of The King’s English in Salt Lake City “can’t wait to read.”
A novel that keeps turning up is Tommy Orange’s debut, There, There (Knopf), about the urban Native Americans in Oakland, Calif. Colleen Callery of Books Are Magic says, “The word that comes to mind is ‘important.’ Orange’s is a voice you don’t necessarily hear often enough; he explores a community that has been decimated.” Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square & Savoy Bookshops in Mystic, Conn., calls the book “incredibly moving” and Lori Fazio, of RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn. adds, “Orange writes with a seriousness, but you also laugh a little bit.”
An anticipated debut is a novel about a Muslim Indian-American family, Fatima Farheen Mirza’s A Place For Us, the first acquisition for SJP for Hogarth (Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint). Fazio calls it “one of my absolute favorite books of the year. It is so touching.”
The Occasional Virgin (Pantheon) by Hana al-Shaykh offers a glimpse into the lives of two young women raised in Lebanon, one a Muslim and one a Christian. “I want to say it’s a good beach read but it does so much more with themes of race and religion than those books tend to do,” says Zoey Cole of Books Are Magic.
Considering the struggle to survive economically is Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh (Scribner). “Smarsh's memoir is the perfect balance of personal experience and social and political history. Her imperfect family of scrappy working poor will change your perception of a demographic that is often overlooked,” says Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kan.
Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, Maine, is toting Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive (Hachette) by Stephanie Land—"I’ve been excited this book about since I first heard about it. It’s definitely in the Nickel and Dimed school; the author lived on six dollars an hour at her best. It’s a memoir about living on the edge of poverty."
For life on the other side, consider Small Fry (Grove), a memoir by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Beth Burnett, a bookseller at Zenith Books in Duluth, Minn., says, “she talks a lot about how her father distanced himself from her, because he was this mythical figure, and he wanted her to grow up and have a normal life.”
Looking for thrills? Pamela Klinger-Horn of Excelsior Books in Excelsior, Minn. can’t say enough about VOX by Christina Dalcher (Berkley), calling it “the most terrifying novel I have read in my lifetime, and I think it is going to be huge this fall. Set in the not-too-distant future in a United States where women are allowed to speak only 100 words per day, it’s thought-provoking, harrowing, and profound. Margaret Atwood better hold on to her panties!”
Vivien Jennings, of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., is looking forward to B.A. Shapiro’s The Collector’s Apprentice (Workman): “Everyone in our store wants to read that book. Ever since The Art Forger, we’ve loved her books and how she weaves art into her stories. And her books sell. And this novel is set in Paris; if you set a book in Paris, it’s going to sell at our store.” And Jennings calls The 7-1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Sourcebooks) by Stuart Turton “fabulous. It’s as if someone took Agatha Christie and stepped it up a notch.”
For quirky, always depend on a recommendation from Paul Yamazaki, buyer for City Lights Books in San Francisco. His pick is Confessions of the Fox (One World) by Jordy Rosenberg: "It's as if Robert Louis Stevenson met Michel Foucault.”
Moving off the grid, consider Cherry (Knopf) by Nico Walker, of which Gaël LeLamer at Books & Books in Miami says, “Cherry is a thinly veiled work of fiction—the author is currently in prison for bank robbery—about a man struggling with PTSD and heroin addiction after a tour in Iraq.”
Finally, keep an eye out for the gold foil covered City of Devils by Paul French (Picador); The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Harper); The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer (Little, Brown); Ohio by Stephen Markley (Simon & Schuster); and Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper).
To see booksellers' hot children's picks, click here.