Three bestselling authors took to the stage Saturday morning at BookCon for a lively discussion on the importance of book reading groups. Moderated by The Book Report Network president and co-founder Carol Fitzgerald, the panel featured Paula McLain (The Paris Wife and the forthcoming Circling the Sun), Vanessa Diffenbaugh (The Language or Flowers and the forthcoming We Never Asked for Wings), and Annie Barrows (Ivy and Bean and the forthcoming The Truth According to Us). All avid book clubbers themselves, the authors each talked about the importance of communal reading and told stories from their own book clubs.
“We need book clubs as much as they need us,” said Paula McLain. The author is a lifelong book club attendee and, much like her debonair characters, feels right at home talking literature. “I always say yes [to bookclub invites],” McLain told the crowd. “I love it when people invite me into their house.” In fact, during a layover on her way to BEA McLain met a new friend whose book club is now attending her next reading in Kansas City. She’ll be reading from her upcoming novel Circling the Sun, a fictionalized account of the life of pioneering aviator Beryl Markham who (like Hadley from The Paris Wife) was involved in a scandalous love triangle.
Diffenbaugh, whose first novel followed a foster care child with a talent for flowers, often receives bouquets at book clubs. Barrows, with friendship bracelets featuring prominently in her popular Ivy and Bean series, has a similar experience at book clubs for her young fans: “They always want me to do a craft.”
Not the most skilled bracelet maker, Barrows often suggests they write on a banana. “Sometimes they are really opposed to the idea.”
Barrow’s upcoming The Truth According to Us tells the story of Willa, a young girl on a quest to uncover the long-buried secrets of fictional Macedonia, West Virginia. Diffenbaugh’s next book, We Never Asked for Wings, delves into issues of income disparity and the struggles of motherhood as an undocumented immigrant: “It’s a story about trying to learn to be a mother 15 years late.”
At the panel, it was clear; across all genres and age levels, book clubs maintain their position as the premier outlet for word-of-mouth buzz. The authors even suggested a few titles for those looking for their next read: Lily King’s Euphoria, A.S. Byatt’s Possession, The Passion by Donna Boyd.