By Mary Rogers
Publishers are betting in 2020 that book lovers crave, even demand, more diversity than ever before. You can explore race, gender, sex, family and politics through authentic and, yes, varied voices. The titles and subject matter are endless; the authors are anything but homogenized. But where to start?
One of the most talked-about books is Such a Fun Age — called a “razor-sharp” debut about money, class and race — by Kiley Reid. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is another anticipated read. Celebrated authors such as John Grisham, Sandra Cisneros, Stephen King, Ann Patchett and others are calling it “riveting,” a “page turner” and “an urgent story.” It’s the tale of a Mexican bookseller who flees Acapulco with her young son to escape a customer who also happens to be a drug lord. Many stories are inspired by the day’s news; others mean to make sense of our inner lives. Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis by Ada Calhoun is one of those. Some say this book, with all its stats and “stories from the field,” will be for Gen X (1965 to 1979) much what Gail Sheehy’s Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life was for their mothers. In fiction, you’ll probably hear a lot about You Were There Too, a love story with an interesting premise and the promise of a never-saw-it-coming ending, by popular author Colleen Oakley. If you love a thriller, try Chris Hauty’s debut novel, Deep State. Hauty earned his storytelling spurs as a Hollywood screenwriter. I’m a historical fiction fan, so I’m interested in Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict, about Winston Churchill’s wife, who was among the most influential figures of both world wars. For bedtime reading, I’m looking at Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald. It’s billed as a heartwarming story about loving and living even after the funeral is over.
In February, I hope to pick up The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. It’s the story of an aging artist who writes truthfully about his life in a notebook, which he leaves in a cafe. Several other people find the notebook and add their own stories, each telling the unvarnished truth. I’ll add The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey when it drops in April. If you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, you will like Love Story, too. I’m also looking forward to reading Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim. It comes out in August.
Readers Clubs There are hundreds of book clubs in the area, but only a few are open to the public. BRIT Reads Book Club is among them and meets from noon to 1 p.m. the third Monday of most months at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 1700 University Drive. On Feb. 17, Harold Keller, a BRIT research associate, leads a discussion on A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean. You’re probably familiar with the title novella but don’t know the other stories. No time to read the book? You’re still invited, and bring a sack lunch if you like. Reservations aren’t necessary, says BRIT librarian Brandy Watts. Questions? Reach her at email@example.com or go to brit.org/public-events/brit-reads-book-club for more information. And on a personal note, thanks to friend and photographer Jill Johnson for the new column picture. She took the last one a decade ago. It’s time for a change.