The Big Buzz:  Keep an Eye Out for These Books

BEA Editors' Buzz Panel

BEA Editors’ Buzz Panel

Book Expo of America (BEA) is the largest book trade show in the U.S.  This year’s show was last week at Javits Center in New York.  The main event is the Exhibit Hall where publishers are marketing next season’s books to booksellers, librarians and the media. There are also a number of panels–including the Editor’s Buzz Panel.  This year’s panel:  7 editors from 7 publishing companies, each one championing one book, in hopes of bringing it out from under the radar.  Six of the seven books are scheduled to be published in late August or September.  One of the books won’t be published until 2015. Five of the books were fiction, two non-fiction.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Jennifer Jackson, Senior Editor, Alfred A. Knopf with Emily St. John Mandel’s  Station Eleven

SYNOPSIS:  This book is about a traveling Shakespearean theater company in a post-apocalyptic world.  It starts on a night right before a fever epidemic changes the world.  A famous actor dies onstage during a performance of King Lear.  The story moves back and forth between the actor’s life and a time 15 or 20 years after the epidemic.  (This reminds me of the recent play Mr. Burns by Anne Washburn which also had a traveling theater troupe in the years after most of the world’s population has died).  In looking at the survivors’ lives after an apocalyptic change, the book is, Ms. Jackson said, “an elegy to the world as we know it.”

INTERESTING TIDBIT:  Ms. Jackson explained that this book had a backwards route to publication.  Emily St. John Mandel has three previous novels all from a small indie publisher.  Instead of agent to editor to sales force to booksellers, here it was the booksellers who became fans of Mandel’s work and talked her up to the sales rep.  The sales rep told Ms. Jackson about the author.

COMPARISONSCloud Atlas (David Mitchell), Dog Stars (Peter Heller), A Visit from the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan)

PUBLICATION DATE:  September 9, 2014

MY TAKE:  I like stories that move back and forth between two time periods.  A comparison to Cloud Atlas intrigues me. I’ve read a couple of pre-apocalyptic novels lately (Age of Miracles and The Last Policeman), and am watching a couple of post-apocalyptic shows on TV, so I might enjoy the contrast.  But, I’m not sure about this one. . .


We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Marysue Rucci, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, Simon & Schuster

with Matthew Thomas’ WE ARE NOT OURSELVES

SYNOPSIS:   Eileen Leary, a nurse from Queens, NY is working to build a nest egg to move her Irish American family to Westchester.  But things do not always go as planned.  This hefty novel follows the nurse and her family through three generations.  It is about hope and resilience in the face of disappointment. It is about the American middle class in the 20th century.

INTERESTING TIDBIT:  This is the author’s first novel.  Thomas spent 10 years writing on the book while working as an English teacher.

COMPARISONSOlive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout), Charming Billy (Alice McDermott)

BLURBS:  Joshua Ferris, Charles Bock and Chad Harbach

PUBLICATION DATE: September 2, 2014

MY TAKE:  I definitely want to read this one.  In addition to the Book Buzz Panel, it was recommended to me by people who have had a chance to read the advance copy.  It sounds like it has the combination of good writing and good plot that I will enjoy.


The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Lee Boudreaux, Vice President, Editorial Director, Ecco with Jessie Burton’s THE MINIATURIST

SYNOPSIS:   Set in 17th century Amsterdam, a young wife is given a dollhouse by her husband to keep her occupied while he is busy working as a merchant trader.  She orders a set of miniature furniture from an artisan.  After receiving her order, she begins to receive additional miniature items that she didn’t order.  What message is the artisan trying to send her.  The suspenseful story is about secrets and hypocrisy, appearance vs. truth.

INTERESTING TIDBIT:  The editor, Boudreaux, also recommended Lauren Oliver’s adult debut, Rooms (coming in September), and Smith Henderson’s recently published Fourth of July Creek.

COMPARISONSFingersmith (Sarah Waters), Slammerkin (Emma Donoghoe), The Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert)

BLURB:  SJ Watson (Before I Go to Sleep)

PUBLICATION DATE: August 26, 2014

MY TAKE: Not sure about this one.  I am interested in the background of Amsterdam during the height of the East India Dutch Company, and the exploration of the position of women in society at the time.  The Amsterdam setting and the bird on the cover (though green, not gold) are meant to invoke the book Goldfinch which I really liked.  Also, I am a fan of Fingersmith which this book was compared to.  My only concern is that there may be a “supernatural” element which I am not sure I would enjoy.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh


Amy Einhorn, Vice President and Publisher, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam with M.O. Walsh’s MY SUNSHINE AWAY

SYNOPSIS:   The debut novel takes places in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the author M.O. Walsh lives.  It starts out “there were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson” and later in the first chapter: “I should tell you now that I was one of the suspects.”  Einhorn insisted that this is not a book about rape.  It is about adolescence, family, memory and forgiveness.

BLURBS: By Tom Franklin (Poachers) and Kathrynn Stockett (The Help)

COMPARISONS:  Master storytellers of the south such as Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor and Kathrynn Stockett

PUBLICATION DATE: January 15, 2015

MY TAKE:  This sounds like a good one–a page turner with something more than a mystery.  I also like the idea of a first person narrator, the question of whether the narrator is reliable and a story that reveals itself slowly–all of which this book sounds like it has.

Neverhome by Laird Hunt



Josh Kendall, Executive Editor, Little, Brown and Company with Laird Hunt’s NEVERHOME

SYNOPSIS:  The novel starts out “I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic.”  This is a civil war story about a woman who takes her husband’s place on the battlefield.  Why does she do this?  Will she come home?

INTERESTING TIDBIT:  The author grew up on a farm in southern Indiana.   The novel is based on letters he found in the barn.

BLURBS: Paul Auster, Kevin Powers

COMPARISONS:  Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier), Winter’s Bone (Daniel Woodrell)

PUBLICATION DATE: September 9, 2014

MY TAKE:  If editor Kendall didn’t sell me on this book, I’m more likely to read it because of Paul Auster’s blurb: “A spare, beautiful novel . . . had me under [its] spell from the first word of Neverhome to the last. Magnificent.”

On Immunity by Eula Biss

Jeffrey Shotts, Executive Editor, Graywolf Press


SYNOPSIS:  An investigation of the fears and myths surrounding the subject of vaccinations.    Diseases that were irradiated are now resurfacing as a result of people who have stopped vaccinating their children.  Editor Shotts explained that it is mainly college educated white, upper middle class people who have the greatest fears about inoculation.  The book brings in Patton, Defoe, Candide, Dracula, Dr. Bob and many more references into the discussion.

INTERESTING TIDBIT:  (1) The author, a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, grew interested in the when she became a mother and was dealing with her own fears. (2) The editor’s name is Shotts.

COMPARISONS:  Susan Sontag (On Photography), Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed), Andrew Solomon (Far From the Tree)

PUBLICATION DATE: September 30, 2014

MY TAKE:  This is a very timely subject.  Jon Stewart even had a whole piece on it last night featuring Samantha Bee.  I find the subject very interesting, but am not sure I will get around to this one.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs


Colin Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, Scribner with


SYNOPSIS:    Robert Peace was charismatic, smart, well-liked and a Yale University graduate with a degree in microbiology.  He was also an African American who died at the age of 30 as the result of a drug-related murder.  Colin Harrison described this book as overwhelming and claustrophobic.  One that hits the reader at a primal level.  It races questions about poverty, race and education.

INTERESTING TIDBIT:  The author of the book was Robert Peace’s roommate at Yale for 2 years.

COMPARISONS:  Random Family

PUBLICATION DATE: September 23, 2014

MY TAKE:  I am putting this on my TBR list, though I can tell I will find the book sad and frustrating.