Run Your Week: Big Books, Sure Bets, & Titles Making News, Jan. 21, 2020 | Book Pulse

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins leads holds this week. It is also getting wide coverage. People’s Book of the Week is Followers by Megan Angelo. Lee Child will stop writing the Jack Reacher books. His brother will take over writing duties. The preliminary ballot  for the Stoker Awards is out. The National Archives digitally altered historic photographs of the 2017 Woman’s March.

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Big Books of the Week

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron: Macmillan; LJ starred review) leads holds this week.

Other titles in demand include:

A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America by Philip Rucker, Carol Leonnig (Penguin)

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (Ballantine: Random House)

House on Fire by Joseph Finder (Dutton: Penguin; LJ starred review)

Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis (William Morrow Paperbacks: Harper)

Librarians and Booksellers Suggest 

There are two LibraryReads titles for the week and both are also Indie Next choices:

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (Ballantine: Random House)

“A sweeping epic grounded in fact. In 1939, a Spanish family escapes the brutal rise of Franco and is brought by poet Pablo Neruda to Chile, only to see that country fall to its own dictatorial regime. Allende shows how, in an often cruel world, refugees can find homes in the hearts of one another. A profound and satisfying novel.” —Jill Minor, Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA

“Isabel Allende’s latest novel couldn’t come at a better time for American readers heading into an election season. With immigration and desperate people seeking asylum as its central narrative thread, the novel reminds us of the uncanny resiliency of the human spirit and the power of love — both of others and of country — to restore and heal. From his awe-inspiring feat in the novel’s opening pages to his persistence in the face of a lifetime of adversity, cardiologist Victor Dalmau will live long and well in readers’ minds.” —Kelly Barth, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron: Macmillan; LJ starred review)

“A literary thriller chronicling the migration of a mother and her young son. Under threat, Lydia and Luca leave their middle-class life in Acapulco and begin a traumatic journey to the border, evading cartels, thieves, corrupt police, and others forced into malevolent behavior by extreme violence and poverty. For readers who enjoyed The Other Americans (Laila Lalami) and And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini).” —Molly Riportella, Westwood Public Library, Westwood, MA

American Dirt is a beautiful, heartbreaking odyssey, a vivid world filled with angels and demons, one I only wanted to leave so I could get my heart out of my throat. Cartel violence sends a mother and her son careening north from Acapulco toward the relative safety of the United States, and every moment of their journey is rendered in frantic, sublime detail. Danger lurks around the corner of every paragraph, but so does humanity, empathy, and stunning acts of human kindness. You will feel the toll of every mile, the cost of every bullet, and the power of every page. A wonder.” —Thatcher Svekis, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Santa Monica, CA (It is the No. 1 pick for the month).

There are three additional Indie Next picks coming out this week as well:

Homie: Poems by Danez Smith (Graywolf: Macmillan)

“In their third collection, Danez Smith shakes to life the parts of people that have gone to sleep waiting for this time in the world to be over. Those emotions that raise up too much anger or grief — all of them are alive again and seen and spoken for with utmost care and a tremendously welcome sense of humor. Pick this book up and carry it with you everywhere. It can be like a video game heart for you, and who doesn’t need an extra heart?” —Luis Lopez, Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, MN

The Seep by Chana Porter (Soho Press: Random House)

The Seep describes a sort of utopia set in a near future devoid of capitalism, violence, and the general evils of the world. Here, everyone and everything (humans! trees! buildings!) is connected through an alien entity called The Seep, and pain of any kind is easily mended. This is an entirely surreal reading experience that explores identity — queer and racial, self and inherited — in an organic and necessary manner. A must-read for everyone.” —Avery Peregrine, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Hachette)

“In this thoughtful and immersive chronicle of the 1980 murders that thrust West Virginia’s Pocahontas County into the national spotlight, Eisenberg seeks to better understand not only the crimes and their aftermath, but also the lasting impact the region (which she came to know independent of her inquiry) had on her. A complex and captivating read, The Third Rainbow Girl weaves true crime with memoir to stunning effect.” —Tove Holmberg, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR

These books and others publishing the week of Jan. 20, 2020 are listed in a downloadable spreadsheet.

In The Media

People’s Book of the Week is Followers by Megan Angelo (Graydon House: Harper). Other titles in demand include Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener (MCD: Macmillan) and Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin’s Press: Macmillan). There is also a future on “Great New Thrillers.” It includes The Secret Guests by Benjamin Black (Henry Holt: Macmillan; LJ starred review), The Tenant by Katrine Engberg (Gallery/Scout Press: S. & S.), and How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann (Berkley: Penguin).


The NYT twice reviews American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron: Macmillan; LJ starred review). Author Lauren Groff writes “I find myself deeply ambivalent. Perhaps this book is an act of cultural imperialism; at the same time, weeks after finishing it, the novel remains alive in me. When I think of the migrants at the border, suffering and desperate, I think of Lydia and Luca, and feel something close to bodily pain. “American Dirt” was written with good intentions, and like all deeply felt books, it calls its imagined ghosts into the reader’s real flesh.” The daily reviewer Parul Sehgal wites: ”does the book’s shallowness paradoxically explain the excitement surrounding it? The tortured sentences aside, “American Dirt” is enviably easy to read. It is determinedly apolitical. The deep roots of these forced migrations are never interrogated; the American reader can read without fear of uncomfortable self-reproach. It asks only for us to accept that “these people are people,” while giving us the saintly to root for and the barbarous to deplore — and then congratulating us for caring.” Also, A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (Ballantine: Random House): “as in much of Allende’s fiction, there is the sense that every human life is an odyssey, and that how and where we connect creates the fabric of our existence: the source of our humanity.” The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Hachette): “an evocative and elegantly paced examination of the murders that takes a prism-like view of the crime." What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She by Dennis Baron (Liveright: W. W. Norton; LJ starred review): “a scrupulous and absorbing survey. Its great virtue is to show that these issues are nothing new: Gender-neutral pronouns like “ze,” “thon” and “heer” have been circulating since the mid-19th century; others as far back as 1375.” Also, Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases edited by Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman (Avid Reader: S. & S.; LJ starred review): “the A.C.L.U. deserves to take a victory lap for its many indisputable acts of heroism, and to put out of mind, for the moment, the uncertain road forward.” Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford (Scribner: S. & S.; LJ starred review): “if a story is to be this fast-paced, it ought to be more explicit about its intentions; all the subconscious, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them allegories give the feel of a maddening puzzle.” Recipe for a Perfect Wife by by Karma Brown (Dutton: Penguin; LJ starred review): “it’s easy to keep turning the pages.” Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight To Save America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch (Knopf; LJ starred review): “In the vertiginous twists and turns of a remarkable career, Ravitch has let go of some admirable intellectual practices and well-founded convictions. She would be wise to recover them.” There is a joint review of three Israeli novels. Lastly, two excerpts. One of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron: Macmillan; LJ starred review) and one of A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (Ballantine: Random House).

The Washington Post reviews Little Gods by Meng Jin (Custom House: Harper): “ambitious, formally complex … a bold first step for a novelist who promises to give us even finer work in the future.” Also, The Great Rift: Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and the Broken Friendship That Defined an Era by James Mann (Henry Holt: Macmillan): “a useful summary for those who didn’t live through the period at close range, and it offers some new nuances for those who did.” Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter (Bloomsbury: Macmillan): “this fascinating account of what happens to that sweater you bag for Goodwill or the totaled car your insurance company writes off, is eye-opening — and even surprisingly hopeful.” The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President by Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld (Random House): “The world Trump came from explains much about the president and offers a few (terrifying) insights into how much lower American politics might still sink.” Sidney Lumet: A Life by Maura Spiegel (St. Martin’s: Macmillan): “ultimately superficial.” Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church edited by Chrissy Stroop and Lauren O'Neal (Epiphany): “a document of collective pain and loss… traces a broader social phenomenon.”

NPR reviews Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (FSG: Macmillan): “exquisite … This writer understands beauty and loss, sorrow and hope, his fluid writing making the telling seem effortless.” Also, Little Gods by Meng Jin (Custom House: Harper): “This is a smart and emotionally devastating novel. It is also a gritty narrative that reveals the inner universe of two women in detail, while still leaving us full of questions.” The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao (Atria: S. & S.): “it's shocking how enjoyable and delicious this dark, disturbing novel was, and that unease will sit with me for a long time to come.” Agency by William Gibson (Berkley: Penguin): “His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.”

 Briefly Noted

Lee Child will stop writing the Jack Reacher books. His brother will take over writing duties. The Guardian reports. The story first broke in The Times.

The National Archives digitally alters historic photographs of the 2017 Woman’s March displayed in an exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage. The images were not from the archives, but licensed for the display. The Washington Post has details. The story generated thousands of comments. After the news broke the Archives apologized and removed the images. The NYT has that part of the story.

USA Today picks its books of the week.

The February Indie Next list is out.

The Stoker Awards preliminary ballot is out. The short list will be announced on Feb. 23, and the winners in April.

BookPage picks its most anticipated books of the year.

EarlyWord’s GalleyChat Roundup has been posted.

LJ features poetry in its most recent collection development feature.

Book Marks offers “AudioFile's Best Audiobooks of January.” Here is the site’s own Earphone Winners for the month.

Electric Lit suggests “9 Books that Celebrate the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The NYT suggests “9 Books to Help Calm an Anxious Toddler” and “7 Great Contemporary Novels for Teenagers.”

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (G.P. Putnam’s Sons: Penguin; LJ starred review) is the BuzzFeed February book clup pick.

Joanna Kavenna, Zed (Doubleday: Random House), suggests “Five Great Works of Absurdist Fiction” for Lit Hub.

Entertainment Weekly excerpts the new Nancy Drew prequel, Nancy Drew: The Curse (Media tie-in) by Micol Ostow, (Simon Pulse: S. & S.).

In more forthcoming book news, Rev. Al Sharpton is writing Rise Up: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads, due out on Sept. 15 from Hanover Square Press. USA Today has details. has a piece by Rita Woods: “An Ode to Black Science-Fiction & Fantasy Writers.”

Datebook features Peggy Orenstein, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity (Harper).

Entertainment Weekly interviews Anna Wiener, Uncanny Valley: A Memoir (MCD: Macmillan).

Vanity Fair interviews Saskia Hamilton, The Dolphin Letters, 1970–1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle (FSG: Macmillan).

Paste interviews Johnnie Christmas and Jack T. Cole, creators of the new comic Tartarus.

The L. A. Times writes about American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron: Macmillan; LJ starred review) and the question of “Who has the right to tell certain stories?

Time features What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She by Dennis Baron (Liveright: W. W. Norton; LJ starred review) as well as American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron: Macmillan; LJ starred review), and excerpts Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War by Vincent Brown (Belknap Press: Harvard).

Town and Country showcases Parents Under the Influence: Words of Wisdom from a Former Bad Mother by Cécile David-Weill (Other Press: Random House).

People highlights Cinderella Didn't Live Happily Ever After: The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales by Anne E. Beall (Independently Published).

Datebook features You Were Born for This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance by Chani Nicholas (HarperOne).

Entertainment Weekly has a reading guide to Maya Angelou.

O: The Oprah Magazine has a reading guide to Isabel Allende.

Book Riot has a reading pathway for Jen Sincero.

Gillian Anderson shares her cultural diet with the NYT, including the book The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Harper).

The Washington Post goes out on a limb to suggest that just maybe the self-help book Everyday Ubuntu: Living Better Together, the African Way by Mungi Ngomane (Harper Design) had something to do with Harry and Meghan's decision to step back from being senior royals.

The Guardian riffs off the news that there will be an Alexander Pushkin opening in St Petersburg in 2023. Here is the story from CLAD news.

LitHub has a 2020 Literary Events Calendar.

Helena Kennedy steps down from The Booker Prize Foundation.

Authors on Air

The NYT Book Review podcast features Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn (Knopf; LJ starred review) and World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind (Metropolitan Books: Macmillan).

NPR interviews Scott Simon, Sunnyside Plaza (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Hachette).

NPR’s Fresh Air features Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition): A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau: Random House).

BBC America has a first look at its Discworld adaptation, The Watch.

Deadline reports Epix is adapting Ken Follett’s A Column Of Fire as well as The Winter King based on the Bernard Cornwell’s trilogy. V.C. Andrews’s Ruby Landry novels are set for Lifetime. AppleTV + is promoting its adaptation of Defending Jacob based on the book by William Landay. ITV is adapting Catching the Bullseye Killer into The Pembrokeshire Murders.

The SAG Awards have a few book-related winners, including Joker, The Crown, Game of Thrones, The Morning Show, Fosse/Verdon, and Avengers: Endgame. Deadline has a full report.

PBS NewsHour reports on the Black Comic Book Festival.

The Today show featured Life Coaching for Successful Women: Powerful Questions, Practical Answers by Valorie Burton (Harvest House).

Normal People gets two trailers (this one from BBC Three). This one from Hulu

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