Book Bites: These Books Have Our Heart

Love comes in all sorts of flavors. To you, love might mean sharing a hilarious new picture book about the power of friendship. Or it could mean curling up with a clever romance novel — check out two of Cathy's new favorites below. Perhaps you like your love a little more poignant. Gorgeous novels from Tayari Jones and Stefan Merrill Block have you covered there. If it's the love of a family you're after, Bryan Mealer's new memoir is the book for you. Whatever your flavor, our picks will help whet your appetite before Valentine's Day — read on.

Bryan Mealer on Oil Booms and Family Ties (and Family Curses)

It's hardly a secret that there's something special about Texas — our great state has long attracted the dreamers, the strong-willed, and the independent. The Mealer family, for example. In 1892, John Lewis Mealer moved his family of seven children from the hills of Georgia to the high desert of west Texas. In so doing, he set off a rollercoaster of happiness and sorrow that would shape his family's fortunes for years to come. Bestselling author Bryan Mealer, John Lewis' great-grandson, has charted that journey across four generations in a riveting new family memoir The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family's Search for the American Dream. The book comes highly recommended by our own Valerie Koehler (and by bestselling authors like Bryan Burrough, who describes it as "a Texas version of Hillbilly Elegy"). We think it's going to be a 20th-century classic.

Bryan Mealer is joining us in the store for a discussion and signing on Tuesday, February 13.

Stefan Merrill Block on 'Oliver Loving,' Tragedy, and Coming Home

Stefan Merrill Block, photo by Beowulf SheehanOliver Loving, the new novel from Texas-born author Stefan Merrill Block, follows the aftermath of a school shooting in a small West Texas town. It's a book that will break your heart in a thousand small ways—it's one of our favorites of the winter, as well as one of the most timely. For Block, who grew up in Plano during the heroin epidemic of the 1990s, it is also a deeply personal examination of the lingering effects that tragedy can cast over a community. Rather than focus on the immediate reaction—the flurry of news coverage, the investigations, the politics—Oliver Loving spools out over the long (and often unbearable) aftermath of unspeakable sadness. Through it all, Block deftly mixes love, family, humor, and grief to create a book that is at once tragic and hopeful—and altogether mesmerizing. 

We were thrilled to catch up with Mr. Block before his event with us on February 1 for an insightful Q&A. (We also encourage you to read his engrossing interviews in both Texas Monthly and the LA Times after you're through with ours.) Get used to hearing about this book—it's a perfect selection for any book club.

Did You Hear Our Big Event News?

I'm writing this today while I look out my hotel window at the Mississippi River. I'm in Memphis attending a book conference. Last night, I had the opportunity to visit the Civil Rights Museum on the grounds of the Lorraine Hotel. It was a profoundly moving experience. As I reflect on it, it saddens me to think that while we have progressed, we still have a long way to go in so many ways for so many people. If you ever visit Memphis, please promise you will stop there.

The bookshop remains busy while I am gone, with the staff preparing for an exciting slate of upcoming events. By now you may have seen that we have announced an event with Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Mr. Díaz has a gorgeous new picture book, Islandborn, coming out in March. We are so very excited.

Book Bites: Death, Dystopia, Old Hollywood, and Grandma's Purse

Well, Houston, we had another turn of bizarre weather this week. With the ice keeping many of us home, it was a cozy time to fall into books — and we’ve got the reviews to prove it.

Nothing’s better than really good fiction, and this week, we’ve got a great list of novels to recommend. From a fulfilling tale that follows four siblings who know the dates upon which they’ll die (The Immortalists) to a fictionalization of the friendship between old Hollywood star Mary Pickford and renowned female screenwriter Frances Marion (The Girls in the Picture), each pick promises unique delights. 

Meet Jasmine Guillory, Author of the Year's Most Charming Debut

Jasmine Guillory by Andrea Scher

It's tough to escape stereotypes. You get handed a romance novel, and you probably expect steamy scenes with a lot of tartan torn to shreds. At the very least, you think you can count on a pirate or two, or the hero getting called a "rake." That was before Jasmine Guillory, a Stanford-Law-grad-romance-novelist who's responsible for The Wedding Date, one of the most highly-anticipated books of the year. 

Obert Skye on Making Normal Funny

There's always a little magic in books by Obert Skye. Whether he's revealing the mysteries of the world of Foo or introducing us to another marvelous mashup in his hilarious Creature in a Closet series, we can count on Skye to reveal the power of imagination.

Skye's latest middle grade book, Geeked Out, starts a new post-apocalyptic spoof series that touches on tough topics like bullying while maintaining Skye's trademark cheek and humor. The book's out February 6, and Mr. Skye himself will visit the store on Saturday, February 10 to celebrate its release. Go ahead and pre-order your copy now—then read our Q&A with the author below!

Welcome, 2018: Notes from Valerie's Messy Desk

Welcome, 2018! Last year was quite a year for all of us, wasn't it? We hosted wonderful events, from Kwame Alexander to Ree Drummond. We had to close during the worst of Harvey. People from all over rallied behind us and helped donate books to shelters and schools. The Astros won the World Series! (But don't ask me how many times I've had to watch the replay of Game 7.) Our holiday season went so fast that we hardly had time to breathe.

Book Bites: We Love the Truly Devious Woman in the Window

Welcome to our first round-up of staff reviews in 2018! The holidays are always a great time to get some cozy reading in, and we certainly did. The new year has a lot of wonderful titles in store for you, and we’re very excited for the upcoming author events and reading festivals.

Come meet author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long of Love at the Bookworm Festival on February 3rd. Love is one of the most stunning picture books we’ve ever come across, and we know it’s going to have a special place in your home. Also on the docket: The intrepid Maureen Johnson will be at TeenBookCon on March 24th — check out her latest, Truly Devious, an awesome mystery that we couldn’t put down. Of course, there’s more magic below. Happy reading!