This month, we're lucky enough to welcome journalist and author Sarah Smarsh to the shop to discuss and sign her new memoir of growing up poor in rural America, Heartland. Heartland is Valerie's pick for book of the year; it was also just longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. So get out the pen and circle the date on your calendar—Sarah visits us on September 20, and we can't wait to see you there. In the meantime, tide yourself over by reading the conversation between Sarah and Valerie below.
If you've been following our blog for long, you know that we usually try to come up with a clever theme that ties together our staff reviews. Unfortunately, all we've got right now is that three of our favorite new releases were written by authors named Sarah. So much for that.
Theme or no theme, the books are magnificent. We've got two hilarious titles for kids by a pair of our favorite authors out there. (Bob Shea reached out after Hurricane Harvey and helped raise over $10,000 to donate to schools and libraries that were impacted by the flood. Mac Barnett is both extremely kind and side-splittingly funny.) Next up, a pair of fantastic works of fiction—one by Texas author and dear friend of the shop >>>Sarah<<< Bird, and the other a fascinating work in translation that's already claimed a Man Booker Prize. Finally, two new nonfiction books deserve a spot on your shelves. One tackles the dark real-life inspiration behind Lolita. The other is a devastating memoir of growing up poor in rural America. Both, for whatever it's worth, were written by Sarahs.
Many people know us for our kids' section. We embrace that. Good writing for children, after all, is what turns people into readers in the first place. So it's safe to say that we're pretty excited for Harbor Me. That's the name of the first middle grade novel that Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Children's Literature, has written since her National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming. To us, it's pretty much the kids' publishing event of the year. Even better? Woodson went and wrote another book—this one a picture book—and she's releasing it on the same day. What a time to be alive!
Of course, we're still making plenty of room for other books, too. Just check our list of recent favorites—whether you're in the mood for seafaring YA action-adventure, historical American epics, or darkly funny (and very strange) short stories, we've got just the thing you're looking for.
There are some authors we have the distinct joy of seeing again and again. Authors like Gabrielle Zevin, say, who has graced our shop on each of her book tours. We can hardly go three months without bringing Mac Barnett to the shop. Sarah Bird, Jennifer Mathieu, Katherine Applegate... the list goes on.
Houston's own Katharine McGee is one of those frequent Blue Willow fliers. We've hosted the launch party for each new release in her Thousandth Floor YA trilogy, those bestelling founts of primetime drama, glitzy glamour, and breathless romance. The final book in the series, The Towering Sky, comes out later this month. Which means that—you guessed it—we get to throw another launch party for this longtime friend of the store. (Not to mention a juicy pre-order campaign that you really shouldn't miss out on.)
August 29th is the date in question—we're looking forward to seeing you there. In the meantime, catch up with Katharine by reading our Q&A.
Here at the shop, we love a book that makes us laugh. Or cry, for that matter. This week, we’re featuring six wonderful titles that will achieve at least one of those outcomes—and a few of them will probably manage both. For kids, we have some hilarious new picture books in stock, featuring clever prose and delightful illustrations. A little older? We can steer you towards a terrific high school rom-com from Maggie Lehrman that will have you staying up late to see what happens next. And then there are the novels. Poignant and funny and altogether relatable, we think you’ll love the latest books from Anstey Harris, Kristan Higgins, and Joanna Cannon. Once you’ve finished reading, be sure to stop in and let us know—we’re dying to talk about these titles. Happy browsing, friends.
Here at the shop, we've been big fans of Bob Shea since we first saw his work over ten years ago. Bob has delighted us again and again with hilarious stories full of colorful characters like Dinosaur, Unicorn, Ballet Cat, and Cheetah. What can we say? We're a book store. We love people who write and illustrate wonderful books. But then there's this other thing about Bob, too: When Hurricane Harvey hit last fall, Bob was one of the first people to reach out to the shop and offer to help. His idea? A donation program to support area schools affected by the hurricane, with each donor receiving a hand-drawn unicorn. Thanks to him, we raised more than $10,000 to rebuild school and classroom libraries. So it's safe to say that Bob Shea is a pretty cool guy.
Which is why we're so excited that he's coming to visit us. We can't wait to welome Bob to the shop on September 18 (which happens to be the release date of his new picture book Crash, Splash, or Moo!). We encourage you all to stop by, hear all about his wonderful new book, and show how much the city appreciates his generosity. Circle those calendars! In the meantime, check out our fun Q&A.
Most people know Mac Barnett as an acclaimed children’s book author responsible for titles like Triangle and The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse. But his forthcoming memoir for young readers, Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover, divulges that he’s much more than that. The explosive revelation at the book’s center—that Barnett spied for the Queen of England as a child—is sure to set the literary world alight when the book is published this fall. We’re lucky enough to welcome Mr. Barnett to the shop on his memoir’s release date, September 11. In the meantime, slake your curiosity by reading our revealing Q&A with the international-superspy-turned-author.
(*Ed. note: Portions of the following conversation have been redacted by official government agencies. We're working with our legal team to declassify the material.)
It's been a wonderful summer for the novel. From quiet family dramas to sweeping literary epics, from chilling mysteries to breezy summer loves, we've barely been able to keep up with the glut of great reads sailing through the shop. This week, we're shining a light on a particularly wonderful batch of books. The Incendiaries, R.O. Kwon's debut tale of finding (and losing) love and faith won the approval of booksellers across the country—it's the number one pick on the August Indie Next List. Or settle in with a good mystery: We've got a modern choice in Ghosted by Rosie Walsh, or an old-school, hardboiled throwback to Philip Marlowe by the incredible Lawrence Osborne. Want to meet some well-drawn characters? Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Louis de Bernières will pull you into the lives of their cast and tug on your heartstrings in the best of ways. Follow the heavier stuff up with the delightfully frothy The Shortest Way Home, and you'll move through the day with a smile on your face. Dig in, friends.
Back by popular demand... last night was our second annual "Beat the Heat" event with Liz and Brian, our publisher reps from Random House and Penguin (and two of our favorite people in the universe). Thank you to everyone who absolutely packed the bookstore and listened in as Liz and Brian shared some of their favorite new and upcoming reads. We think we have a tradition on our hands!
Liz and Brian shared twenty wonderful books last night—ten that you can find on our shelves now, and ten you'll have to wait for. We've compiled the master list here, in order of release date. If you're in charge of choosing the next read for your book club, all we can say is this: Good luck.
Houston author and dear friend of the shop Varsha Bajaj is on some kind of roll. When she's not in the news for scoring an exciting #ownvoices publishing deal with Nancy Paulsen, she's penning delightful middle grade novels. And when she's not doing that, she's creating incredible picture books. Her next release in that last category is called The Home Builders, and it's hitting shelves on February 12. It's a beautiful story with beautiful illustrations, and we can't wait to help Varsha launch the book here at the shop in February. We're delighted to reveal illustrator Simona Mulazzani's gorgeous cover below. Bask in its loveliness for a minute or two, then keep scrolling to read our Q+A with Varsha. Then, pre-order your copy at the bottom of the page. Trust us on this one: It'll hold a special place on your shelf for a long time.