I am writing this from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where over 700 booksellers are gathered for the annual American Booksellers Association Winter Institute. Winter Institute is a time for independent booksellers to learn from each other, see authors talk about their upcoming books (Margaret Atwood in conversation with Erin Morgenstern!), and find out which books are getting the most buzz. I hope to come back to Santa Cruz with a reading list a mile high and the ability to share with you some of the great titles coming out this year. However, I didn't want to wait until Winter Institute to start reading new books, so I already have a number of recently published (and soon-to-be published) books that I'm excited about to share with you:
Marlon James' Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the book to watch in 2019. James describes it as an "African Game of Thrones" in which he "researched African history and mythology, constructing the foundation for a fantastical vision of the continent that would invert the monolithic 'Africa' invented by the West." The book is getting phenomenal reviews and packs a punch on bending stereotypes around genre, sexuality, and race. You can read a great profile in the New Yorker. Be sure to come out and hear from him at Bookshop's event on February 18th. Black Leopard, Red Wolf will be released on February 5th: Preorder your copy from Bookshop and receive an exclusive enamel pin, while supplies last.
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro tells the story of Shapiro's surprise 23andMe test that revealed that her father is not her biological father and therefore her identity—especially being raised deeply connected to her father's Judaism—may not be as defining as she has believed her entire life. This book moved me as it dove deep into issues about belonging, identity, family secrets, parenting, and the ties that bind in our ever connected world.
I just finished Mesha Maren's debut Southern noir novel Sugar Run and found it bursting with vivid descriptions of place and poverty in today's America. Jodi is just out of prison and trying to both escape and connect to her past as she crashes on her family's land in rural Appalachia. Maren shows us all sides of a deeply flawed person trying to make their way through all that life does or does not offer, and does so with vivid storytelling and honest introspection. Perfect for fans of Where the Crawdad's Sing or Heat & Light.
All in all, 2019 is off to a great start for reading. I look forward to coming back to Santa Cruz with stacks of books and buzz to share in the coming months.
Casey Coonerty Protti
Bookshop Santa Cruz