October 20, 2014

Editors’ Picks Panel: 22 Great Titles | LJ Day of Dialog 2012

Nearly 230 librarians, authors, and publishers gathered for the 15th annual LJ Day of Dialog at McGraw-Hill on June 4. Designed to foster better communication and relationship building, the event also emphasizes the strength of the library market, not only for book purchases but as an engine for book sales and author discovery. This year’s Day of Dialog featured five presentations: Two author panels, a conversation with New York Times columnist Gail Collins, a conversation on digital collection development and best practices, and a perennial favorite, Editor’s Picks. See more from Day of Dialog.


Thrillers and first novels. History, in fiction and nonfiction. Serious sociological study and the story of a contentious rooster. All were among the top titles for the forthcoming seasons presented by top editors appearing at Day of Dialog’s ever-popular Editors’ Picks panel. The presentations swung wide, and they swung deep. Here’s a rundown.

Michael Pietsch, Executive Vice President and Publisher, Little, Brown, opened with The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown, Jul. 2012), a debut novel by Iraq vet and newly minted MFA Kevin Powers that Pietsch proclaimed the first great novel of the Iraq War. In the opening line, which one reader saw as akin to “Call me Ishmael,” two American soldiers make a pact not to let the war kill them.

Another first novelist, Shani Boianjiu, an Israeli citizen of Iraqi and Romanian descent who entered the Israeli Defense Forces at age 18, was a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree before she even completed her novel, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth: Crown, Sept. 2012). In fact, she’s the youngest person ever to have received that award.

Scribner Editor-in-Chief Nan Graham’s biggest book, and likely her most important, was National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity (Nov. 2012), a study of the relationship between identity and illness. It came in at 2400 pages and remains grand at just under 1000 pages. The book merits considerable online apparatus, including a reading group guide.

Another important book about contemporary culture: multiple award winner Jonathan Kozol’s Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America (Crown, Aug. 2012). And for a novelist’s-eye view of our culture, who could do better than Tom Wolfe, whose Back to Blood (Little, Brown, Oct. 2012) looks at America through the lens of multicultural Miami.

National Book Award finalist George Howe Colt’s Brothers: George Howe Colt on his Brothers and Brothers in History (Scribner, Nov. 2012) considers one kind of close relationship, while Susanna Sonnenberg’s fiercely precise reflection on mature female friendship, She Matters: A Life in Friendships, Jan. 2013), considers another. Graham commented that Sonnenberg had a tendency to leave TKs in her manuscript—not for facts to come but for the absolutely right word she had yet to find.

In Sean Ferrell’s literary time traveler, The Man in the Empty Suit (Soho, Feb. 2013), a man who routinely hops to 2071 to celebrate his birthday in a desolate New York City has a surprise when his 39th birthday comes ’round: he encounters his murdered 39-year-old self, which  makes for both thrills and gallows humor. In contrast, Mike Irwin’s The Skull and the Nightingale (Morrow, Jun. 2013) is the story of a risky promise made by a young man to his godfather as they take the Grand Tour in 1700s Europe. Morrow Executive Editor David Highfill likened it to Patrick Süskind’s Perfume.

Highfill said he loves both suspense and Southern literature, as exemplified by “the propulsion and the payoff” of writers like Pete Dexter and John Hart. So it’s appropriate that he opened with a summer 2013 novel from Wiley Cash, who just debuted with the successful A Land More Kind Than Home.

Cash’s new work features a down-and-out sort who kidnaps his two daughters when his estranged wife dies. Tom Franklin, author of the wonderful Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, joins with wife Beth Ann Fennelly for a “funny, sexy” new novel also coming in Summer 2013.

Written by Trudi Kanter, a hat maker in World War II Vienna who spirited her Jewish husband to safety, Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered (Scribner, Oct. 2012) was first published in England in 1984. Graham called it a “little gem.” A rediscovery of a different sort: Whitney Otto’s Eight Girls Taking Pictures (Scribner, Nov. 2012). Otto triumphed in 1994 with How To Make an American Quilt but has been less splashy since; her new book, about the struggles of women artists, promises to attract attention.

Set partly at a family estate on Martha’s Vineyard called the Tiger House, the debut novel Tigers in Red Weather (Little, Brown, Jul. 2012) by New York Times columnist Liza Klaussmann—a great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville—opens at the end of World War II and involves the interlocking lives of two cousins. Canadian prize winner Vincent Lam’s The Headmaster’s Wager (Hogarth: Crown, Aug. 2012) features the dissolute Chinese headmaster of an English school in war-ravaged Vietnam.

Stuart Neville, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for The Ghosts of Belfast, returns to Northern Ireland with Ratlines (Soho, Jan. 2013), which exemplifies the publisher’s preference for literary crime fiction. The prolific Michael Koryta returns with The Prophet (Little, Brown, Aug. 2012), a tale of two brothers divided by their sister’s death that has drawn comparisons to Mystic River.

Writer/producer/director Hank Steinberg (e.g., Without a Trace) offers some intense scenes from a marriage in Out of Range (Morrow, Summer 2013), which is strong on characterization. Miami Vice producer Dick Wolf’s untitled novel, another Morrow publication appearing in January 2013, is a rattle-your-bones thriller set in New York and features a killer elevator scene. Switching to horror, Scott Spenser also switches names to Chase Novak—in fact, he chose the name first—and offers Breed (Mulholland: Little, Brown, Sept. 2012), about the dreams of having children run amok.

In The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (Crown, Sept. 2012), Tom Reiss introduces us to the man who inspired Alexandre Dumas’s great classic—his father, a former slave who became a royal musketeer and eventually a noted general in Napoleon’s army. And about that rooster: after the death of his dog, Harry, award-winning journalist Brian McGrory fell for Harry’s vet, who has two daughters and a number of pets, including a raucous rooster named Buddy that proved to be the jealous sort. It’s all in Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man (Crown: Nov. 2012).

Below, a list of all the titles by editor.

Nan Graham, Editor-in-Chief, Scribner

  • George Howe Colt, Brothers: George Howe Colt on his Brothers and Brothers in History, November 2012
  • Trudi Kanter, Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered, October 2012
  • Whitney Otto, Eight Girls Taking Pictures, November 2012
  • Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, November 2012
  • Susanna Sonnenberg, She Matters: A Life in Friendships, January 2013

Juliet Grames, Senior Editor, Soho Press

  • Sean Ferrell, The Man in the Empty Suit, February 2013
  • Stuart Neville, Ratlines, January 2013

David Highfill, Executive Editor, William Morrow

  • Wiley Cash, Untitled Novel, Summer 2013
  • Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, Untitled Novel, Summer 2013
  • Mike Irwin, The Skull and the Nightingale, June 2013
  • Hank Steinberg, Out of Range, Summer 2013
  • Dick Wolf, Untitled Novel, January 2013

Michael Pietsch, Executive Vice President and Publisher, Little, Brown

  • Liza Klaussmann, Tigers in Red Weather, July 2012
  • Michael Koryta, The Prophet, August 2012
  • Chase Novak (aka Scott Spenser), Breed, September 2012
  • Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds, September 2012
  • Tom Wolfe, Back to Blood, October 2012

Molly Stern, Publisher, Crown/Hogarth

  • Shani Boianjiu, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, September 2012
  • Jonathan Kozol, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America, August 2012
  • Vincent Lam, The Headmaster’s Wager,  August 2012
  • Brian McGrory, Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man, November 2012
  • Tom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, September 2012
Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Book Review; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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