Editors’ Picks Panel | Library Journal’s Day of Dialog

Library Journal’s sold-out 16th annual Day of Dialog, held May 29 at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium, got off to a rousing start with the perennially popular Editors’ Picks panel. Five top editors from leading publishing houses shared their summer, fall, and winter favorites with an enthusiastic and packed audience of librarians eager to identify titles to add to their collections and book club reading lists.

While this panel has been always been a great venue for highlighting notable debuts, this year’s lineup included a number of acclaimed first-time novelists returning with outstanding sophomore efforts. Having depicted Frank Lloyd Wright’s tragic affair with the married Mamah Cheney in Loving Frank, Nancy Horan now turns to the little-known love story of Robert Lewis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny. Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt) delivers another touching Southern tale, and Anne Fortier (Juliet) mines the myths of the Amazons for her new novel.

New fiction releases from old favorites Mitch Albom, Wally Lamb, Luanne Rice, Lee Smith, and Sarah Dunant are sure to delight their many readers. Fans of Tony HIllerman’s Navajo cops Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee will rejoice in a new adventure from the late author’s daughter, and acclaimed literary novelist William Boyd dons the mantle of Ian Fleming with a new James Bond thriller. Sure to make a splash with librarians and their patrons are Koethi Zan’s chilling debut thriller that is being compared to Gone Girl, newcomer Emily Croy Barker’s fantasy that is described as The Magicians for girls, and Vivien Shotwell’s historical novel about Mozart’s affair with a young soprano.

On the nonfiction front,  novelists  Ann Patchett and Alice Hoffman respectively offer an essay collection and a compendium of hard-earned wisdom on how to live, while historical fiction author Alison Weir returns to her nonfiction roots with a biography of a Tudor queen (no, not Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I). Another biography, by brothers David and Joe Henry, is sure to cause a stir with its portrait of comedian Richard Pryor. Last but not least, some fascinating tomes on the myths of intelligence, the beauty of mathematics, the evolutionary basis of irrational behavior,  and other cerebral topics will keep science/psychology geeks and Malcolm Gladwell devotees in reading clover.

Below is a rundown of the 26 highlighted titles with editorial comments. .

Jonathan Burnham,
Senior Vice President, Publisher,

  • Mitch Albom, The First Phone Call from Heaven (Harper, November 2013). Another allegorical page-turner from the best-selling author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
  • Anne Hillerman, Spider Woman’s Daughter: A Leaphorn & Chee Novel (Harper, October 2013). The daughter of the mystery writer Tony Hillerman builds a new series around her father’s popular characters. “This is not just a tribute to Anne’s father but a remarkable suspense novel and a fine thriller in its own right.”
  • William Boyd, Solo (Harper, October 2013). James Bond returns in a smart and stylish espionage tale approved by the secretive and selective Ian Fleming estate. “Boyd is a fine literary writer who has written many different genres. Set in 1969 Africa, this novel has a touch of John le Carré as well as Ian Fleming.”
  • Wally Lamb, We Are Water (Harper, October, 2013) .”Wally is a writer unlike any other. His new novel about an American family is a masterpiece. It covers some very dark territory in a story that is also uplifting and transforming.”
  • Ann Patchett, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.(Harper, November 2013). This collection of essays traces the beloved novelist’s life: her childhood, her unhappy first marriage, her happy second  marriage, her career as a writer,  her deep love of dogs, and her decision to open a bookstore.”The writing is extremely intimate read and can almost be read as a memoir.”

Pamela Dorman,
Vice President, Publisher,
Pamela Dorman Bks: Penguin Group (USA)

  • Beth Hoffman, Looking for Me (Pamela Dorman Bks., May 2013). The best-selling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt  delivers another wonderful Southern novel. “This is a showcase for the way she’s grown as a storyteller. Plus there’s great decorator porn in this book.”
  • Koethi Zan.The  Never List (Pamela Dorman Bks., July 2013). This debut thriller about three kidnapped girls is also eerily similar to the recent Cleveland case. “I have never been so engrossed by such a creepy book. Don’t read this alone and don’t read it at night.”
  • Emily Croy Barker, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic (Pamala Dorman Bks., August 2013). Dorman is not a fantasy reader, but she was taken by this “richly imagined debut steeped in literature and fairy tales.” In an interesting side note, 20 years ago Barker was Dorman’s assistant.
  • Luanne Rice, The Lemon Orchard (Pamela Dorman Bks., July 2013). Another moving romance from a  popular author.
  • JoJo Moyes, The Girl You Left Behind (Pamela Dorman Bks., August 2013). “JoJo writes these amazing three-hankie love stories, and her follow-up to the best-selling Me Before You is just as romantic and compelling.”
  • Ann Mah, Mastering the Art of French Eating (Pamela Dorman Bks., September 2013). The sole nonfiction title on Dorman’s list, Mah’s account of her year alone in Paris while her diplomat husband was posted to Iraq has already received great endorsements from Peter Mayle and Patricia Wells,
  • Katherine Pancol. The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles ( Penguin, December 2013). Dorman describes this French best seller  as a cross between Le Divorce and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
  • Elizabeth Elo, North of Boston (Pamela Dorman Bks., February 2014). An atmospheric debut thriller set in Boston with a edgy heroine by a writer who could be the “next Dennis Lehane.”
  • Natalie Baszile, Queen Sugar (Pamela Dorman Bks. February 2014). Dorman has published a lot of Southern fiction but this is her first by an African American author. “This mother-daughter story of reinvention about two African American women who inherit a sugar plantation in Louisiana is going to be hugely popular.”

TJ  Kelleher,
Senior Executive Editor,
The Perseus Book Group, Basic Books

  • Leslie Valient, Probably Approximately Correct: Nature’s Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World (Basic Bks., June 2013)..A leading computer scientist explains why the theorems of machine learning are key to understanding life. “This is a book for serious nerds. It will revolutionize the way we think.”
  • Scott Barry Kaufman, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (Basic Bks., June 2013). A psychologist, who as a child landed in a special education course, addresses the science of intelligence and creativity and questions how we adopt such labels as “gifted.”  Kelleher notes that this is not only  “a cutting-edge science book but also a profoundly humane one.”
  • Douglas T. Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius, The Rational Animal:  How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think. (Basic Bks., September 2013)..A behavioral economist and business school professor argue that our irrational behavior, biases, and misjudgements have an evolutionary basis in an ancient rational system of decision-making.
  • Edward Frankel, Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. (Basic Bks., October 2013). The way we think about math is very utilitarian. The author, one of the world’s most  important mathematicians, wants readers to appreciate his science’s profound beauty. .
  • Matthew Hertenstein, The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths about Who We Are (Basic Bks., November 2013). A psychologist, who published  a paper predicting the likely chances of divorce based on expressions in college yearbook photos, shows how effective our intuition is for making  predictions.

Kathie Pories,
Senior Editor, 
Algonquin Books

  • Lee Smith, Guests on Earth (Algonquin, October 2013). Zelda Fitzgerald makes an appearance in Smith’s “marvelous Dickensian tale set at a mental hospital in Ashville, NC.”  But the novel is also about the doctors and the patients, including a 13-year-old girl who narrates the story. “Smith knows well  the geography of the Ashville landscape and of the mentally ill as her father and son were patients at this same hospital.”
  • Drew Perry, Kids These Days (Algonquin, January 2014). A favorite of Workman library marketing director Michael Rockliff, this  novel about a couple who move into their deceased aunt’s Florida condo shows humor and real tenderness in depicting their fears of parenting.
  • David Henry and Joe Henry, Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him (Algonquin, November 2013). Richard Pryor was a brilliant comedian who always pushed the envelope. This definitive biography has already received a wonderful endorsement from Cornel West, who once called Pryor “the most free black man of the 20th century.”
  • Lauren Grodstein. The Explanation for Everything (Algonquin, September 2013). The author’s third novel is bound to stir some lively book club discussions with its polarizing plot of a hard-core atheist and a college professor who is undone by a student who believes in intelligent design. “Grodstein is a sly writer, and this book challenged my most basic belief system.”
  • Alice Hoffman.Survival Lessons (Algonquin, October 2013) .For 40 years the novelist never found a reason to write nonfiction until she was diagnosed with breast cancer and couldn’t find the book she wanted to read. “This is a compendium of wisdom of how to spend your days. It is direct but not burdensom, moving but not treacly.”

Susanna Porter,
Vice President, Executive Editor,
Random House Publishing Group

  • Sarah Dunant, Blood & Beauty: The Borgias: A Novel (July 2013). In a departure for Dunant,  the novelist decided to use real historical figures.Said Porter, “It’s an ambitious story that sticks very closely to the truth and goes deeper than the Showtime series.”
  • Alison Weir. Elizabeth of York : A Tudor Queen and Her World (November 2013). The historical novelist returns to her nonfiction roots with this portrait of Elizabeth of York, who married Henry Tudor after the battle of Bosworth Fields. “She was the linchpin of the Tudor dynasty,” explained Porter.
  • Nancy Horan, Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Ballantine, January 2014). For her second novel the author of Loving Frank  found a fascinating story about another unlikely couple who were complete opposites, Scottish writer Robert Lewis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny. “This is an epic story that is set in the final years of the 19th century and ranges from France to California to Samoa.”
  • Vivien Shotwell, Vienna Nocturne. (Ballantine, February 2014). Drawing on historical fact, Shotwell makes her fiction debut with this tale of the doomed love affair between a young English  soprano and Mozart. “This is great writing with fascinating historical characters,” said Porter, who noted that the author has a master’s degree in opera performance and a master’s in writing from the University of Iowa. “Her love of music so informs the novel.”
  • Anne Fortier, The Lost Sisterhood  (Ballantine, March 2014). After basing her first novel on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the Danish-born author now turns to the legendary Amazons as inspiration for her new book. LIke Juliet, this title features past and present storylines, mixing actual history with the myths. “The Amazons were the world’s first feminists,” commented Porter. “This is intriguing new turf for a historical novelist.”


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Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams (wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com) is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.