Editors’ Picks | LJ’s Day of Dialog 2014

Although the venue for LJ‘s 17th annual Day of Dialog, held May 28, was shifted from McGraw-Hill’s ground-level auditorium to the company’s executive dining room on the 50th floor (the views were fantastic!), the grand old tradition of starting the event with the ever-popular Editors’ Picks Panel continued this year unchanged. With Prepub Alert editor Barbara Hoffert as moderator, five editors from the major publishing houses presented their key titles for Fall 2014/Spring 2015.

The focus this year was heavily on fiction, with major releases from acclaimed literary  authors Richard Ford (Let Me Frank with You) and Jane Smiley (Some Luck), notable debuts by Jessie Burton (The Miniaturist) and Tiphanie Yanique (Land of Love and Drowning), and breakout buzz books by Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven) and Keith Donohue (The Boy Who Drew Monsters). Hot trends in romance—small town contemporaries, spicy erotic romance, smart sexy historicals, and romantic suspense (“the most exciting voices”)—were also highlighted, much to the delight of romantic librarians.

The six nonfiction titles presented ranged the gamut from a memoir (The Prince of Los Cocuyous) by the first openly gay poet to read at a presidential inauguration and culinary lessons by the editor of Food & Wine magazine (Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen) to cultural explorations of South Korea (The Birth of Korean Cool)  and Scandinavia (The Almost Nearly Perfect People).

Below is a rundown of the 30 highlighted titles with editorial comments.

Lee Boudreaux, VP, Editorial Director, Ecco: HarperCollins

  • Lauren Oliver, Rooms (Ecco, September). Best-selling YA author Oliver makes her adult fiction debut with a “fantastic twist on the classic haunted house story. When I was reading  the manuscript, I knew I was in the hands of a plotting master.”
  • Jesse Burton, The Miniaturist. (Ecco, August). This debut historical novel about a young bride in 17th-century Amsterdam offers comparisons to Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of Lost Things.“The atmosphere is exquisite, and the wonderful descriptions make readers feel like they are in an Old Masters painting.”
  • Richard Ford, Let Me Be Frank with You: A Frank Bascombe Book. (Ecco, November). After his magisterial novel Canada, Ford returns to his Frank Bascombe character from his Sportswriter trilogy with four novellas set in New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. These portraits of a man looking back at his life are “magnificently written, tender, generous, and elegiac.”
  • Richard Blanco, The Prince of Los Cocuyous: A Miami Childhood (Ecco, September). The richardblancoyoungest, first immigrant, and first openly gay inaugural poet (he read at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration) has written a “vibrant and hilarious” coming-of-age memoir set in 1970s Miami. “He’s a very sought-after speaker, and we expect significant media attention when the book comes out. People are very interested in his life.”
  • Dana Cowen, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes. (Ecco: October).The editor-in-chief of Food and Wine magazine has spent her life bringing the culinary arts to the page, and yet she is something of a disaster in the kitchen until she takes cooking lessons from 65 celebrity chefs. “Every recipe gives a twist, secret, or short cut that will bring cooks to a greater level of success.The book is also filled with hilarious anecdotes and amazing personal moments with these chefs.”
  • Ron Rash, Above the Waterfall. (Ecco, November 2014). Boudreaux has published Rash since his 2008 novel Serena (now adapted into a forthcoming film starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence). “Ron takes us back to Appalachia in a contemporary novel where the meth plague has undermined a small rural community. A sheriff investigates an act of mischief. Is it terrorism?”
  • Smith Henderson, Fourth of July Creek and Josh Malerman’s Bird Box (both Ecco, available now). These debuts by Boudreaux’s “boys of summer” have already garnered rave reviews. Malerman’s horror novel is being compared to classic Stephen King.
  • Skip Horack, The Other Joseph (Ecco, coming 2015). Horack’s second novel focuses on a registered sex offender who discovers that his late brother may have left a daughter and goes searching for the only relative he has left. “The spiritual godfather of this book is Russell Banks.”

Robin Desser, VP, Editorial Director, Knopf: Penguin Random House

  • Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Knopf, October). The first book in Smiley’s “The Last 100 Years Trilogy” chronicles the lives of an Iowa farm family over three transformative decades from the 1920s as America emerges from World War I through the 1950s with the country on the cusp of major social and economic changes. “This is a stunning achievement that is so wide in scope and yet remains so intimate.”
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Knopf, September). Mandel’s fourth novel, won in a stationelevenheated auction and a BEA Buzz Book, is positioned to be her big breakout book. “Opening with Shakespeare and closing with Bach, it unfolds a vision of the end of the world and opens up to reveal the joys of ordinary life. This book reinvents the dystopian trope and makes you love the life you have in such a fantastic way.”
  • Maeve Binchy, Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words (Knopf, October). The late author never wanted to write an autobiography (“my family belongs to my family”), but this carefully selected collection of Binchy’s newspaper columns from the Irish Times is the closest thing to a memoir. “She wrote about anything and everything, and her columns offer a close-up view of the world that Maeve lived in. What’s amazing is how fresh and undated these columns are.”
  • Gail Gutradt, In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opat (Knopf, August). Brought to Desser’s attention by author Pico Iyer, the author’s memoir of working at a Cambodian orphanage for children with or orphaned by HIV/AIDS completely disarmed and surprised Dresser. “This was a yes for me because of Gutradt’s warm and funny voice. She writes so transparently and beautifully that I found it hard to believe that this was by a first-time writer.”

Leah Hultenschmidt, Editorial Director, Forever, Forever Yours: Grand Central Publishing

  • Jill Shalvis, It’s in His Kiss (Forever, August); He’s So Fine (Forever, September); One in a shalvisMillion (Forever, October). In the small-town contemporary category, Shalvis’s new trilogy in her “Lucky Harbor” series revolves around three hot dudes who own interrelated businesses in a charming coastal town in the Pacific Northwest. “Shalvis is going to appeal to your broader romance readership. Readers who love Nora Roberts but don’t read romances will enjoy Shalvis.”
  • Jodi Ellen Malpas, One Night Promised (Forever, August); This Man; Beneath This Man:This Man Confessed (Forever, available now). Last summer. Malpas exploded on the erotic romance scene with a self-published novel, This Man, that became a New York Times best seller. Having acquired that title and the other two books in the trilogy, Grand Central is launching Malpas’s new “One Night” trilogy with a sexy romance about a one-night affair. “Malpas brings out the heat, but she also makes you care about the characters.”
  • Elizabeth Hoyt, Darling Beast (Forever, October). “It takes a strong writer to stand out in the crowded historical category, and Hoyt is one of the best. None of her books have that cookie-cutter feel.” The new entry in her “Maiden Lane” series is a retelling of the myth of the Minotaur.
  • Shelley Coriell, The Broken (Forever, available now). “The first book in Coriell’s new romantic suspense series is perfect for fans of Lisa Gardner and Mary Burton.”
  • Rebecca Zanetti, Sweet Revenge (Forever, June). “Zanetti is a star on the rise. Her spicier romances could be described as the Bourne books meet Romancing the Stone. She’s going to have a huge impact on the market next year.”
  • Kirstin Ashley, The Gamble (Forever, May); Law Man; Fire Inside (Forever, available now). Ashley is a master at giving romance readers what they want—hot, alpha larger-than-life male heroes.These happen to ride motorcycles in her new “Colorado Mountain” series.

Sarah McGrath, VP, Executive, Riverhead: Penguin Random House

  • Jean Kwok, Mambo in Chinatown (Riverhead, July). Kwok’s tale of a young Chinese American woman caught between her family duties and her love of ballroom dancing will appeal to the same audience that loved her debut novel, Girl in Translation. “It’s an insightful and meaningful read with great appeal to high school readers as well.”
  • Tiphanie Yanique, Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead, July). This award-winning tiphanieyaniqueshort-story writer makes her fiction debut with an epic saga about three generations of three families in the Virgin Islands. “Her writing is lyrical and poetic; her plot is romantic, magical, and shocking.”
  • René Steinke, Friendswood, (Riverhead, August). The plot of Steinke’s third novel revolves around an environmental tragedy in a small Texas town.”Steinke has written a suspenseful, heartbreaking story that will appeal on a broad level.”
  • Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train (Riverhead, March 2015). This debut thriller by a British author has attracted great in-house buzz, partly due to the addictive premise and partly to the Hitchcockian premise. “You know you have something special when your book is the subject of the water cooler talk.”
  • Anna Freeman, The Fair Fight (Riverhead, January 2015). Set in the world of female pugilists in the 18th century, this picaresque debut recalls Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin. Two female protagonists, one born in a brothel, the other in a manor, find a sense of identity and purpose in boxing.”There is terrific warmth and humor to the writing.”

Stephen Morrison, VP, Publisher, Picador: Macmillan

  • Sally O’Reilly, Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady (Picador, June). Very little is known about England’s first female published poet, but O’Reilly transforms the bits and pieces of the historical records into an “entertaining and satisfying” read.
  • Richard House, The Kills (Picador, August). This ambitious multi-arc work (four novels published as one) published  drew lots of buzz in the UK last year when it was longlisted for the Booker. Comparisons have been made to John le Carré and Roberto Bolaño, and the book has been optioned by the HBO producer of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. “It’s really quite amazing, but not for everyone.”
  • Euny Hong, The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop koreancoolCulture (Picador, August). The Korean-born journalist was raised in the States and went back to South Korea in the 1980s. Her book is a cultural look at how Korea went from being a third-world country to a first-world nation in 20 years. “What is really special is Hong’s voice is bright and funny like Sarah Vowell or Margaret Cho.”
  • Keith Donohue, The Boy Who Drew Monsters. (Picador, October). After an unhappy publishing experience with his last two novels, Donohue returns to the creepy literary horror that marked his acclaimed debut, The Stolen Child. “We are going to save him from obscurity with this new novel. Keith is truly talented.”
  • Stephen Collins, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (Picador, October). Picador’s second graphic novel after Paul Auster’s City of Glass is a Tim Burtonish adult fable that will appeal to a variety of readers.
  • Michael Booth, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia (Picador, February 2015). Booth’s portrait of Scandinavian society and politics will stimulate a lot of debate. Is the region a model for how societies and governments are built?



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.