- Staff American-Statesman staff
Journalists love words, reading and all kinds of books. Our team at the Austin American-Statesman has been on the ground at the Texas Book Festival from the beginning — we’d attend purely as lovers of books, even if it wasn’t one of the biggest cultural events of the year in Austin. Here, we recommend some of the authors we’re excited to see at the fest. See the full schedule at the fest’s website. The festival is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 4 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 5, and most events are free and open to the public.
Jennifer Egan: It has been seven years since Egan’s last novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” so fans and critics are more than ready for “Manhattan Beach,” which follows three characters from 1930s New York across the war. It doesn’t sound quite as formally ambitious as “Goon Squad,” but the elegance of her prose makes this one of the year’s most anticipated novels.
Tom Gauld: The Scottish cartoonist is known for his oddly emotionally expressive stick figures and glorious wit. His most recent collection, “Baking With Kafka,” is his second set of cartoons drawn largely from his weekly strip in the Guardian’s Saturday Review section. His graphic novels “Goliath” (about the giant) and “Mooncop” (about, um, a cop on the moon) are recommended highly.
Tillie Walden: Ms. Walden is 21 years old. As in, just 21 years old. Her first graphic novel, “The End of Summer,” appeared when she was 19. Her newest, the door-stopper “Spinning,” is a memoir about competitive ice skating and sexuality with a command of comic grammar usually found in artists twice her age.
“What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism”: Longtime CBS newsman Dan Rather discusses his new book, a collection of essays about the strengths of the United States. In some cases, those strengths lie in such institutions as public libraries and national parks. In other cases, he writes, we can find unity in our values: in our faith in science and innovation and in our continuing struggles for civil rights. In this time of division, it should be refreshing to hear about unity. Moderated by Evan Smith.
“Da Vinci’s Life and Legacy” with Walter Isaacson: The author of new biography, “Leonardo Da Vinci,” as well as the author of the best-seller “Steve Jobs,” discusses the Italian genius who managed to straddle the worlds of art and science. In essence, Isaacson argues that Leonardo’s genius arose from his diverse passions, from peeling the flesh off of cadavers to better understand the human body to the illusions one could create in painting by exploring perspective.
“Everyone’s an Alien: So We May as Well Smile”: Jonathan Sun is one of those multi-hyphenates. His new book’s title looks like a typo — “everyone’s a aliebn when ur an aliebn too.” He’s also a doctoral student at MIT, a playwright and an artist and illustrator. His new book, which focuses on a lonely alien who has been sent to observe Earth and its inhabitants, is from Harper Perennial.
“Jennifer Egan in Conversation”: Pulitzer winner Egan, author of “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” talks with author and University of Texas professor Elizabeth McCracken about “Manhattan Beach,” which takes us into the wartime world of the Brooklyn Naval Yard and into the mystery of a young woman and the disappearance of her father. The new novel has been getting rave reviews.
“Tom Lea, Life Magazine, and World War II”: Authors Adair Margo and Melissa Renn discuss their new book about the famed Texas writer and artist. Margo owned the Adair Margo Gallery in El Paso from 1985 to 2010 and founded the Tom Lea Institute in 2009. Renn is an art historian and curator and written widely about “Life” magazine.
Libba Bray: YA fiction is no longer limited to middle school readers. If you like strong female heroines mixed with fantastical, supernatural plots, you need to check out Bray’s work.
Claire Messud: Messud’s previous novel, “The Woman Upstairs,” is one of those books that lingered in my mind long after I turned the final page. So I’m excited to see what she has to offer with “The Burning Girl.”
“With Great Power” panel: Jason Reynolds says he hates reading boring books; his gripping new novel in verse, “Long Way Down,” is anything but. With “Defy the Stars” author Claudia Gray.
“In the Gray Areas” panel: From a figure skater exploring her sexuality in Tillie Walden’s graphic memoir to Brandy Colbert’s spot-on take on teen mental health, the authors on this panel plunge into crucial conversations.
“Wildwood” creators and real-life couple Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis chat about “The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid,” their middle-grade novel about a band of child pickpockets.
Nathan Hale and his best-selling “Hazardous Tales” have imparted history to thousands of graphic-novel fans; he tackles World War II in “Raid of No Return.”
Kadir Nelson’s sumptuous illustrations have graced his own best-selling picture books, New Yorker covers and even Jason Reynolds’ new Spider-Man novel. He muses on “Illustrating American History” with fellow author/artist Don Tate.
The “Weird and Wacky Worlds” panel spotlights Kate Milford’s “Greenglass House” sequel, Michael Merschel’s otherworldly middle school and Sarah Mlynowski’s European vacation par excellence.
Adam Rex underscores the importance of inclusion in his newest picture book, the sassy, inviting “Nothing Rhymes With Orange.”
The “Kingdoms, Destinies and Dynasties” panel features “Beasts Made of Night,” Tochi Onyebuchi’s stunning, layered debut about a teenage sin-eater and the world he inhabits.
Expect a smart and lively discussion with talented “Wolves of Mercy Falls” and “Raven Cycle” series author Maggie Stiefvater, who digs into Latin culture and magical realism in “All the Crooked Saints”: The novel generated significant pre-pub online debate about her depiction of that culture.
National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson couldn’t have known how prescient his novella’s economic dystopia would be (“Landscape with Invisible Hand”); he’s joined by “Ship Breaker” series author Paolo Bacigalupi and Chandler Baker (“This Is Not the End”).
Tom Hanks: I haven’t yet dug into the first work of fiction — a collection of short stories called “Uncommon Type” — by this actor, producer, director and beloved American. But I imagine his conversation with writer Lawrence Wright will be as lively, funny and thoughtful as Hanks usually appears on screen and talk shows. Already sold out, so count yourself lucky if you snagged a $48 ticket; proceeds go to support the fest weekend, the fest’s school literacy program and library grants. The event will be livestreamed at some Alamo Drafthouse locations across the county. Check the fest’s site for details.
Luvvie Ajayi: She’ll make you laugh and she’ll make you think — about pop culture, gender and race equality, and social activism (check out awesomelyluvvie.com and “I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual”). She’s also very likely to inspire you to get up and take some action. If you miss her at Texas Book Festival, she’s been announced as a return speaker at South by Southwest in March.
Also: Attica Locke (“Bluebird, Bluebird”), Michael Corcoran (“All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music”), Julie Murphy (“Ramona Blue,” “Dumplin’”) and so many more.
Maggie Stiefvater: Stiefvater’s books (“Scorpio Races,” “The Raven Cycle” series) are about extraordinarily real characters dealing with magical circumstances, and her newest, “All the Crooked Saints” (released Oct. 10), is sure to be beautiful, painful and imaginative. Like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, Stiefvater often offers striking advice about storytelling, making her panel a great pick for curious readers and writers.
Gail Simmons: Padma Lakshmi brings the poise. Tom Colicchio brings the reality show bluster. But any “Top Chef” fan worth their pink Himalayan salt knows that Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons is the judge whose opinion you actually trust. When she says a congee is good, I believe that congee is good. The New York Post even named her the best reality TV judge in America. She knows food; she knows how to talk about it like a real person would; and her new cookbook, “Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating,” comes out this month.
Samantha Irby: The writer behind the hilarious/relatable/extremely lowercase blog Bitches Gotta Eat was brought to my attention by my best friend, who said that Irby’s “outlandish sex stories” felt like a privilege to hear at a BookPeople appearance promoting the essay collection “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.” Irby’s blog post about tattoos is a personal fave.
Sarah Dessen: To an adolescent girl in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sarah Dessen’s books were akin to the Bible and Judy Blume. She writes directly to the hearts of young girls, and I read her books voraciously as a preteen and teenager. Ever see “How to Deal” with Mandy Moore? Of course you did. It was based on two Sarah Dessen books. Her newest book, “Once and For All,” was released in June.
Amy Gentry: I’m a true-crime/thriller aficionado, and Amy Gentry’s “Good as Gone” was one of my favorite reads of the year. The novel is set in her hometown of Houston, and there’s something about a creepy book based in a city you know well that makes it seem even scarier.
Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket: Sure, he’s written countless other novels, and his latest, “All the Dirty Parts,” was released in August. They’re all great. But — this dude is Lemony Snicket. ’Nuff said.
Scaachi Koul: I bought Scaachi Koul’s “One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter” because the title was irresistible. What I found inside was thoughtful commentary on sexism, womanhood, fear and gender rules that left me thinking about Koul’s essays for months to follow.
Angie Thomas: I think about Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” every single day. It is a beautiful, horrifying account of what it’s like to be black in America — specifically, what it’s like to be a black teenage girl in America.
Honorable mentions that I’m sure others have already mentioned but I would be remiss if I didn’t: Maggie Stiefvater, Jennifer Egan, Anne Helen Petersen, Andrew Clements (he wrote “Frindle” and “The Landry News,” the latter of which is the literal reason I decided to become a journalist when I was 8).
Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis: Fans of Oregon indie-rock band the Decemberists will know Colin Meloy, as he’s the band’s lead singer and primary songwriter. Over the past six years, he’s also published three volumes of “The Wildwood Chronicles,” a series of adventurous children’s books featuring illustrations by his wife, Carson Ellis, who recently won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for her 2016 book “Du Iz Tak?”
Eddie Wilson & Jesse Sublett: “Armadillo World Headquarters: A Memoir,” published earlier this year, is the long-awaited deep dive from Wilson, who ran Austin’s most iconic music venue from 1970 to 1980. He enlisted the help of longtime Austin musician and writer Sublett, whose books have ranged from detective novels to historical research projects.
Geneive Abdo: Abdo is the rare journalist who becomes a scholar — and, she almost keeps secret, a University of Texas graduate and San Antonio native. Prior to authoring four books, Abdo was the first American reporter to be based in Iran (1998-2001) after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Melissa del Bosque: A riveting account of a transnational money laundering case done through purebred race horses by one of Mexico’s most fearsome cartels. Del Bosque is an investigative reporter who will give you all the juicy details.
Cristina García: This award-winning Cuban-American writer turns her keen eye and lyrical pen to post-war Berlin, a city haunted by its past yet emerging anew through immigrants from everywhere.
Paco Ignacio Taibo II: This prolific Mexican writer with more than 40 books to his name is a social commentator, historian and author most recently of the “Patria” series. He’s also written thrillers and the most read Che Guevara biography.
Christine Granados: Be delighted by this author from “El Chuco” (El Paso), with her wit, humor and deep observations about Mexican American women who live on the border.
Joel Salcido: This year’s Texas Book Festival’s poster is graced with the Southwestern landscape by this acclaimed photographer, who has also taken breathtaking photos of Spain, bulls, tequila and China.
Scaachi Koul: Whether she’s writing at Buzzfeed about how “A Series of Unfortunate Events” confirmed her outlook on life or how summer camp for adults is actually kind of awkward, Koul’s tone is vulnerable, yet sardonic. Her first essay collection, “One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter,” is much the same, mining Twitter, race, shopping and more for unexpected pathos and laughs.
David Abrams: With “Fobbit,” this Army veteran created a 21st century riff on “Catch-22,” set in Iraq. His follow-up, “Brave Deeds,” also set in Iraq, goes further in examining the men and women who fight America’s wars, and the toll that it takes on their humanity.
Walter Isaacson: A former CEO and chairman of CNN, Isaacson might be better known at this point for his biographies of some of America’s biggest historical figures, namely Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs. His new biography of Leonardo da Vinci examines the original Renaissance Man.
Anne Helen Petersen: Petersen, a senior culture writer at Buzzfeed, wrote her first book on old-school Hollywood scandals. Her latest, “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” examines the different ways a variety of female celebrities navigate feminism in the modern world.