The festival may be over now, but I thought you'd enjoy reading about a few of my favorite moments from the weekend. Also, be sure to share your own experiences in the comments: Why do you like to go to book festivals? What's the most memorable author reading you've ever attended?
On Saturday, I was happy to meet Holly LeCraw, author of The Swimming Pool. I reviewed The Swimming Pool for BookPage's August debut roundup, and I suppose you would describe the story as a sexy literary thriller filled with lots of family drama—perfect for a winter weekend when you want to disappear for a few hours with a good read. I met LeCraw at the signing table and she couldn't have been nicer—and complimentary of BookPage!
A lucky break from my quest to talk with LeCraw was that I also got to meet Susanna Daniel, the author of Stiltsville, which was reviewed in BookPage's debut roundup, as well (and is now on my TBR list). The two authors spoke on a Saturday afternoon panel about "Plumbing the Depths (and Shallows) of Love" and had spots next to one another at the signing table.
Do you know you have a problem when you seek out an author twice in the span of a few months? Problem or not, I was glad I went to see Adam Ross read from Mr. Peanut (again), in part because Jim Ridley of the Nashville Scene gave a hilarious introduction in which he alleged that Ross does indeed hate women. (This is funny because the most common one-sentence description of Mr. Peanut seems to be "A novel about men who fantasize about killing their wives," although I suggest you read BookPage's review to get the bigger picture.) Ross read from the Sheppard section of the book, and though he said this was a section he hadn't yet read on the road—and that he read it at his wife's request—I was a bit disappointed that he didn't read from the point of view of another narrator. When I heard Ross at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, he read from a similar passage.
The best part of this session was getting Ross's take on the Sam Sheppard case, which inspired a portion of his novel. I was interested to hear that he has never contacted any of his characters who are based on living people, like Susan Hayes. And no—he won't say whether he thinks Sheppard was guilty.
Another highlight was seeing my mom meet Ron Rash, whose most recent book is the short story collection Burning Bright. My mom had recently chosen Rash's Saints at the River for her book club to read and was eager to praise the story's setting and themes, which led to a great conversation in her group.
Although introducing Louis Sachar and hearing him read from The Cardturner was a major thrill, my favorite part about moderating his session was observing his interactions with fans. Teachers, grandmothers, elementary school kids, college students . . . I couldn't believe the range of people who showed up to get books—sometimes boxes of books—signed by their favorite author.
Meeting authors is definitely a perk of book festivals, but my true favorite thing is seeing so many passionate readers in one place—and loaded down with books. My first day at the festival, while waiting to have books signed by Audrey Niffenegger, I met a gentleman who couldn't wait to get his copy of The Time Traveler's Wife autographed. He was carrying a bag of hardbacks that must have weighed 50 pounds. On the top was Island Beneath the Sea, which I reviewed for BookPage in April. (He must have been carrying that one for fun, since Isabel Allende was not at the festival.) So, we had a nice chat about Allende while we stood in line. How much do you love bonding with strangers over books?
Book festivals take place year-round, all around the country. For example, the Texas Book Festival starts on Saturday—will any readers of The Book Case be there?
Here at BookPage we are getting very excited about this weekend's Southern Festival of Books, held right here in Nashville.
It would be impossible to see everyone at the SFoB, but I am going to do my best to hear:
If you can't make it, follow the action live on Twitter with the #SoFest hashtag. Visit The Book Case next week for a report on all the festivities.
Mr. Peanut came out yesterday, and the BookPage staff rang in the publication at a packed reading/signing at Davis-Kidd Booksellers and a party at a local restaurant. Author Adam Ross is originally from New York, though he said Mr. Peanut is his "Nashville book" since he started working on it about 15 years ago after he moved to town with his wife.
In BookPage, reviewer Jillian Quint gave a perfect description of the novel: "Through three men’s interlocking though asymmetrical narratives, Mr. Peanut tells the story of all marital strife—with an emphasis on the ugly side, replete with violence, pain, inertia, manipulation, sexual longing and destruction." As you might imagine, the story is complex, and I won't describe it other than to say it's got one of the most interesting and unique structures I've seen in a book all year. (I finished it two nights ago and stayed up until 2 a.m. reading. Ross told me he thinks the book is best read in "chunks," and I agree—you won't want to put it down, anyway.)
If you have the opportunity to see Ross on tour, I would go for it, as Ross (a child actor—and you could tell from his expressive voice) was an entertaining reader and very engaged with the audience. See the cities he's visiting here.
Notoriously harsh Michiko Kakutani called Ross "an enormously talented writer" in the New York Times and Mr. Peanut "induced nightmares" in Stephen King. Last night, people who had either started or finished Mr. Peanut were noticeably excited about the book, and here at BookPage editors have been fighting over review copies. I think it's safe to say that Ross's debut novel is already a hit, and there will be many readers eagerly waiting for his next project: story collection Ladies & Gentlemen.
Have you read Mr. Peanut? Is it on your TBR list? What authors have you enjoyed meeting?