Before driving off to Chicago for a week of books and more books, I knew that I would have to plan out what books I wanted to look for.
I hadn't the foggiest idea how to go about that. Edelweiss still had (has) a tab for "BEA 2015" so that went nowhere. An article listed out the top ten galleys at BEA, but I knew there were more than ten galleys in the whole of the show (come on, I've seen the haul videos). Conveniently, roommate Jenn came to the rescue with a link to the Library Journal Galley and Signing Guide. I was at least able to make a schedule of where I needed to be when if there was something I was looking for.
At the very top of my list was Bolshoi Confidential by Simon Morrison, out from Liveright (Norton) in October 2016. For some reason I thought this was a novel initially but heck no, it's an exposé of the Russian ballet company the Bolshoi culminating in the 2011 acid attack on the artistic director. Of course I have to read this. It was the first galley I picked up (I got caught in a scrum at the junction of the Hachette and Scholastic booths immediately after the exhibit hall opened on Wednesday so after extracting myself I headed for the relatively calmer waters of the literary presses). When "balletbookworm" is on your business cards, no one can argue with that.
Along the same lines, I stopped by Overlook Press to pick up Florence Foster Jenkins: The Life of the World's Worst Opera Singer by Darryl W. Bullock, out June 7, 2016. My voice teacher used to bring up how popular Florence Foster Jenkins was as a singer even though she was a dreadful because she was an entertainer. This book sounds so fascinating - a batty socialite who bankrolls her own opera career which is a critical bomb but plays to packed houses? Yes, please. There is apparently a competing title about Florence coming out a bit later that's the tie-in for a movie adaptation starring Meryl Streep (say what?) but this is the book I was looking for.
Graywolf Press is high on my list of publishers who consistently put out amazing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Eula Biss's On Immunity, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts, A. Igoni Barrett's Blackass. Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy, out September 6, 2016, is going to be their next big hit, in my opinion. It was longlisted for the Booker last year and won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The novel concerns a trip taken by three elderly women to a religious seaside town and their interactions with a young documentary filmmaker, Nomi. The action takes place over five days and I've recently been interested in novels that have compressed timelines.
When Eimear McBride's novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing won the Bailey's Prize in 2014 I immediately hopped on the library online catalog I placed it on hold. It was such a mind-bending book, with an interesting change in the voice as the narrator grew from infant to young woman. Crown had galleys of her next book, The Lesser Bohemians, out September 2016, available on Friday. Oh, I can't wait to read it and the rep said this voice is just as good - this one is a coming of age novel that follows a young Irish woman who arrives in mid-1990s London for drama school and falls for an older actor. I have high hopes for this.
Yes, I couldn't pass up Alan Moore's Jerusalem. This enormous, 1200-page behemoth will be out September 2016 - Liveright is publishing it as both a hardcover and a three-volume paperback set with slipcase (like 2666 and Skippy Dies) so readers can pick their poison. If you fall asleep reading often, I wouldn't pick the hardcover. Clearly, this isn't the final cover art. It looks completely batshit insane and the back cover is mostly a picture of Moore's face which was on a giant banner by the escalators, too. Getting this galley was made all the more fun in that the Norton people told me I had to promise to wear a button to get the galley - the button had a "happy penis" on it, which is clearly appropriate to the book but not much of a challenge, in my opinion (I just can't put it on my lanyard at the store, drat). My response - hand 'em over, the book and the button both.
Last, but certainly not least, I braved one in-booth signing line at the Penguin Random House booth to get a galley of George Saunders's first-ever novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. It comes out February 14, 2017 (2017!!!!) and I've already started reading it. It's so, so, so good, beautiful structure and interesting concept. Essentially, the story concerns the night after the internment of Willie Lincoln (who died of typhoid during Lincoln's presidency) and is told through a combination of quotes from historical sources and a conversation-like narrative from the spirits that inhabit the graveyard. It is amazing.
And I'm so stoked that I stood in line and got it signed (I had a conversation with Saunders - he asked where my town was and I said near Iowa City and he said he ate at Pagliai's on the way through IC while helping his daughter move to California, eeeee!). Once I finish reading it, it's never leaving my house again. Ok, but seriously, mark your calendars for February 14, 2017. You will want to read this. (This was also that signing where people were going up to the rep opening the books for Saunders and asking if they could just have one and getting real snotty about things like tickets and waiting in line.)
And that's my highlights for adult galleys I was planning to look out for at BEA 2016. I'll have surprises, kids/teens highlights, and more to come.