Books. They just find me, you know?
My first surprise came in the form of a Shirley Jackson biography I practically stumbled over while asking about Bolshoi Confidential at Liveright. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin is scheduled to come out in September 2016. From the blurb, it seems to be more of a biography of the work and how Jackson uses domestic horror (which may be why she doesn't seem to be in the "canon" unlike Hawthorne and Poe). I love me some Shirley Jackson, so this is going in the stack. (Interestingly enough, Ruth Franklin wrote the forward to Penguin Classics 2013 re-release of Jackson's The Road Through the Wall.)
Another biography that found me was Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird. I happened to be wandering past the Penguin Random House booth when the galley drop happened - the rep thrust it at me with the line "This has never-before-seen information about Victoria's private life." I have no idea how she knew I liked Victorian history - the last time we talked was during the George Saunders signing - but I was like SOLD. This is going to be a good, juicy biography for those cold winter months. It releases November 29, 2016. (This better have a glossy photo insert in the finished copies.)
Another book I nearly stumbled over was Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King. Monet painted the Water Lilies near the end of his life when his sight was failing and he had suffered personal disappointments (World War I was fast approaching, too). They are beautiful canvases - I had seen the Monets at the Art Institute a few days before so this was clearly meant to be. I always mean to read more art history and just never get around to it. This will be out from Bloomsbury on September 6, 2016. (This is also one I hope that will have a nice photo insert.)
And then Mona pitched Constellation by Adrien Bosc (translated by Willard Wood). This is a historical novel about the famous 1949 crash of the maiden voyage of the Constellation airplane (among the thirty-eight passengers was Edith Piaf's lover, the boxer Marcel Cerdan). Bosc tries to piece together why the plane crashed (could it have been avoided?) and the lives of all its passengers. I almost crawled over the table to rip it out of her hands. My father was a systems engineer with Rockwell so I grew up hearing about engineering and aviation history + debut novel + novel in translation = I need it in my eyeballs now. WHEELHOUSE. This also won the Grand Prix du roman de l’academie francaise. (I was prepared to throw elbows for this one.) Constellation released on May 10, so if you are into this you can get it immediately.
Now, this next one I wasn't able to get at BEA. They didn't have galleys available but I got on the galley list with the publisher. I was walking past the Norton booth when I did a one-eighty and made a beeline to a poster. They have a book about Zika virus coming out in July. My epidemiology senses were tingling. Yes, yes, yes I will read a book about this - it's by Donald McNeil so I'm thinking it will have good reporting. Norton also put out one of my favorites in the genre - Spillover by David Quammen (the Norton rep and I geeked out over it) - so I have high hopes.
Those were my surprise book finds at BEA (the adult ones anyway, I'll have one when I do the kids' books). I was talking with Michelle and Jenn about things we were surprised we didn't find and Michelle mentioned a lack of science fiction. I have to agree. We saw a lot of fantasy (particularly for the YA audience) but we didn't see a lot of hard-core SF. There was the new Cronin zombie book and Blake Crouch's book but nothing like Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch or a William Gibson or an Andy Weir. Maybe we missed it?