This year was my third year attending Book Expo America, which I think of as a bibliophile’s paradise. There are books everywhere! And people who love books and want to talk about books! The best part is it’s become a place where a lot of book bloggers gather every year, and it’s a great opportunity to meet these online friends in person and gush about books. My favorite part of this event is by far getting to chat with these people. After all, I can always buy the books I hear about later, but who knows when I’ll see a lot of the people there again! I had the best time at BEA this year even though there were fewer books I was interested in reading just because I spent more time having great conversations. I also had a lot of fun with my roommate for the trip, Jessica from Read React Review, and went to my first author breakfast, a breakfast at Random House, and an amazing event at the New York Public Library.
Since I already wrote about the books I picked up, I’ll skip over all the parts about which lines I stood in other than to say: I met N. K. Jemisin briefly at her signing for The Killing Moon! And she is so incredibly nice! Meeting her even if only for a few minutes was definitely one of my highlights of this year’s BEA.
Ok, moving on to the event highlights from BEA.
The Adult Author Breakfast
This year’s BEA started for me with the Adult Author Breakfast at 8 AM. (Ridiculously early mornings were a theme at this year’s BEA with my 6 AM flight on Monday, the author breakfast on Tuesday, and the Random House breakfast on Wednesday, but it was well worth it. It’s not often I say that about early mornings.) The speakers at the breakfast were:
- Stephen Colbert, Master of Ceremonies, author of America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t (available in October), and TV host of some show or another
- Junot Diaz, author of This Is How You Lose Her (available in September)
- Barbara Kingsolver, author of Flight Behavior (available in November)
- Jo Nesbo, author of Phantom (available in October)
As usual, Stephen Colbert was hilarious. He mentioned that his next book would be available in 3-D like the successful movie Avengers. Sure enough, the booklet with samples we got at the breakfast includes 3-D glasses. Colbert also talked some about the interesting placement of his recent book on some of the bestseller lists. One of them is non-fiction from which he drew the conclusion that non-fiction must now be books without vampires. The popular 50 Shades of Gray also came up, giving a whole new meaning to the “adult” in Adult Author Breakfast. (Sorry, couldn’t resist saying that. It’s really just called that to differentiate it from the Children’s Author Breakfast.) Since “hardcore porn” was now a bestseller, Colbert threw out terms for penises that sounded like the type of thing one would read in badly-written sex scenes.
The authors were all incredibly wonderful speakers. Junot Diaz gave a very heartfelt talk about his love of reading, his gratitude toward booksellers, and the power books have to transform readers. He also talked a bit about his own work and how he likes to write about men and boys with vulnerabilities. He’s particularly interested in the amount of energy that goes into being male and the sort of performance many men put on in order to display that they are manly. I really enjoyed his speech, both because of his passion for reading and the glimpse into his writing.
Barbara Kingsolver was a captivating speaker and was both funny and interesting. I really liked what she said about fiction being unique in that it allows readers to know what it is like to be in someone else’s brain. She discussed how the nature of story has not changed while formats have as well as the history of book formats and how there may have been resistance to change in the past. She pointed out that changes are made to make more books accessible to more readers. Before she was a writer, Kingsolver was a scientist. (She said she’d tell us more about that long story if they got Jon Stewart out there!) Her upcoming book is about climate change, but she also explores the concept of how different people can look at the same facts and come to different conclusions.
When it was Jo Nesbo’s turn to speak, Stephen Colbert had to note that his main character had a name that sounded like it was from 50 Shades of Gray, Harry Hole. This made for humorous moments whenever Jo Nesbo mentioned his main character and then glanced at Stephen Colbert. Jo Nesbo also talked about his early love of reading and his teachers’ concerns when no one came back alive in his essays as a child. He discussed balancing being in a band with writing and how seeing his books in English teaches him new words since English is not his first language (he is Norwegian). I really enjoyed his stories and his sense of humor.
I actually knew very little about any of these authors before the breakfast and mostly went to see Stephen Colbert. (Yeah, I kind of feel like a horrible reader admitting this.) But they were all fantastic, and I was really interested in what each of them had to say.
As for the “breakfast” part of it, I discovered I mostly paid the extra money to be closer than those who did not get breakfast. Breakfast was just a muffin or bagel, coffee, and orange juice. Sitting closer and the coffee itself was probably worth the extra money, though. (I didn’t do the most expensive option with the really close seating but the middle one.)
Science Fiction and Mainstream – Crossing Over Author Stage
This was a half-hour long panel discussion at BEA. It was moderated by Ryan Britt from TOR.com. The speakers were all signing books with TOR, and I made it to all of their signings but one (I would have gone to the other if not for being stuck in a long line!). Here are the panelists and their books, all of which are currently available:
- Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (editors of The Weird)
- John Scalzi (author of Redshirts)
- Walter Mosley (author of The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion)
This was a great panel and I was glad I went to it. It’s been covered in detail on both TOR.com and Publishers Weekly. There’s also an interesting discussion about it on The King of Elfland’s Second Cousin looking at BEA and speculative fiction that also discusses this panel.
Random House Power Reader Breakfast
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this event, but I ended up very impressed and thought was handled much better than the BEA Blogger Conference. It seemed as though the folks at Random House put a lot of effort into it with the decorations, amazing espresso bar, and the delicious food. I had an iced vanilla latte, a chocolate filled pastry, and some fresh fruit. It was glorious, especially compared to the food at both the BEA Blogger Conference and the author breakfast (and it was the only one of those events that was free!). Plus Random House is just a really nice building with a great view from the room we were in.
This was mostly a mix and mingle event, but they did briefly talk about the importance of book bloggers to the success of books before introducing a couple of authors who also told us a little about their books. Nate Berkus talked about The Things That Matter and Charles Duhigg discussed The Power of Habit. I have to admit that after the BEA Bloggers Conference, I was thinking, “Oh no, not again!” when they introduced some authors but I was pleasantly surprised. The talks were short and to the point and had more substance than “Buy my book!” so I didn’t mind this.
BEA New York Book Week: Science Fiction/Fantasy Event
When I saw the author lineup for this, I knew it was not to be missed. Three of my favorite authors were going to be there as well as another author I haven’t read yet but have heard great things about. Plus Lev Grossman was the host, and I really enjoyed The Magicians and The Magician King (and met him briefly at BEA last year for the signing for the latter – he was extraordinarily nice even after signing books for over an hour).
Four authors did readings, and each reading was set to a piece of music specific to that work performed by Brian Slattery and a few other musicians. I thought the music worked very well with each reading.
Kristin Cashore read the creepy prologue from Bitterblue, her recently released young adult fantasy novel. (It’s a direct sequel to Graceling and a companion to Fire.)
N. K. Jemisin read from The Shadowed Sun, the second Dreamblood book that was just released this past week. I liked the sound of this very much, and I loved the first Dreamblood book so I was so excited to hear her read from this.
Naomi Novik read from the first of her Temeraire books, His Majesty’s Dragon. She’s the only one of these authors whose work I haven’t read, but I have heard great things about her historical fantasy series!
Catherynne M. Valente read from her upcoming Fairyland book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. This sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making sounds AMAZING. It will be available in October.
I want to note that I thought it was great that half of these books were for younger readers. Fairyland is middle grade and Bitterblue is YA. Since I have seen books for younger readers treated like they are not “real” SFF at times, I was glad to see them represented at this event. (As well as female authors!)
It was also interesting that only half the authors read from paper books. N. K. Jemisin was tired of lugging around books at BEA and read from her laptop instead, and Naomi Novik read from her phone.
After the event, there was a brief Q&A where the authors were asked about everything from how it was working with the band to the gender question: what they thought about the claims that men like science fiction and women like fantasy. Catherynne Valente gave a great answer that basically came down to that’s crap and genre is not gendered.
This event was definitely one of the highlights of BEA this year, and I am amazed that not many people showed up for it at all! There were such fantastic authors there, and the vast majority of the seats in this room were empty. I know there was a lot going on with BEA that week, but I’m still shocked by this.
Some photos from this event can be viewed at Janicu’s Book Blog.
Those were the major events of BEA in a nutshell. At some point, I’d also like to cover some of the books from fall catalogs I picked up. I didn’t find all the ones I was looking for, but I did pick up the Orbit catalog and got the 47North catalog (Amazon Publishing SFF imprint) when I went to talk with their publicist about some of their books. There are some books that look really interesting in both of them!
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