Wednesday, June 3, 2009

BEA Recap from Susan T.

This past weekend, I headed down to New York City for Book Expo America, the annual bookseller convention. Every year, thousands of booksellers and publishers gather to kvetch, kvell, and talk books; it is also a reflection on the state of the bookselling industry in the United States. To judge by the scaled-down booths, parties, and swag, the state of bookselling is at a cautious crossroads. Are books terminal? Will we all be doing our bedtime reading on screens in the foreseeable future? I think (and hope) that books will be a viable option for the rest of my life (and, I hope, my career!) For me, BEA is all about learning about the new books coming out in the fall, meeting authors whose books I love, and hanging it with people who share my passion for reading. On to the show!

I arrived an NYC on Friday night and headed to the Housing Works Cafe and Bookstore for a Midnight Fried Chicken Party put on by the Lee brothers of The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook fame. They have a new cookbook coming out this fall, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern, and if the food at this party is any indication, it is going to be a heck of a cookbook! I especially enjoyed the soybean & tomato salad with buttermilk dressing. YUM! And the fried chicken was meaty, juicy & flavorful. All in all, an excellent way to start the show.

On Saturday, I headed to the Javits Center for the trade show proper. I won't say anything about all the exciting advance copies of the new fall releases I got, because you can't get them yet and it isn't fair to tease, but I met Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling, and thanked her for writing a novel whose heroine is the anti-Bella from Twilight--strong and independent, with or without a boyfriend at her side. I also met Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a vegan cookbook author whose latest, Vegan Brunch, appeals to me for some reason. I am not vegan, but I am trying to eat healthier, and some of these recipes look pretty simple, even for the novice cook. I glimpsed Craig Ferguson signing his new book, and said hello to Alan Bradley, the author of the bestselling Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The highlight was meeting Michael Malone, author of Handling Sin, which has been one of my favorite books to recommend for over 20 years. His newest, The Four Corners of the Sky, was just released and is in the store in hardcover. Oh, and I met Tracy Kidder and got a signed copy of his forthcoming fall release.

By 4:00, I was dragging and my arms were tired of carrying canvas bags loaded with books. After a short rest at the hotel, I went out again, to meet friends for dinner. Before dinner, I stopped at the Strand Bookstore. I browsed for an hour and bought a book. Coals to Newcastle doesn't begin to cover it, but I like supporting independent bookstores when I travel. Yes, going to BEA is truly a busman's holiday, but one I totally enjoy. Now if I can only find a place to put all the new books I acquired........