It has been a grim year for publishing, which accounts for the unusually restrained mood this past weekend at Book Expo America, the industry’s annual trade show. Attendance was down 17 percent compared to 2007, the last time it was held in NY. Among the absentees were big guns like Doubleday, Knopf, and FSG, the art-book house Phaidon, and indy fave McSweeney’s. “Whether it makes sense for us to be here is an ongoing question,” one publisher told me. I wonder about the future of the show. With so few booksellers left to sell to, it’s hard to see how the costs publishers lavish on their booths justify themselves. Which is why so many simply punted, opting only for basement meeting rooms and not major public displays. I didn’t hang around long: trudging the aisles is an enervating task even in the best of years. I did manage to see a few old colleagues, however, and to snag a few catalogs and advance reading copies. From what I saw, and it was an entirely random sampling, here are ten books (plus one) I’ll be reading this fall, in no particular order:
Save the Deli, by David Sax (Harcourt, October). The pastrami sandwiches from the Second Ave. Deli were hands down the best promotion at BEA, but even without them this would be at the absolute top of my reading list. As a connoisseur of deli (and descendant of one of NY’s great deli dynasties) I’ve been looking forward to this book for some time. And having noshed with the author myself on many an occasion, I can vouch that he knows his appetizing—even if he’s Canadian.
Inside the Painter’s Studio, by Joe Fig (Princeton Architectural Press, October). I’m biased, but there’s really nothing in the PAPress catalog that isn’t worth your time. I’m especially looking forward to this, a process book on the working methods of artists, including Chuck Close, Ross Bleckner, and Philip Pearlstein. I really wish I had a book like this when I was putting together Master of Shadows.
Gilded Youth, by Kate Cambor (FSG, August). Intersecting lives in Belle Epoque Paris: politics, romance, literature, psychoanalysis, even polar exploration—everything you need for an engrossing late summer read, and supersmart, too.
The Paris Letters of Thomas Eakins (Princeton, September). Edited by William Ines Homer. Speaking of Paris….Eakins is one of my favorite painters, though he quite famously detested Rubens. In Paris he worked for the orientalist JL Gerome, another favorite.
Bauhaus, 1919-1933 (DAP/MoMA). It’s about time we have a major rethinking of the Bauhaus, and this MoMA exhibition catalog, with essays from the likes of Barry Bergdoll and Ellen Lupton, has the makings of a landmark.
Half Moon, by Douglas Hunter (Bloomsbury, September). The story of Henry Hudson’s 1609 discovery and exploration of the river that bears his name. While Hudson was globetrotting, Rubens was working back in Europe to restrain the nascent Dutch empire.
Dancing in the Dark, by Morris Dickstein (Norton, September). A cultural history of the Great Depression (actually, that’s the book’s subtitle) by the eminent scholar and GCNY professor.
Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne. (Penguin, September). Byrne’s thoughtful online journal and history as a cycling advocate suggest this will be something worth seeking out, with all of the unique and elegant observation (of people and places) that he brings to his music.
Graphic Design: A User’s Manual, by Adrian Shaughnessy (Lawrence King, September). Promises to be handy, even for the non-designer. With an introduction by Michael Beirut, no less. Both write for Design Observer.
Master of Shadows, by yours truly (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, October). I’m shameless, fine, but you can’t say I haven’t warned you that this will be the publishing event of the season. And it’s already available for pre-order.
If you can’t find something on this list, rest assured that new novels are coming from Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem, and Orhan Pamuk. Buy a book.