Here at the American-Statesman, we love words. And, as might be expected, we are avid readers. Our team has picked authors we're excited to see at the Texas Book Festival; check the schedule in this section for times and locations of talks, panels and signings.
Sylvia Acevedo. The onetime Austinite is a scientist and philanthropist whom I always wanted to profile while she lived here. She served on a White House educational excellence commission, and now she’s CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. I’m eager to read “Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist” and catch up with this role model at the fest.
Mark Updegrove. The president of the LBJ Foundation is well known to Austinites alert to history, politics and culture. His timely book “The Last Republicans: Inside the Extraordinary Relationship between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush” goes well beyond the media’s guesswork into the interactions between the two presidents in the context of several generations of public servants. Scrupulously nonpartisan, almost to a fault.
Virginia Cumberbatch. One Austin’s most fascinating personalities from a dynamic Austin family, she’s director of the University of Texas' Community Engagement Center. She also is one of the editors of “As We Saw It: The Story of Integration at the University of Texas,” a much-anticipated take on the Precursors, the school’s first African-American students.
Sarah Bird. Who does not adore Sarah Bird? Decades ago, I learned much of what I knew about Austin culture from her novels. Yet her curious mind ranges far and wide. “Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen,” as you probably know by now, is about Cathy Williams, a female Buffalo Soldier.
Gay Gaddis. Founder and CEO of T3, an Austin-based marketing firm, Gaddis has taken the lessons of her life and transformed them into a two-part book, “Cowgirl Power: How to Kick Ass in Business & Life.” The first part is an excellent memoir of her journey from Liberty, Texas, to her current busy and thoroughly intriguing life; the second consists of her advice, especially to other women in business.
Jay Sauceda. A photographer, writer and entrepreneur, Sauceda recently produced the engrossing “A Mile Above Texas,” a collection of his aerial images taken while flying around the borders of the giant state. You might have seen a selection of the shots published earlier in Texas Monthly.
Turk Pipkin. Humorous confession: I used to think that this outrageously funny, warm and talented man received too much media attention. Once I got to know him, especially through his work on the humanitarian Nobelity Project, I couldn’t get enough of Pipkin. Austin likes to think of itself as a city of distinct individuals, but few stand out like this comedian, actor, author, juggler and nonprofit leader.
Willy Vlautin. The Portland, Ore., singer-songwriter's music with alt-country band Richmond Fontaine always seemed to have literary ambitions, so it was no surprise when he turned out to be a prodigious novelist as well. This year's "Don't Skip Out on Me," his fifth book in 12 years, continues the explorations of working-class Western characters that have dominated both his novels and his records. Vlautin has a local connection: His recent band the Delines features longtime Austinite Amy Boone on vocals.
National Medal of the Arts winner Sandra Cisneros will bring her latest work, a short story called “Puro Amor,” to the book festival this year. This imaginative story about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo is a dual language novel — with illustrations from Cisneros herself — about a Mister and Misses Rivera who live in a “casa azul” surrounded by animals and art.
Leslie Blair and Virginia Cumberbatch’s new book, “As We Saw It: The Story of Integration at the University of Texas at Austin,” chronicles the civil rights era at the University of Texas, as seen through the eyes of 25 African-American students, faculty and administrators who were there at the time.
“Food52 Any Night Grilling,” Paula Disbrowe’s home cook-friendly take on outdoor cooking, is as much an ode to eating outside as it is cooking over live fire. The Austinite will share her cooking philosophy and maybe even a recipe or two in the Central Market cooking tent.
Chef and cookbook author Edward Lee, who has appeared on the PBS series “The Mind of a Chef,” will be at the festival to talk about his new book, “Buttermilk Graffiti,” which isn’t a cookbook but a compilation of stories he gathered on a road trip visiting cooks across America who come from every corner of the globe.
“The Orchid Thief” writer Susan Orlean has shifted from Rin Tin Tin, the subject of her most recent solo book, to libraries. She’ll be at the book festival to talk about her latest, “The Library Book,” about Americans’ love of literary spaces through the unsolved fire at the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986.
“Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry” author Cathy Barrow, who won the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ award for best single-subject cookbook in 2015, is back with another baking book, this time focused entirely on pie. “Pie Squared” includes recipes for both sweet and savory pies, which she’ll demonstrate during a session in the Central Market cooking tent.
Samantha M. Clark. Her book "The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast," marketed to youth ages 8-12, tells a tale of a boy stranded on an island with no memory of his previous existence. He struggles to stay alive and elude a beast he thinks is trying to kill him. As his memory slowly returns, he is determined to get back to his old life. Clark's storytelling is rich with tactile details. The journey back home was never what I thought it turned out to be. A quick, interesting read for an adult, this book will blow a tween's mind.
Mary H.K. Choi. Choi’s debut novel, about a girl who grew up in small-town Texas and is moving 79 miles away from home to Austin for college, is hilarious and touching — and it will never not be fun to read a book that includes jokes about such relatable topics as Jim Adler, the Texas Hammer. The characters and their circumstances in “Emergency Contact” feel real, urgent and vulnerable, and the book perfectly depicts the phenomenon of communicating easily online but feeling clumsy and awkward in person. I can’t wait to see what Choi does next.
Jason Lutes. Back when Jason Lutes started working on his masterful graphic novel “Berlin,” the notion of comics in mainstream bookstores was only starting to take shape. Flash-forward 22 years, which is how long it took Lutes to complete his epic chronicle of the city between the wars. It is a sprawling, gorgeous work and, given its chronicle of the rise of Nazi Germany, all too relevant.
Don Graham. I truly loved Graham’s “Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber and the Making of a Legendary American Film,” one of the most revelatory film chronicles I have read in quite some time. It’s all there in the subtitle — Graham profiles each figure sharply, writes convincingly about their complicated interpersonal relationships and gets at the dance between Hollywood and Texas, a waltz that continues.
Erika L. Sanchez. "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" will resonate with readers who have experienced balancing Latinx culture and growing up as an American. Sanchez centers her first novel on a teenage girl with nothing figured out and leads readers on the bumpy road of grief, mental health and family relationships.
I’m picking books and authors whose work interests me professionally and personally.
As the environmental reporter at the American-Statesman, I look forward to anything written by Seamus McGraw, who has examined, with narrative verve, fracking, drought and, now, the competition for water in Texas. In "A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis," he gives us a wonderful travelogue and history and science story that looks at some of the Texas characters and policies driving that competition. Separately, Andrew Sansom, one of the most thoughtful people in Texas about water and environmental resources, will be presenting his book "Seasons at Selah," about how a Hill Country rancher restored springs on his property.
Mark Leibovich is one of the great, wry observers of human beings who operate our most powerful institutions, and in "Big Game" he turns his lens to the NFL and the owners who run the league.
Finally, I’m going to search out appearances by Jamel Brinkley, Tayari Jones, Porochista Khakpour and Susan Orlean. I’ve read short stories or nonfiction pieces by each of them and am excited to catch them in action.
Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere" left me absolutely breathless this year. I tore through it in a matter of days — and I did the same with her previous novel, "Everything I Never Told You." She is, in my opinion, one of the most engaging novelists of our time (and a great person to follow on Twitter).
Ransom Riggs hasn't written a single thing that hasn't stuck with me for months after reading it. His "Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children" novels are haunting, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman, and the world just keeps expanding. He's a perfect example of a young-adult author whose books appeal to all ages, not just YA readers.
I'm a huge fan of Phoebe Robinson, whose podcast "2 Dope Queens" with Jessica Williams (and her other podcast, "Sooo Many White Guys") is in constant rotation in my headphones. I loved her first book, "You Can't Touch My Hair," and I'm excited to dig into her second, "Everything's Trash, But It's Okay."
I just started reading "Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist" by Eli Saslow, who is a Washington Post staff writer whose work I've admired for a long time. He's won the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing three times in the past five years and one more for explanatory reporting, and his work is important and impossible to ignore.
Sarah Weinman. I was hooked as soon as I read excerpts from Weinman's new book, "The Real Lolita," in "The Cut." Weinman tells the story of the short, tragic life of Sally Horner, whose 1948 kidnapping, when she was just 11, likely inspired Nabokov's "Lolita." I can't wait to read the entire book and hear Weinman talk about how she traced this true-life tale.
Scott Kelly. I heard Kelly, the record-setting astronaut, speak at the Paramount Theatre earlier this year. He was such a great story-teller that I'm ready to go hear him again. His book, "Endurance," talks about the extreme challenges he faced during long periods in space, but it's also an inspiring story about a kid who could have been a real screw-up but instead found his purpose and passion.
DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH
Jessica Hopper. Formerly an editor at Pitchfork and MTV News, the author of “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” is a staunch advocate for marginalized voices in the music industry. Her Twitter feed — insightful, raw and powerful — has often been a beacon of hope for other women muddling through male-dominated scenes. Her newest book, “Night Moves,” is a collection of essays, poems and recollections exploring her early days in Chicago’s DIY music scene where she found her voice.
Omise’eke Tinsley. In her new book, “Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism,” Tinsley, who teaches a nationally recognized “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism” class at the University of Texas, weaves astute analysis of the rich symbolism in the Texas pop star’s audio and visual works with insights from her work as a feminist scholar of African studies and personal observations from her own life as a cisgender femme married to a transgender spouse.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras. I look forward to hearing Contreras talk about her debut novel, "Fruit of the Drunken Tree." This is a story set in her native Colombia about the unlikely friendship between a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid during the height of Pablo Escobar's bloody narco reign.