Julia Fierro’s debut novel, Cutting Teeth, was recently included in Library Journal‘s “Spring Best Debuts” and on “Most Anticipated Books of 2014” lists by HuffPost Books, The Millions and Flavorwire, Brooklyn Magazine and Marie Claire. Julia’s work has been published, or is forthcoming, in Poets & Writers, Glamour and other publications, and she has been profiled in the L Magazine, The Observer and The Economist. In 2002, she founded The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, and what started as eight writers meeting in her Brooklyn kitchen has grown into a creative home for over 2000 writers. A graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Teaching-Writing Fellow, Julia currently teaches the Post-MFA workshops at Sackett Street. She can be found on her website and on Twitter.
My bedside table is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to books this spring, particularly advance copies of forthcoming novels and story collections, most by writers who, like me, have books being released this season. We swap books, which makes it extra fun to cheer each author on as he or she nears their book’s publication date. Needless to say, I am reading as fast as I can to keep up with all the amazing books showing up at my doorstep. Here are just a few stacked on my night table.
Life Drawing by Robin Black (Available July 15)
Robin Black’s hotly anticipated debut has the gorgeous prose of a literary novel and the momentum of a thriller. The tension Black creates between the novel’s four main characters sizzles just under the surface of the book’s quiet, and often mesmerizing, tone. I was up late several nights in a row turning pages, nervous and excited to see just what would happen, but wanting to slow down to enjoy the many snippets of emotionally intelligent wisdom Black filters through the characters’ perspectives. I dog-eared practically every other page so I could share a line here or there with my husband.
Life Drawing is a bravely honest depiction of the complexities of marriage—the need, the betrayal, the love and heartbreak. It is definitely a book I will read again, and I’m confident I’ll find new treasures every time.
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob (Available July 1)
I’m halfway through Mira Jacob’s debut novel and am already certain it is going to be loved by many readers this summer. Funny, clever, smartly told, entertaining, beautifully written, and with a cast of characters that reminds you why the experience of humanity is both hilarious and heartbreaking, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is a must read. The novel’s story jumps seamlessly from India to America as one family’s fascinating story is revealed.
I love a fast-paced read that is filled with fun characters. Mira Jacob’s debut is a perfect pick for a fun and thought-provoking book club discussion.
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
I just saw that Miranda was the last author to post a “Books By The Bed” list and I am lucky to call her a friend—plus our novels launched on the same day, so we are “book birthday twins.” Bittersweet is going to be one of the biggest books of the summer. It is a true page-turner. I was up late-late-night three nights in a row reading it. And my pulse was definitely racing!
A contemporary coming of age story with a suspenseful gothic-flavored twist, Bittersweet follows a young woman, Mabel Dagmar, over a summer spent at a sprawling Vermont estate. As Mabel falls in and out of love with the mysterious blue-blooded Winslow clan, so does the reader. You can read the first chapter here.
Annihilation: A Novel (Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff Vandermeer
I picked up a copy of the first book in Vandermeer’s trilogy while at Word Brooklyn bookstore (where I was signing copies of Cutting Teeth, exciting!). I love a great genre-bender, and although I’m only fifty pages into the novel, I know Annihilation, and the rest of the trilogy are going to hook me. Part sci-fi, part psychological thriller and part literary, the novel is set in a mysterious region known as Area X and follows a team of researchers on an expedition into the forbidden zone. I wish I had it with me right now (its on my bedside table, of course) so I could keep reading.
The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne
My six-year-old son loves this series and it is a perfect blend of fantasy, adventure and history that keeps both him and his four-year-old sister entertained. I often have the latest book in the series on my bedside table. Right now, we are reading book #19 Tigers at Twilight. The storyline of the series follows a brother and sister, who are, luckily, the same ages as my son and daughter. They discover a magical treehouse in the woods filled with books. On each visit to the treehouse they choose a different book that transports them to a magical land, often one associated with a historical period. We’ve watched Jack and Annie travel to Camelot, to an ancient Roman chariot race, and to Pompeii. They also visit faraway lands—the Arctic, the forests of India, and Australia.
It is a fascinating chapter books series perfect for young readers, and for parents to read to children preschool age and up.
The Day of Battle: The War In Sicily and Italy, 1943-44 by Rick Atkinson
Finally, I’m always listening to an audiobook, whether on my walk to the Writer’s Space to work, as I’m knitting, or as I’m lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. Like many avid readers, I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac, even as a child hiding with a flashlight and a book under my bedcovers after lights out. My current audiobook is the second book in Rick Atkinson’s incredible nonfiction WWII The Liberation trilogy, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-44.
My father was 8 years old and living with his family on the rocky hills of the Amalfi Coast when the Allies liberated Southern Italy. His stories about how his entire village hid in the caves for three weeks as Allied bombs, launched from the sea, rained down on them day after day, are incredible. I’m reading Rick Atkinson’s meticulously researched and compassionately told book to fill in many of the gaps in my father’s story, so that I can, someday, write about that devastating scene myself. The description of the countless Allied lives lost due to mismanagement and rashness, mostly as a result of the competition between the American and British generals, is mind-boggling. Now, I truly understand how the follies of war can destroy humanity in such massive numbers. This trilogy is a must for all readers, and the narrator on the audio version does a fantastic job.
What’s in your bedside stash? All from one genre, or are you an eclectic reader?