And the L.A. Times Festival of Books writers' survey says ...

And the L.A. Times Festival of Books writers' survey says ...

More than 200 authors participating in the L.A. Times Festival of Books responded to a survey with questions including whether they'd read 'Infinite Jest' (or lied about having read it).

Pico Iyer on discovering his passion for adventure

Pico Iyer on discovering his passion for adventure

Impoverished innocence colliding with ancient assassins was a clue that Pico Iyer's career would be a rich adventure earned the hard way.

E. Lockhart on embracing the young adult inside her

E. Lockhart on embracing the young adult inside her

E. Lockhart wanted to be taken seriously as an academic — and was. But she couldn't deny her desire to write for young adult readers.

Susan Straight on learning to write without a room of one's own

Susan Straight on learning to write without a room of one's own

Some believe they need seclusion and silence to be a 'real writer,' but a gas station, bedroom and parking lot all did the trick for this novelist.

Inaugural poet Richard Blanco recalls how he fell in love with words

Inaugural poet Richard Blanco recalls how he fell in love with words

A vocation is sometimes like a romance, or at least it is for poet Richard Blanco. He began, as his parents hoped, in a traditional career but yearned for more. Then, a surprise meeting with a poem opened his heart.

How Mona Simpson began her writer's life at an ice cream shop

How Mona Simpson began her writer's life at an ice cream shop

A caring ice cream shop manager and co-workers' poignant stories made a lasting impression on Mona Simpson long before she became a writer.

 Zachary Lazar searches for meaning in 'I Pity the Poor Immigrant'

Zachary Lazar searches for meaning in 'I Pity the Poor Immigrant'

In his new novel 'I Pity the Poor Immigrant,' Zachary Lazar uses gangster Meyer Lansky as a springboard in his look at the relationships between fathers and sons, violence's legacy and Israel.

 Mimi Pond sketches an alter ego's youthful days in 'Over Easy'

Mimi Pond sketches an alter ego's youthful days in 'Over Easy'

'Over Easy,' a graphic novel from Mimi Pond — who has written for 'The Simpsons' and 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' — draws heavily on her experiences as a worker in an Oakland cafe. It's 'pure Mimi,' her editor says.

Curing disease, creating Sherlock Holmes in Thomas Goetz's 'The Remedy'

Curing disease, creating Sherlock Holmes in Thomas Goetz's 'The Remedy'

Thomas Goetz's page-turning 'The Remedy' explains how the quest to cure tuberculosis also led to the creation of Sherlock Holmes.

 Barbara Ehrenreich faces the mystical in 'Living With a Wild God'

Barbara Ehrenreich faces the mystical in 'Living With a Wild God'

Barbara Ehrenreich, an atheist and dogged reporter, talks about reckoning with a baffling encounter in 'Living With a Wild God.'

Leslie Jamison connects with 'The Empathy Exams'

Leslie Jamison connects with 'The Empathy Exams'

A remarkable collection of essays by multifaceted writer Leslie Jamison plumbs the depths of pain and self-examination in 'The Empathy Exams.'

 'Fault in Our Stars' writer John Green has a good read on teens, tech

'Fault in Our Stars' writer John Green has a good read on teens, tech

Bestselling young-adult novelist John Green, who's being honored with the Innovator's Award at the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, says he is inspired by teenagers and finds encouraging signs in publishing's future.

 Annabelle Gurwitch on why 50 is the new 50

Annabelle Gurwitch on why 50 is the new 50

Q&A: Actor-writer Annabelle Gurwitch talks about her new collection of essays 'I See You Made An Effort' and her coming-of-middle-age.

Matt Taibbi rips into America's growing income gap in 'The Divide'

Matt Taibbi rips into America's growing income gap in 'The Divide'

Matt Taibbi starkly details how far U.S. ideals have fallen in 'The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.'

Immigration enforcement gone rogue in 'Border Patrol Nation'

Immigration enforcement gone rogue in 'Border Patrol Nation'

Immigration enforcement has gone rogue amid a huge security apparatus that has developed since 9/11, author Todd Miller argues in 'Border Patrol Nation.'

Glenn Bray brings his 'Blighted Eye' to collecting comic art

Glenn Bray brings his 'Blighted Eye' to collecting comic art

Glenn Bray began his collection of comic art at 17, amassing a staggering stash that he won't part with but will happily share in a 410-page book, 'The Blighted Eye.'

Louis Bayard's 'Roosevelt's Beast' is a diverting expedition

Louis Bayard's 'Roosevelt's Beast' is a diverting expedition

Theodore Roosevelt's journey on Brazil's River of Doubt gets a historical thriller embellishing in Louis Bayard's novel 'Roosevelt's Beast,' seen through the eyes of the former president's son Kermit.

Life throws a few curves in Michelle Huneven's 'Off Course'

Life throws a few curves in Michelle Huneven's 'Off Course'

A dramatic change of scenery for this empathic novel's main character fails to erase the kinds of decisions required of her.

Getting a read on the city with Edward W. Soja's 'My Los Angeles'

Getting a read on the city with Edward W. Soja's 'My Los Angeles'

Edward W. Soja, a fixture of the L.A. School of urban studies, engagingly writes for a wider audience in 'My Los Angeles: From Urban Restructuring to Regional Urbanization.'

'Cycle of Lies,' 'Wheelmen' take different paths in Lance Armstrong story

'Cycle of Lies,' 'Wheelmen' take different paths in Lance Armstrong story

Juliet Macur's 'Cycle of Lies' examines Lance Armstrong's character. Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell's more authoritative 'Wheelmen' looks at the Armstrong industry.

'Age of Radiance' adds depth and drama to the nuclear age

'Age of Radiance' adds depth and drama to the nuclear age

Craig Nelson's 'The Age of Radiance' is a highly readable romp into the history of the atomic era.

Going back to Lagos in Teju Cole's 'Every Day Is for the Thief'

Going back to Lagos in Teju Cole's 'Every Day Is for the Thief'

'Every Day Is for the Thief' by Teju Cole ('Open City') is a wonderful meditation on modern life in Nigeria.

Ozarks contribute a dread-soaked setting to 'The Weight of Blood'

Ozarks contribute a dread-soaked setting to 'The Weight of Blood'

Laura McHugh's riveting crime-fiction debut, 'The Weight of Blood,' is steeped in a sense of place, with strong prose providing a vivid portrait of regional traditions and superstitions.

'The Crusades of Cesar Chavez' is a frank look at an imperfect leader

'The Crusades of Cesar Chavez' is a frank look at an imperfect leader

Miriam Pawel's 'The Crusades of Cesar Chavez' gives the labor leader credit for his stunning accomplishments but does not shy from his failures, paranoia and dictatorial style.

'The Next Tsunami' examines our short-term memory about disasters

'The Next Tsunami' examines our short-term memory about disasters

Bonnie Henderson's 'The Next Tsunami: Living on a Restless Coast' considers our willingness to forget earthquakes and other catastrophic events.

Simon Schama's 'Story of the Jews' sets stage for an even darker tale

Simon Schama's 'Story of the Jews' sets stage for an even darker tale

The first volume of this ambitious work by Simon Schama begins in pre-biblical times, stretching to 1492 and the expulsion from Spain.

Spring arts preview 2014: Books

Spring arts preview 2014: Books

 'You Should Have Known' details a therapist's own unraveling

'You Should Have Known' details a therapist's own unraveling

In Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel, a couples counselor's ironically titled book-within-a-book comes back to haunt her as she must ruefully own up to her own lack of self-awareness.

 An optimistic solution to climate change in 'Soil Will Save Us'

An optimistic solution to climate change in 'Soil Will Save Us'

Kristin Ohlson's examination of how farming and forestry techniques might mitigate, if not resolve, global warming.

Poetry shelf: Jane Mead, Maxine Kumin, Kevin Young, J.D. McClatchy

Poetry shelf: Jane Mead, Maxine Kumin, Kevin Young, J.D. McClatchy

Poetry reviews of Jane Mead's "Money Money Money Water Water Water," Maxine Kumin's 'And Short the Season,' Kevin Young's 'Book of Hours' and J.D. McClatchy's 'Plundered Hearts: New & Selected Poems.'

Ayelet Waldman dreams of history in 'Love and Treasure'

Ayelet Waldman dreams of history in 'Love and Treasure'

Too Zionist? Anti-Zionist? Ayelet Waldman has heard both about 'Love and Treasure,' her novel of American and Hungarian Jews, art and loss in the 20th century.

Benjamin Black's 'Black-Eyed Blonde' offers soft-boiled Chandler

Benjamin Black's 'Black-Eyed Blonde' offers soft-boiled Chandler

A new Philip Marlowe novel by Benjamin Black fills in the noir checklist but misses the soul of the famed detective's city.

Chris Pavone's 'The Accident' fuses literary world, spy craft

Chris Pavone's 'The Accident' fuses literary world, spy craft

Chris Pavone mines his experience in the publishing industry and layers on intrigue in a spy thriller with characters from his novel 'The Expats.'

 'Box Girl' puts the art of survival in L.A. on display

'Box Girl' puts the art of survival in L.A. on display

Lilibet Snellings talks about her book 'Box Girl' and working as a human 'Installation' in the lobby of West Hollywood's Standard Hotel.

Insomnia takes over the world in Kenneth Calhoun's 'Black Moon'

Insomnia takes over the world in Kenneth Calhoun's 'Black Moon'

Though Kenneth Calhoun's 'Black Moon' doesn't always cohere, it compels with a tale of a world gone mad with insomnia.

'Dragnet Nation' looks at the hidden systems that are always looking at you

'Dragnet Nation' looks at the hidden systems that are always looking at you

'Dragnet Nation' by Julia Angwin examines how a data-driven economy created a constantly surveilled society where security and market research trump privacy and personal information.

Walter Kirn befriends a con man in 'Blood Will Out'

Walter Kirn befriends a con man in 'Blood Will Out'

As chronicled in 'Blood Will Out,' a faux Rockefeller fooled author Walter Kirn for years until it became clear Christian Gerhartsreiter was a liar and a killer.

Yiyun Li's 'Kinder Than Solitude' deals with poisoned past in China

Yiyun Li's 'Kinder Than Solitude' deals with poisoned past in China

Yiyun Li takes us back to the months after Tiananmen Square and to a fatal poisoning. It's personal, not political.

Teen hero of 'Half Bad' holds the magic

Teen hero of 'Half Bad' holds the magic

Not Just For Kids: Grit, loyalty and gentleness cast a spell more captivating than the warring witches and sinister sorcery of Sally Green's 'Half Bad.'

Lisa Bloom's 'Suspicion Nation' dips into Trayvon Martin case

Lisa Bloom's 'Suspicion Nation' dips into Trayvon Martin case

For better or worse, Lisa Bloom brings a TV pundit sensibility to the Trayvon Martin case in 'Suspicion Nation.'

Helen Oyeyemi's 'Boy, Snow, Bird' turns a fairy tale inside out

Helen Oyeyemi's 'Boy, Snow, Bird' turns a fairy tale inside out

Taking astonishing risks, Helen Oyeyemi casts mirrors as the villain of her piece as she pierces racism and cultural ideas.

David Grand conjures early L.A. in 'Mount Terminus'

David Grand conjures early L.A. in 'Mount Terminus'

David Grand talks about 'Mount Terminus,' a novel set in early 20th century L.A. — and one that took 10 years to write and kept him estranged him from the city.

 A 'Complicated' look at teens and technology

A 'Complicated' look at teens and technology

Dr. danah boyd hopes parents use her exhaustive study of how youth use social media as a tool to open communications with their own child.

'Fukushima' sounds warning on nuclear energy

'Fukushima' sounds warning on nuclear energy

A clear-eyed overview of the nuclear industry and the Japanese disaster doesn't split hairs over the risk: It can happen here.

 'Five Came Back' spotlights Hollywood directors' WWII propaganda

'Five Came Back' spotlights Hollywood directors' WWII propaganda

Mark Harris' 'Five Came Back' explores the World War II work of U.S. directors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra and George Stevens, who elevated propaganda films to a high art.

Lorrie Moore's 'Bark' finds grandeur in the day-to-day

Lorrie Moore's 'Bark' finds grandeur in the day-to-day

Domestic life motivates many of the stories in 'Bark,' Lorrie Moore's first fiction collection in 15 years.

'Showtime' chronicles glitzy Lakers era of Magic, Kareem and Riley

'Showtime' chronicles glitzy Lakers era of Magic, Kareem and Riley

Jeff Pearlman's 'Showtime' is a dishy take on the run-and-gun Lakers of the 1980s, with an insider look at Magic, Kareem and more.

'MFA vs. NYC' debates the usefulness of a creative writing degree

'MFA vs. NYC' debates the usefulness of a creative writing degree

Essay collection 'MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction' from n+1 ponders whether getting a master of fine arts degree in creative writing is a good idea. Or is living in New York just as helpful?

The fateful vision of 'Network,' nearly 40 years later

The fateful vision of 'Network,' nearly 40 years later

In 1976, 'Network' skewered the media and modern life and introduced 'mad as hell' to the cultural landscape. David Itzkoff discusses his new book about the prophetic film.

B.J. Novak gets into the family business with 'One More Thing'

B.J. Novak gets into the family business with 'One More Thing'

'The Office' writer-actor B.J. Novak, whose father was an author, debuts a collection of humorous short stories, 'One More Thing' — but 'I'll never be George Saunders,' he says.

'Train' lovingly tracks rail travel history

Author Tom Zoellner takes readers on a historical world tour of landmark lines and the cultural shifts they helped generate.

The 'Tastemaker' paints Carl Van Vechten as cultural impressario of his time

A new biography suggests Carl Van Vechten pushed the nation's cultural values forward by making a virtue of racial and sexual diversity.

The Fiction Shelf: 'Karate Chop' by Dorthe Nors and 'Praying Drunk' by Kyle Minor

Ahdaf Soueif's 'Cairo' is a compelling memoir of Arab Spring

'Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformed' by Ahdaf Soueif is a fine personal look at the seeming revolution in Tahrir Square but doesn't provide historical context.

Kem Nunn's 'Chance' gets under California's skin

Kem Nunn's latest novel, 'Chance,' goes far beyond the 'surfer noir' label and into morally ambiguous and very deep waters.

Marcel Theroux's 'Strange Bodies' eerily updates 'Frankenstein'

Marcel Theroux's 'Strange Bodies' is a smart, troubling sci-fi thriller that poses deep questions about identity.

What can 'HRC' tell us about Hillary Clinton's past and future?

'HRC' by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes is an entertaining, illuminating look at Hillary Rodham Clinton's time as secretary of State. The book shows her as dogged, but also salty, bawdy and funny.

Philip Schultz's 'The Wherewithal' has poetic logic

Philip Schultz's novel in verse 'The Wherewithal' is about Henryk, who says his life includes the Jedwabne pogrom and the Zodiac killer but whose chronology doesn't line up.

Rabih Alameddine's 'Unnecessary Woman' ablaze with wonder

Rabih Alameddine's new novel, 'An Unnecessary Woman,' is a love letter to literature and the female spirit.

Penelope Lively turns inward in 'Dancing Fish and Ammonites'

The 'not quite a memoir' 'Dancing Fish and Ammonites' finds Penelope Lively waxing elegant and poignant about her life.

How 'Lincoln's Boys' helped shape the president's legend

Joshua Zeitz's 'Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image' examines the president's secretaries, who wrote a history of him.

'Call Me Burroughs' pins down the extreme life of William Burroughs

Barry Miles' William Burroughs biography 'Call Me Burroughs' is an extensive, fascinating biography of the 'Naked Lunch' author, including the William Tell shooting death of his wife and his life as countercultural spokesman.

'An Atheist's History of Belief' unfaithful to its title

Though Matthew Kneale highlights interesting material, a book that presents itself as an investigation of belief instead delivers a straightforward history of religion.

In Jeff Vandermeer's 'Annihilation,' fungal fiction grows on you

The horror-fantasy combination in Jeff Vandermeer's 'Annihilation,' the first novel in a trilogy, makes genre triumphantly general.

'Triple Package' poses a triple offensive threat

Authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld's deliberately provocative arguments about American prosperity are sloppy, and ignore history and economics.

Jenny Offill's new novel highlights the power of a woman on the edge

In Jenny Offill's 'Dept. of Speculation,' motherhood, geeky facts and a sprinkling of great thoughts create a riveting addition to female abandonment literature.

'Mayhem' is on the case of the Thames Torso Murderer

Sarah Pinborough deftly trawls through the muck of Victorian London in 'Mayhem,' a graphic tale about a series of murders contemporaneous to Jack the Ripper's crimes.

Follow the ball through 'Wooden: A Coach's Life' biography

UCLA's legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, is given a definitive biography with 'Wooden.' Seth Davis delivers a clear-eyed view of a man whose passion for the game became his Pyramid of Success.

Grimke sisters inspire Sue Monk Kidd's 'Invention of Wings'

Sue Monk Kidd uses fact and fiction to tell the story of the Grimke sisters and a young slave in their household in 'The Invention of Wings.'

Jesse Ball's slippery 'Silence Once Begun' built on false confession

Jesse Ball's novel 'Silence Once Begun' is a fascinating work presented in a documentary format.

'Flappers' by Judith Mackrell roars with remarkable women

In 'Flappers,' Judith Mackrell details the lives of Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Lady Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard and Tamara de Lempicka in lively roaring '20s fashion.

Amnesia makes David Stuart MacLean a 'Riddle' he must solve

In a memoir built of short, episodic sections, David Stuart MacLean records a spell of amnesia, realizing 'The Answer to the Riddle Is Me.'

Armistead Maupin's 'The Days of Anna Madrigal' a fitting end

Armistead Maupin's 'Tales of the City' concludes with the moving 'The Days of Anna Madrigal,' a closer look at the serial's central figure.

Lost souls wander Chris Abani's 'Secret History of Las Vegas'

Chris Abani's 'The Secret History of Las Vegas' is not your standard crime novel but it does have conjoined twins and buried secrets.

Jennifer Percy talks PTSD, exorcism and her new book 'Demon Camp'

Author Jennifer Percy became immersed in the same 'Demon Camp' where veterans sought to exorcise their torment.

'Words Will Break Cement' documents the Pussy Riot revolution

Masha Gessen's new book about Pussy Riot explores the story behind the Russian guerrilla girls' protest movement.

Richard Powers' 'Orfeo' explores art and surveillance in the information age

A retired composer wrongly becomes public enemy No. 1 in lightning speed in Richard Powers' moving 'Orfeo.'

Flirting with disaster and deities in 'Foreign Gods Inc.'

The novel 'Foreign Gods Inc.' by Okey Ndibe follows New York cab driver Ike as he returns to Nigeria to steal a statue of the war god Ngene.

'Death Class' puts emphasis on living fully

Erika Hayasaki talks about how a courseon dying inspired her to write 'Death Class: A True Story About Life.'

Tale of a slave revolt in Greg Grandin's 'The Empire of Necessity'

'The Empire of Necessity' takes a meandering tour of slavery in 19th century South America, when the age of liberty coincided with 'the Age of Slavery.'

'The Laughter of Strangers' is a championship boxing novel

Michael J. Seidlinger's strange book has a boxer called Sugar engagingly narrating in first-person stream-of-consciousness.

The CIA and 'America's Great Game' in the Middle East

In 'America's Great Game,' history professor Hugh Wilford deftly explores the CIA's passionate Arabists and the agency's role in the shaping of the modern Middle East, coups included.

A Spanish-speakers' view of 'Our America'

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's 'Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States' is a fascinating but problem-plagued polemic.

'The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel' a darkly comic folk tale

Magdalena Zyzak marks a wickedly good debut with the Eastern Europe-set 'The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel.'

Biographies of historical figures for children, flaws and all

New biographies of such historical figures as Josephine Baker, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Malcolm X sometimes omit life details, sometimes capture the person's contradictions.

E.L. Doctorow gets inside 'Andrew's Brain'

E.L. Doctorow explores the tension between reality and memory in his new novel, 'Andrew's Brain.'

Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi's home for bestselling authors

Ransom Riggs ('Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children') and Tahereh Mafi ('Shatter Me') are successful YA authors and an enchanting couple with new books on the way.

Gary Shteyngart laughs away life's 'Little Failure'

Russian-born American writer Gary Shteyngart delivers the memoir 'Little Failure,' in which a would-be maudlin childhood becomes an ecstatic depiction of survival, guilt and perseverance.

Cindy Chupack turns comedic gaze to marriage and domesticity

Q&A: In 'The Longest Date: Life as a Wife,' Cindy Chupack -- whose résumé includes writing for TV's 'Sex and the City' -- writes of what she has found surprising and funny (and tragic) about marriage.

'Neutrino' author gets a big bang out of a really small thing

Scientist Ray Jayawardhana finds explaining particle physics to the public in 'Secrets of the Universe' a 'rewarding and fun' exercise.

'The Mongolian Conspiracy' is classic Rafael Bernal noir

Colorful anecdotes and plot twists abound in a reissue of Rafael Bernal's Mexico City-set 'The Mongolian Conspiracy.'

'On Such a Full Sea' a cautionary tale of the future

Novelist Chang-rae Lee's dark ride into a dystopia presents a heroine seeking to discover community and family in a world that has moved long past them.

A teenage paparazzo's 'Dog Dance' with pop culture

Cher, Joan Jett, Brooke Shields and more — Brad Elterman shot them all during the glamorous, decadent era. His images are the focus of a new book, 'Dog Dance.'

'Baghdad: The City in Verse' finds poetry in Iraq's capital

The enlightening collection includes poets from Muti' ibn Iyas in the 8th century to Sinan Antoon and more in the present.

'Vanished' a gripping tale of search for missing men of WWII

Wil S. Hylton explores in vivid detail the 60-year mission of the search for American MIAs from WWII.

In 'Starting Over,' Elizabeth Spencer's insight endures

A collection from Elizabeth Spencer, a PEN/Malamud Award winner, features domestic dramas in which the most compelling dynamics unfold between parents and children, husbands and wives.

Online publications see a future in print

While pundits bemoan the death of print, Pitchfork and the L.A. Review of Books are among the online magazines embracing ink on paper

'Inside the Dream Palace' opens door on a vivid Chelsea Hotel

Sherill Tippins tells the remarkable story of the legendary New York building and its free-spirited residents over the decades.

'Dangerous Women' boasts equal-opportunity destroyers

'Dangerous Women,' an anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, features an impressive assembly of work, and a new novella by Martin.

Litblogger meets reality star in Mark Haskell Smith's 'Raw'

Literature. Love. They get skewered — though generously — by Los Angeles author Mark Haskell Smith in his new novel, 'Raw: A Love Story.'

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