Books: My picks for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

The book prizes are tonight, and, with Tig Notaro hosting, they will be our most fun yet. There's still time to get tickets…

I'm Carolyn Kellogg, book editor of the Los Angeles Times, and for me, the book festival is an amazing time of year when we get to celebrate reading and meet authors face-to-face. And as someone who's been involved with planning it for months, I have to say I love every panel and speaker equally.


That said, I want to highlight a couple of panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. You may still be able to get tickets to some; if they're sold out, there's a chance you'll still get a seat if you wait in the standby line.


As I write, it's the one-year anniversary of Prince's death. The vastness of his brilliance is something that Ben Greenman tries to come to grips with in "Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince," published last week. He'll be on the panel And the Beat Goes On on Saturday at noon with Simon Reynolds, whose latest book is "Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-first Century," and Tony Fletcher, author of "In the Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett." It will be moderated by The Times' Jessica Gelt, a reporter with a rock-n-roll secret.

Also on Saturday at noon: Nonfiction: The Future Is Female featuring feminists from three generations. Lindy West, whose book is "Shrill," is a millennial; the latest from Rebecca Solnit, a baby boomer, is "The Mother of All Questions"; and Betty Fussell, who is in her 80s, is a James Beard award-winning food writer (her new book is "Eat Live Love Die") who decided, as a 21-year-old bride, that "housewifery wasn't enough." It will be moderated by Joy Press, The Times' former book and pop culture editor (I think she's Gen X — which would make it four generations).

The festival is full of smart people, but if you want to spend an hour in the company of the absolute smartest of the bunch, don't miss Nonfiction: Science and Our World on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Its panelists include Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech whose new book is "The Big Picture," Lawrence Weschler, who will be talking about his latest book, "Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists," and Bruce Watson, an L.A. Times book prize finalist for his "biography of light," titled "Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age," all moderated by The Times' Alan Zarembo.

As book editor here, I've noticed that the books coming out of New York publishing don't reflect the city I live in. At 4:30 p.m., I'll be moderating a panel with two of our critics at large — Adriana Ramirez and Rigoberto Gonzalez — along with Rueben Martinez, recipient of our Innovator's Award. During the panel, titled "Listen up, New York: Latino Readers & Writers Have Something to Say," I'll be asking about what publishing could learn from Latino writers and readers. Please bring your questions, complaints — and ideas.

Book shopping at the 2015 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Book shopping at the 2015 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)


If you want some great fiction, you can't go wrong with Fiction: Disappearing Acts on Sunday at 11 a.m. The panel, moderated by writer Mary Otis, features the novelists Edan Lepucki, author of the bestselling "California" whose "Woman No. 17" comes out in two weeks; Amy Gentry, author of "Good as Gone," which came out in January; Lydia Millet, whose "Sweet Lamb of Heaven" was longlisted for the National Book Award; our critic at large Alexander Chee, talking about his book "The Queen of the Night."

Speaking of our critics at large, you can find more of them on Sunday: Viet Thanh Nguyen and Laiala Lalami in conversation at 11 a.m.; at 12:30 p.m., Marlon James in conversation with Times Editor and Publisher Davan Maharaj at 12:30 pm.; John Scalzi in conversation with Cory Doctorow at 1:30 p.m.; and at 3 p.m., Rebecca Carroll will interview Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, always rumored to be in serious contention for the Nobel Prize in literature; and also at 3 p.m., Susan Straight will join Steve Lopez, with Steven P. Wallace and Susan B. Geffen, for a conversation about California's hidden poor.

For great nonfiction, here are some can't-miss ideas:

The 10:30 a.m. panel Police, Prisons and Justice with Gary Younge, author of "Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives"; Victor Rios, author of "Human Targets: Schools, Police, and the Criminalization of Latino Youth"; Heather Ann Thompson, author of "Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy"; and Les Klinger, co-editor of "Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted," moderated by Margot Roosevelt.

At noon, the panel Nonfiction: Lost Stories of the West will feature four writers: Tim Hernandez, whose book "All They Will Call You" tells the story of a California plane crash and the Mexican farmworkers who were erased from its history; Kimball Taylor, author of "The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire"; Gabriel Thompson, author of "America's Social Arsonist," a biography of Fred Roos; and Christine Pelisek previewing her book "The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central," which hits shelves in June, moderated by Miriam Pawell.

Chris Hayes of MSNBC, whose new book is "A Colony in a Nation," will be talking to The Times' Christina Bellantoni at 12:30 p.m.

And at 3:30, the panel Nonfiction: What's Up With America features book prize finalist Jane Mayer with her book "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right"; Jeff Chang, author of "We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation"; James Poulos and his book "The Art of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselves"; and Mugambi Jouet, author of "Exceptional America: What Divides Americans From the World and Each Other," moderated by Dinah Lenney.


And last but not least, the panel I'm most likely to attend, if I'm still standing: Nonfiction: The Culture of Southern California with Josh Kun, Gustavo Arellano and David L. Ulin, moderated by The Times' Carolina Miranda. It starts at 3:30 p.m.


See you at the festival!