Books newsletter: Barry Gifford, Book Festival news, calligraphy for Nowruz and more

Books Editor

Good morning! I’m Carolyn Kellogg, books editor of the L.A. Times, with this week’s newsletter.


Barry Gifford is famous for his tales of outsiders, including Sailor and Lula in “Wild at Heart.” Jim Ruland sits down with the author in his Berkeley studio to talk about his inspirations, his longtime love of noir and what he’s been up to lately.

What Gifford has been doing is writing short fiction: the Roy Stories. We’ve got a brand-new one — “The Best Part of the Story” — it’s excellent, sharp and unexpected, and will appear in the paperback edition of his collection “The Cuban Club,” coming this fall.


Author Barry Gifford at his writing studio.
(Peter DaSilva / For The Times )


It’s been many months in the making: We unveiled the Festival of Books schedule on Thursday. More than 400 authors will participate in the festival, including Junot Diaz, Walter Mosley, Gabrielle Union, Patton Oswalt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Joyce Carol Oates, Jorge Ramos, John Scalzi, Tayari Jones, Lawrence Wright, Rick Riordan, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Dennis Lehane, Janet Mock, Kate DiCamillo, Reza Aslan, Dave Eggers and Diana Gabaldon. And so many more — plus food trucks and art and readings and performances and booths galore. It’s all happening April 21-22 at USC. Here are some high points of the lineup and the entire schedule. And, yes, I’ll probably mention it again before we get there.

Collin Hinds with his son Preston at the 2013 L.A. Times Festival of Books.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times )


Mexican poet Julián Herbert has made a detour with his new book “Tomb Song,” (translated by Christina MacSweeney), which isn’t poetry at all. Is it fiction? Is it memoir? What are we supposed to think of its endearing, frustrating protagonist? Like American literary favorite Ben Lerner, Herbert plays with readers’ expectations while enjoying himself tremendously. “Herbert’s ambitious novel is the pleasing work of a high stylist having fun, living life, making a good story,” writes Nathan Deuel in our review.

Julian Herbert is author of "Tomb Song."
Julian Herbert is author of “Tomb Song.”
(Ignacio Valdez )


Did you hear that “Little Fires Everywhere” is being co-produced as a limited series by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, who are going to costar in it? The series was the subject of a bidding war and will stream on Hulu on a not-yet announced date. For its part, the book by Celeste Ng is No. 1 on the L.A. Times fiction bestseller list.

Debuting at No. 1 on our nonfiction bestseller list is Maria Shriver’s “I’ve Been Thinking ... Reflections Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.” Fans, plan your calendars: Shriver, the journalist and former first lady of California, will be participating in the L.A. Times Festival of Books.

See all the books on our bestseller lists here.

Honoree Maria Shriver speaks at the Celebrity Fight Night XXIV benefit on March 10, 2018.
(Emma McIntyre )


Don’t miss this L.A. Times story of the octogenarian women who have been friends since kindergarten in Boyle Heights.

Pacific Standard has created a virtual road trip through words. To take the temperature of the country, they asked writers and others to provide a kind of snapshot of their state at this particular moment in time. The result: ”Postcards From America.” It reminds me of the terrific 2009 anthology “State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America — 50 Writers on 50 States,” edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey and which is a hefty 608 pages.

Kate Wilhelm died last week, and Scott Bradfield has this appreciation of the science fiction writer who never quite got her due.

The National Book Critics Circle announced its award winners Thursday night; women swept all six categories. Joan Silber took the fiction prize for her novel “Improvement”; nonfiction went to Frances FitzGerald for “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America”; the autobiography prize went to Xiaolu Guo for her book “Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China”; biography went to Caroline Fraser for her book “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder”; criticism went to Carina Chocano for her essay collection “You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages” and Layli Long Soldier won the poetry prize for “Whereas.”

Agatha French visited Ketabsara bookstore and gallery in Westwood and, on the eve of Nowruz, talked to proprietor Masud Valipour about how he came to create his unique calligraphic art of Persian poetry.

Ketabsara Bookstore
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times )

Thanks for reading!