Books newsletter: Tayari Jones, Jesse Ball, Lucie Brock-Broido and more in books

Books Editor

Welcome, readers! I’m L.A. Times books editor Carolyn Kellogg — here’s what’s going on in Books this week.


When Tayari Jones started publishing books, Oprah had pulled the plug on her book club. But now, four novels in, Oprah has returned with her book club 2.0, and Jones’ “An American Marriage” is her latest pick. “For her to call me on the phone — she just called me on the phone to tell me that I’d been chosen for her book club — it rejuvenated the writer that I was when I was just starting out. Getting Oprah’s endorsement felt like the most miraculous gift. And especially after her awesome Golden Globe speech, I feel so proud to be associated with her and her work,” Jones tells Nina Revoyr in a wide-ranging interview about her book, which combines social issues and a page-turning love triangle.

Oprah Winfrey and Tayari Jones, author of "An American Marriage."
(Victoria Will / Harpo Inc. )


Some books get a lot of buzz in the literary community but when you try to explain them, they sound impossible. For example: A novel about a dying man who signs up to be a census-taker and travels with his son with Down syndrome. That’s “Census” by Jesse Ball. The book is not cloying or straightforward or sentimental, yet, writes Ellie Robins in our review, it is an “achingly tender novel.”

Jesse Ball, author of "Census."
(James Foster )


When it comes to championing books, Oprah still has sway. Tayari Jones’ “An American Marriage,” now in its third week on our fiction list, is at No. 1.

After a week away, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff returns to the top of our bestseller list in nonfiction.

See all the books on our bestseller lists here.

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on March 8.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images )


Washington Post Book World editor Ron Charles brings out his alter ego, the Totally Hip Video Book Reviewer, for this hysterically noirish take on David Mamet’s “Chicago.”

Pacific Standard visits with Ken Layne and captures a little bit of what makes his Desert Oracle zine and podcast so special.

Writer Viet Thanh Nguyen (Pulitzer Prize winner, USC professor, L.A. Times Critic at Large) posted on Facebook that he got a private tour of Ernest Hemingway’s house in Ketchum, Idaho. Lucky for those of us who haven’t been able to go, he took photos.

Inside Ernest Hemingway's Ketchum, Idaho, home in 2004.
(Douglas C. Pizac / AP )


In “Girls Burn Brighter,” Shobha Rao has written a powerful debut, writes reviewer Bethanne Patrick.

George R.R. Martin is feeling “stressed” — could it be that book everyone wants him to write? — so he’s taking a break from blogging.

Feel like this year is a dumpster fire? Do you take pleasure in hate-watching? Feel like you’ve been mansplained one too many life hacks? Merriam-Webster is here for you — those are all among new words it just added to the dictionary.

In “The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror,” Mallory Ortberg — who launches the short story collection at Skylight on Saturday — twists fairy tales and more. Agatha French has this interview.

The poetry collection “Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days” by Brenda Hillman “meditates on the life in the margins of the other elements — trees, lichen, bacteria,” writes Craig Morgan Teicher in our review, while it also “partly feels like a response to the last years’ headlines and Trump’s executive orders scaling back environmental protections.”

Sad news: Award-winning poet Lucie Brock-Broido died Tuesday at age 61. Carol Muske-Dukes has this lovely appreciation: “Lucie’s friends all knew that she lived a life fueled both by eccentric passion and an absolute unrelenting committed rigor,” she writes. “Her writing life was set in stone according to its ‘calendar’: She ‘dropped out’ each year on John Keats’ birthday, Oct. 31 — and sequestered herself in order to write her poems. She usually traveled to Cambridge, Mass., from New York City (and her job as director of the Columbia MFA poetry program) with her beloved cats — returning like Persephone, in the spring.”

Lucie Brock-Broido
(Michael Lionstar/Knopf )

Thanks for reading.