Books: Writing and gun violence, women in criticism, politics at the Festival of Books and more

Books Editor

I’m L.A. Times books editor Carolyn Kellogg — welcome to this week’s newsletter.


What can poetry do in the face of gun violence? Critic at large Adriana E. Ramirez attended a reading — in Florida, not long after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — that paired the work of poets with the voices of the families of survivors. “Throughout the anthology and evening, the image of a loved one, usually a mother, still crying, still holding on, permeates,” she writes. “The image emerges again and again, but it’s never old. The pain of losing someone is always fresh, always necessary.”


A memorial service for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla..
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images )


Michelle Dean’s “Sharp” is dedicated to “every person who’s ever been told, ‘You’re too smart for your own good.’” That includes the 12 female cultural critics — including Pauline Kael, Susan Sontag and Joan Didion — whose work and lives she outlines in her book, subtitled “The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion.” Kate Tuttle has our review.


The Festival of Books is coming up April 21-22 and you can begin planning your schedule. Advance VIP tickets ($100 and $35) are on sale now; regular session tickets, free with a $2 processing fee, go on sale April 15.


One of the conversations that’s bound to be popular will be David Corn and Michael Isikoff talking about their book “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump” (reviewed this week); they’ll be interviewed by Times Washington bureau chief David Lauter.

There are many more panels on politics; see a few favorites here.


Returning to the top spot on our fiction bestseller list is Celeste Ng’s “Little Fires Everywhere,” now in its its 28th week on our list.

Entering our nonfiction list this week is “After/Image” by Lynell George at No. 9. The Los Angeles author and journalist is also a photographer with a keen eye; this book looks at Los Angeles’ disappearing landscapes through a personal lens. George will be at the Festival of Books on the panel “Photography and Narrative” with Geoff Dyer and Karen Tei Yamashita, moderated by David L. Ulin.

See all the books on our bestseller lists here.


Garrison Keillor, who was fired by Minnesota Public Radio in November following accusations of sexual misconduct, wants to revive his radio program, “The Writer’s Almanac.”

Sean Penn was interviewed on stage by Jane Smiley in Santa Monica about his novel “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,” and Agatha French was there.

Former FBI Director James Comey is coming to Los Angeles with his forthcoming memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” but the event is sold out. Tickets, however, are being offered — at a steep markup — by resellers.

Carlos Magdalena travels the world as one of the Kew Gardens’ leading horticulturalists, trying to save the planet’s rarest plants. He tells that story in his memoir “The Plant Messiah”; Willy Blackmore has our review.

Thanks for reading!