Winter book preview

For the patrons of West Hollywood's Book Soup, BaoHaus restaurant owner Eddie Huang's upcoming memoir, 'Fresh Off the Boat,' might be particularly tasty.
(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Looking ahead to books in 2013 is a little like predicting the Los Angeles weather: sunny, pleasant, better than average. The fiction fields are fertile, the nonfiction skies clear and the young adult books are fresh like spring rain.

We’ll see new books from old favorites: January brings Brad Meltzer’s “The Fifth Assassin” and “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult arrives in February. March marks “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” novelist Mohsin Hamid’s “How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia.” April brings food activist Michael Pollan’s “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” and a new witty book of essays from David Sedaris: “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.”

There are many literary reasons to make room on the bedside table. Aleksandar Hemon’s “The Book of My Lives,” a memoir from the Bosnian writer who has made a home in Chicago. Novels from 87-year-old James Salter, “All That is,” and National Book Award finalist Rachel Kushner, “The Flamethrowers,” arrive in April. And rumor has it that October will bring a new novel from reclusive author Thomas Pynchon, “Bleeding Edge.” But that’s a long way off.

There’s no obvious blockbuster in the next few months: no Harry Potter sequel, no next Dragon Tattoo mystery. Then again, publishing can’t always see what the future holds. “Last year we didn’t know that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was going to be a defining trend,” says Patricia Bostelman, vice president of marketing at national bookseller Barnes & Noble. Much to the surprise of everyone in publishing, E.L. James’ erotic trilogy topped bestseller lists.

Will it lead to more works of erotica finding audiences, or to publishers hitting big with books that were originally self-published? No one is sure. “Some things are left to reveal themselves,” Bostelman says.


We talked to some local and national booksellers to see what upcoming books they’re most anticipating.

Vroman’s in Pasadena / Book Soup in West Hollywood

A plethora of new fiction is on tap at Vroman’s. There’s Jamaica Kincaid’s “See Now Then,” her first novel in 10 years, coming in February. Bestselling novelist Claire Messud’s “The Woman Upstairs,” which arrives in April, is about “a single teacher who gets entwined in the life of a visiting family,” explains book buyer Sherri Gallentine. “So far, it’s one of my favorites for 2013.” She’s also enthusiastic about L.A. author Marisa Silver’s “Mary Coin,” a dramatization of the life of Dorothea Lange and the migrant mother whom she famously photographed (the photograph, she notes, is part of the Getty’s collection). And out in May is Philip Meyer’s “The Son” — his debut novel won the L.A. Times book prize for first fiction. As for nonfiction, Gallentine thinks “Fresh Off the Boat,” by Eddie Huang of the restaurant BaoHaus, a no-holds-barred memoir of his immigrant food experience, will be particularly popular with the Book Soup crowd.

Mysterious Galaxy Books in Redondo Beach and San Diego

With its dual focus on crime and science fiction novels, Mysterious Galaxy is anticipating an interesting mix of books. On the young adult side, there’s “Scarlet” by Marissa Meyer coming in February. It’s the second in her Lunar series, fairy tales retold in a science fiction future. “These books definitely have crossover appeal for adults,” says Mysterious Galaxy’s Maryelizabeth Hart, who recommends February’s “The Best of All Possible Worlds” by Karen Lord as straight-ahead “science fiction for grown-ups.” One of the biggest science fiction/fantasy titles of the year may be “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman, a book for adults coming in June. Hart admits she has mixed feelings about Charlaine Harris’ “Dead Ever After” because it is the last Sookie Stackhouse novel, coming in May. Overall, Hart sees one trend, and it’s not new. “There’s a continued interest in dystopian futures,” Hart says. “We didn’t get the Mayan apocalypse, so we’ll read it in 2013.”

Skylight Books in Los Feliz

Skylight’s Charles Hauther is looking forward to the May paperback release of George R.R. Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons,” the fifth book in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” (a.k.a. “Game of Thrones”) series; Maurice Sendak’s “My Brother’s Book,” an illustrated title out in February by the late children’s author that is actually for adults; and in March “Middle C” by William Gass, who at 88 is still a major literary force. On the nonfiction side, “The Democracy Project” by David Graeber arrives in April. Graeber is the sometimes controversial academic whose 2011 book “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” received high praise.

Eso Won Books in Leimert Park

“Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party” by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. will already be on the shelves at Eso Won Books by the time you read this. “We’re going to do really well with that,” says the store’s James Fugate. He also sees broad appeal for Sister Souljah’s “A Deeper Love Inside,” out later this month and a continuation of “The Coldest Winter Ever,” which he says “sells and sells and sells.”

Diesel Books in Brentwood, Malibu and Oakland

Store co-owner John Evans is looking forward to a couple of novels: “Schroder” by Amity Gaige and “Benediction” by Kent Haruf, both coming in February. Mostly though, he’s been thinking of art. There’s “Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years” coming in May, and February’s “A Handbook of Modern Design: 1930-1965" a companion to 2011’s “California Design: Living in a Modern Way.”

Arcana Books in Culver City

The art bookstore has its sights on a handful of significant books about Southern California life, art, and architecture. “Never Built Los Angeles” by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, arrives in April with a forward by Thom Mayne. The book pulls together archival drawings and recent illustrations of 100 visionary-but-unbuilt works that would have given different shape to our city. Very soon co-owner Lee Kaplan expects the arrival of “James Welling,” a retrospective published by Aperture. Welling, who teaches at UCLA, is “an artists’ artist,” Kaplan explains, “one of L.A.'s best-kept secrets.” Another anticipated title is “The Plight of the Torpedo People,” a photo book of body surfing tied to Keith Malloy’s film “Come Hell or High Water.” And fans of artist Ed Ruscha can look forward to “Various Small Books,” edited by Wendy Burton and Jeff Brouws, which looks at almost 100 small art books that riffed on Ruscha’s seminal pieces such as “26 Gasoline Stations” and “Every Building on the Sunset Strip.”

Barnes & Noble

The first book that Patricia Bostelman, vice president of marketing, wanted to talk about was a memoir: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s “My Beloved World.” The book steps carefully past her legal history and instead focuses on Sotomayor’s youth growing up poor in the Bronx. “It’s like ‘A Tree Grows In Brooklyn,’” says Bostelman, who met Sotomayor to discuss the book. “She tells a very personal story.” Another nonfiction book by a major female player — Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” — is coming in March. In fiction, Bostelman expects big things from a writer unknown in America: Herman Koch’s “The Dinner” is a suspenseful international bestseller about two families that meet — yes, for dinner — to discuss something bad that their sons have done. Also on her radar are Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life,” a literary novel coming in May; perennial bestseller Robert Crais’ “Suspect,” out later this month and Harlan Coben’s “Six Years,” which arrives in March.

The bookstore chain is also looking forward to two movie tie-in editions. There’s Max Brooks’ “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” starring Brad Pitt, which comes to screens in November, as does “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card, the young adult science fiction story of child warriors. “Even if a movie isn’t all that successful,” Bostelman says, “It’s a great way to sell books.”