Book Club: Dig into family secrets and ‘The Vanishing Half’ in August

Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

The L.A. Times Book Club’s August selection is “The Vanishing Half,” Brit Bennett’s new novel about family secrets and twin sisters whose lives take radically different paths.

Set in the Deep South and Southern California, “The Vanishing Half” hit the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List this summer and spurred a Hollywood bidding war. HBO prevailed and is now developing a limited series based on the story of Black sisters Desiree and Stella, who disappears and reinvents herself as a white woman.


“Into the stories of these two characters, Bennett pours a small kitchen sink of contemporary issues: racial passing, colorism, domestic abuse, intersectional feminism, transsexuality, dementia, selling out, class politics and, sure, the plight of being a twin,” says reviewer Bethanne Patrick in The Times. “It could be utterly disastrous in the wrong hands. But it isn’t. Instead, Bennett pulls it off brilliantly.”

Mark your calendar: Bennett joins book club readers Aug. 25 for a 6 p.m. conversation with Times writer Carla Hall. The virtual meetup will be livestreamed on The Times’ Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter.

"The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett
(Riverhead Books)

‘Why We Swim’

On Tuesday, the book club hosts Bonnie Tsui, author of “Why We Swim,” in a virtual conversation with reporter James Rainey.

Tsui takes readers on a trip through time and around the world, recounting how humans have endured, adapted to and interacted with water over thousands of years. At the heart of the book are extraordinary tales of long-distance swimmers such as Lynne Cox, the Los Alamitos athlete whose achievements include crossing the Bering Strait, swimming from Alaska to the Soviet Union in water as cold as 38 degrees.

Cox will be joining Tuesday night’s book talk with Tsui and Rainey.

The virtual meetup starts at 7 p.m. and will be livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Sign up here for a reminder.

What questions do you have for our guests? Share them in advance by writing to us at

Bonnie Tsui is the author of "Why We Swim."
(Lynsay Skiba / Algonquin Books)

Keep reading

Her free library: In April, Susan Straight wrote a quarantine diary for us about starting a library in her front yard. For Oprah magazine, she shares an update about how the fence library has brought her Riverside neighborhood together. “Cars and trucks began to drive by, and they haven’t stopped since,” Straight writes. “About 100 books hang from the shelves along my fence each week.”

A “Jeopardy!” memoir: Alex Trebek says he never planned to write a book. Then he decided he didn’t want someone else telling his story. Read Amy Kaufman’s interview with Trebek about “The Answer Is …” and his favorite “Jeopardy!” contestants.

“Mockingbird” now: This month marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” At the Washington Post, Erinn Haines looks at the enduring appeal of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and what it reveals about who we are.

The Salt Eaters: Asha Grant dreamed of a Black-owned bookstore in Inglewood. Now, she’s going to run one.

Want to support more L.A. bookstores? Here’s a recent roundup of indie booksellers across the area.

On books and toilet paper: Book sales jumped this spring at big-box stores, which stayed open and stocked essentials while other shops closed. The New York Times found one novel reason why.

Help us get L.A. reading and talking.

The Los Angeles Times Book Club is your chance to help us build something amazing. It’s about much more than the remarkable books we read. It’s about coming together to share an experience.

Stay tuned for more events and conversations, and stay in touch. Tell us: What stories do you want to share? What authors would you most like to meet?