Ann Patchett and Nikole Hannah-Jones reveal the influences behind their new books

Best-selling author Ann Patchett will discuss "These Precious Days," with Times columnist Steve Lopez on Dec. 9, 2021
(Heidi Ross/Harper)
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Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

Like many of us, Ann Patchett has been thinking hard about how the pandemic has altered her life and her ideas about work.

“I don’t really think I need to go anywhere anymore,” she says.

For the bestselling novelist and indie bookstore owner, that means book tours without boarding passes and airport security lines. It’s all via Zoom for the foreseeable future. Maybe forever.


Eudora Welty didn’t go anywhere. Emily Dickinson didn’t go anywhere,” Patchett says in a new interview from her Nashville home. “The value of my life is that I can write books, and I’m going to get a lot more of them written in my house — and I have a great imagination.”

That’s good news for book club readers who will meet Patchett — virtually — on Dec. 9.

Starting at 6 p.m. PST, the author of “The Dutch House” and “Bel Canto” will be in conversation with Times columnist Steve Lopez about her new book, “These Precious Days.”

In this engaging collection of essays, Patchett reflects on literary influences as diverse as novelist and short-story writer Welty, children’s author Kate DiCamillo and cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. She recounts her year of no shopping and a pandemic-inspired quest to rid herself of worldly possessions. The book’s title essay is the story of an unexpected friendship with Sooki Raphael, the personal assistant of Tom Hanks, and a connection forged in the isolation of Raphael’s cancer treatment and the pandemic.

“I’m an introvert,” Patchett says. “And I’m an introvert who works from home. So I feel like I’ve been in training for this one my whole life. Tell me that I can’t leave my house? Oh yeah, I’m gonna be fine with that.”

Our December book club will be livestreaming on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Sign up on Eventbrite for tickets and autographed books.

What would you like to ask Ann Patchett? Send your questions in an email to

P.S. In advance of book club night, we invited Patchett to share some of her favorite photos. She responded with this gallery of her book shop dogs.

Ann Patchett and bookshop dog, Sparky.
(Heidi Ross)

Truth to power

In another insightful book club interview this month, columnist LZ Granderson talked with Nikole Hannah-Jones about her journey to publish “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” as a book.

“I have learned that power doesn’t flash what it’s going to do,” Hannah-Jones says. “It doesn’t signal what it’s going to do. It moves silently behind the scenes and makes impact and then once everything is figured out announces itself.”

The New York Times Magazine originally published Hannah-Jones’ work in 2019 as a series exploring the “unparalleled impact of African slavery on the development of our country and its continuing impact on our society,” she writes. The stories sparked debate and new classroom curricula, and became part of the national discourse as the nation grappled with the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans.

“The 1619 Project” anthology arrived in bookstores on Nov. 16. Hannah-Jones will join us on Nov. 30 for a conversation with Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Bestselling author Terry McMillan and L.A. Times Book Prize winner Nafissa Thompson-Spires also will join the Ideas Exchange/Book Club event to read their stories from “The 1619 Project.”

The in-person event is sold out but virtual tickets are available on Eventbrite.

In addition, Southern California educators can get access to next week’s event to share the discussion with students. Teachers and professors can send an email to

Kevin Merida and Nikole Hannah-Jones flank the cover of her book "The 1619 Project."
(James Estrin; One World; Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

We Can Teach You That

Dec. 2: How to Gift Wrap Like a Pro. Grab your favorite beverage (and a friend) and join Times staffers Taylor Le, Faith Pinho, Laura Nelson and Samantha Melbourneweaver for a creative, fun evening to learn how to wrap beautiful presents. Our elves are ready to spill their secrets and show you how to up your gifting game this holiday season, whether it’s sustainable packaging or wrapping that transforms holiday gifts into small masterpieces. Sign up.


Jan. 11: How to Take Control of Your Money in 2022. The assistant editor of The Times’ utility journalism team, Jessica Roy, will lead this practical We Can Teach You That session that will help you manage your money in the new year. Roy, who is launching a newsletter in January about personal finance for regular people, will help get you started making a budget you’ll actually use, share tips for spending less money and show you how to make a plan to pay off your debt. Sign up.

Ask A Reporter - Marcus Yam

ICYMI: Times photographer and foreign correspondent Marcus Yam discussed his recent Afghanistan assignment during an Ask a Reporter conversation hosted in partnership with Arizona State University. One of the few journalists in Kabul as the Taliban swept to power and American forces retreated, Yam chronicled refugee evacuations, a U.S. drone strike that mistakenly killed civilians and stories of women in hiding. On Nov. 10, Yam joined Times foreign and national editor Jeffrey Fleishman at the new ASU California Center. Watch the event on YouTube.

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