PAST EVENT: Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Roseville Library, Roseville
Internationally bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Nnedi Okorafor is one of that genre’s most unique contemporary voices. Her spell-binding work is inspired by her rich West African heritage. Titles of particular note include the post-apocalyptic Who Fears Death (2010), winner of the prestigious World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and its 2016 prequel The Book of Phoenix, which was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Okorafor’s equally popular young adult books include Akata Witch (2011), affectionately dubbed “the Nigerian Harry Potter” by fans, and Zahrah the Windseeker (2005), winner of multiple prizes for pan-African literature. A screenplay for Zahrah the Windseeker is currently in the works, and both Who Fears Death and Akata Witch have also been optioned for films. In addition to her novel-length work, Okorafor also pens short fiction, including the recent Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction novella Binti (2015).
Kao Kalia Yang
PAST EVENT: Monday, February 27, 2017, Rum River Library
Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American memoirist and teacher, and a leading voice for one of Minnesota’s fastest growing ethnic groups. Her moving 2008 memoir, The Latehomecomer, chronicles the story of her own family – and hundreds like them – who made the harrowing trek from their native Laos, to refugee camps in Thailand, and ultimately to the United States in the wake of the Vietnam War. The Latehomecomer won Yang the 2009 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, as well as that year’s MNBA Reader’s Choice Award – the first-ever title to win two awards. The National Endowment for the Arts recently singled out the memoir for a coveted spot on its Big Read roster, and it remains Minnesota publisher Coffee House Press’s single bestselling title to date. Yang turns the spotlight on the trials and travails of her father, Bee Yang, in her 2016 follow up The Song Poet. The Pioneer Press praised it as “inventive and touching . . . an elegantly written, moving testament to so many aspects of the human experience.”
PAST EVENT: Monday, March 6, 2017, R.H. Stafford Library
Chris Pavone burst onto the mystery thriller scene in 2012 with The Expats, a chart-topping spy novel centered around an unassuming American housewife who stumbles upon evidence of a major conspiracy – while safeguarding a secret of her own. His debut earned Pavone both Edgar and Anthony awards. The international bestseller is currently in print in over twenty languages, and being adapted for a major motion picture produced by Kevin Spacey. None other than Stephen King singled out Pavone’s 2014 follow up, The Accident, as one of the best nail-biters of that year. His newest, The Travelers, centers around a disillusioned travel writer who finds himself caught in a web of international intrigue that takes him to Argentina, Iceland, and many points in between. Notes The New York Times: “The Travelers confirms what Mr. Pavone’s first two books have established: that when it comes to quick-witted, breathless thrillers that trot the globe, his are top-tier.”
PAST EVENT: Tuesday, March 7, 2017, Southdale Library
Richard Zacks is an accomplished journalist and historian, best known by many for his gripping, well-researched books on topics relating to the Golden Age of Piracy. These include The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd (2002), billed as a “rare, authentic pirate story for grown-ups,” and The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805 (2005) – a bestseller that Kirkus Reviews lauds as an intense adventure narrative peppered with “exquisitely researched, character-enhancing tangential anecdotes.” Zacks expanded his investigative lens in 2012 with Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York. His newest, Chasing the Last Laugh, tells the tale of a round-the-world comedy tour that took American humorist Mark Twain as far from home as Australia and South Africa. Booklist recommended it highly as a “fast-paced and revealing look at a neglected episode in Twain’s life.”
PAST EVENT: Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Prior Lake Library
Book club favorite Jamie Ford made waves in 2009 with the publication of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Set in Seattle against the backdrop of Japanese-American internment during World War II, Ford’s historical fiction debut follows the unlikely but lasting friendship between a Chinese-American boy and Japanese-American girl. Kirkus Reviews commended it “a timely tale that not only reminds readers of a shameful episode in American history, but cautions us to examine the present and take heed we don’t repeat those injustices.” Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet became a mainstay on the New York Times bestseller list for two full years, and garnered Ford a number of honors, including the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. It has been translated into an astounding 34 languages to date. Ford’s sophomore novel, Songs of Willow Frost (2013), revisits the author’s favorite setting at the height of the Great Depression.
PAST EVENT: Thursday, March 30, 2017, Galaxie Library
Pam Jenoff is the author behind The Kommandant’s Girl (2007), one of this past decade’s best received works of historical romance. After the Nazis occupy Poland in 1939, young Jewish bride Emma Bau is forced to flee her home and husband and assume a new identity. In hopes of gaining intel for the Polish resistance movement, she becomes the secretary and love interest of a high-ranking German official – a brave decision with unexpected consequences. Jenoff has since penned half a dozen more novels against the backdrop of war-torn Europe, including The Diplomat’s Wife (2008), The Things We Cherished (2011), The Ambassador’s Daughter (2013), The Other Girl (2014), The Winter Guest (2014), and The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach (2015). Her newest, The Orphan’s Tale, debuts in February. It follows Noa, a young woman who becomes pregnant by a German soldier, is ostracized from her community, and joins up with a traveling circus.
PAST EVENT: Tuesday, April 4, 2017, Stillwater Public Library
Award-winning novelist Lily King is the author of Euphoria, one of 2014’s best reviewed books. King’s popular page-turner is inspired by and loosely based around the New Guinea fieldwork of famed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. The New York Times Book Review singled out Euphoria for a coveted spot on its annual “10 Best Books” list, praising King’s work as a “meticulously researched homage to Mead’s restless mind — and a considered portrait of Western anthropology in its primitivist heyday.” The book garnered the author a host of other honors, as well, including the first-ever Kirkus Prize for Fiction. Lily King has also published three additional novels, including The Pleasing Hour (1999), a riveting debut honored with a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, and Father of the Rain (2010), winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction.
PAST EVENT: Thursday, April 20, 2017, Stillwater Public Library, Stillwater
Stillwater Public Library, in partnership with ArtReach St. Croix and the National Endowment for the Arts, is bringing The Big Read to Stillwater in April 2017. The featured title is a perennial favorite: Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 detective classic The Maltese Falcon. Hammet is considered the father of the “hard-boiled” style of detective writing, and The Maltese Falcon is undoubtedly his opus. In conjunction with The Big Read, Club Book is pleased to host a special event featuring Hammett granddaughter and noted scholar Julie Rivett. She has edited five books on her celebrated grandfather’s work, including: Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett (2001), Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers (2001), Return of the Thin Man (2012), The Hunter and Other Stories (2013), and The Continental Op: Case Files Complete (2016). Rivett is also a trustee of the Hammett estate, and delivers lectures around the world on Hammett and autobiographical Falcon protagonist Sam Spade.
PAST EVENT: Tuesday, April 25, 2017, Chanhassen Public Library
Minnesota’s own Lorna Landvik is a comedienne, actress, playwright, and prolific novelist. Her 1995 fiction debut, Patty Jane’s House of Curl – a zany but heartwarming story about two Minnesota sisters who open a beauty parlor… complete with live harp music and Norwegian baked goods – introduced readers to Landvik’s unique brand of humor. She has since published nearly a dozen other books, including bestsellers Welcome to the Great Mysterious (2002), Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (2004), Oh My Stars (2008), and Best to Laugh (2014). In addition to her writing, Landvik is a regular in the local improv comedy scene, and has written and starred in several scripted plays. Her latest novel, Once in a Blue Moon Lodge, is a long-awaited sequel to Patty Jane’s House of Curls. It hit shelves in April.
PAST EVENT: Thursday, May 11, 2017, Merriam Park Library
Ghanaian-American novelist Yaa Gyasi is the author behind Homegoing, one of the breakout hits of 2016. This sweeping, transcontinental family saga follows the descendants of two sisters torn apart by the African slave trade. The legacy of slavery follows six subsequent generations – through the American Civil War, to twentieth-century Harlem, and up to the modern day. It has earned a wide range of accolades and honors. The Washington Post endorses Homegoing as “[Alex Haley’s] Roots for a new generation. A bold tale of slavery… how much we know, and how much we willfully forget.” Gyasi’s unique, relevant, and engaging voice earned the 26-year-old the National Book Foundation’s highly coveted ‘5 Under 35’ Award for 2016. Random House is re-releasing the New York Times bestseller in paperback in May.