BBF 2020: Your First Glimpse at the Lineup

This year, we’re trying something a little different with our lineup announcements—because why not? We’ll be rolling out our lineup gradually through the rest of the summer, along with blog posts, features, and more information about the dozens of creative authors and illustrators who will be joining us online this October.

Reading Like a Writer

One of our most popular formats for fiction programming over the past several years has been a series of sessions we call Reading Like a Writer. In these sessions, writers really open up about the nuts and bolts of their craft. Our host for each session will encourage co-panelists to comment on particular elements of a very short excerpt from each other’s work (these excerpts will also be shared with attendees who register before the event). Each author will also have the opportunity to contextualize the excerpt, discuss their writerly choices, and answer questions from the audience. A unique alternative to traditional readings, these sessions will appeal not only to aspiring fiction writers but also to all readers looking to enrich their reading experience. This year’s Reading Like a Writer sessions include some exciting newcomers to the BBF lineup: award-winning novelist, critic, and short story writer Randall Kenan and debut novelist David Heska Wanbli Weiden, whose new literary thriller, Winter Counts, is among the most anticipated books of the year. We’re also thrilled to welcome back beloved BBF presenters Margot Livesey (The Boy in the Field) and Gish Jen (The Resisters) to participate in Reading Like a Writer this year. Finally, we have not one, but two former One City One Story authors in our Reading Like a Writer series—this time for their novels! We can’t wait to catch up with Anna Solomon (The Book of V.) and Rishi Reddi (Passage West). Check out our presenters page for more information about these talented fiction writers and to find links to buy their books. And in the meantime, check out our audio recordings of these relevant sessions from years past:

BBF 2019: Reading Like a Writer: Perspective

BBF 2018: Reading Like a Writer: Character

BBF 2012: One City One Story: Anna Solomon’s “The Lobster Mafia Story”

Social Justice and Activism

These topics are relevant every year, and have only grown more urgent in 2020. This year, we’re presenting several authors whose books for adults relate to activism, specifically, transforming a desire for change into real action. Katherine M. Gehl is a business leader who has turned her expertise to political innovation in The Politics Industry. DeRay Mckesson is an activist and educator who turned his work at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in Ferguson and Baltimore into a framework for a new liberation movement in On the Other Side of Freedom. In Why We Act, Catherine Sanderson explores what it takes to transform people from bystanders to activists against injustice. And, in Politics Is for Power, Eitan Hersh of Tufts University urges readers to get off the political sidelines and become engaged in advocacy and activism.

We’re especially pleased to present a series of short programs for children and families that also explore themes of activism and social justice. These sessions will include author Jacob Kramer and illustrator K-Fai Steele for their picture book Okapi Tale, a story about politics, power, privatization . . . and pasta. Innosanto Nagara, author/illustrator of the beloved A Is for Activist, presents his motivational new picture book Oh, The Things We’re For! Renowned muralist Katie Yamasaki brings us Everything Naomi Loved, an ode to changing cities. And poet Zetta Elliott and illustrator Noa Denmon team up for A Place Inside of Me, which traces a journey from anger to healing in the wake of a police shooting.

Check out our presenters page for more information about these inspiring creators and to find links to buy their books. And in the meantime, check out these relevant sessions from years past:

BBF 2015: Racial Justice and Community Activism in the Age of Black Lives Matter

BBF 2018: Youth Activism

BBF 2020 Spring Authors Series: Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter

One City One Story

Finally, as we announced last week, we’re thrilled to welcome Grace Talusan as this year’s One City One Story author and to include her in our BBF 2020 lineup.

Stay tuned, and check back often on our presenters page  for more announcements and updates!

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At Home Boston: Furry Friends Collection

Boston Book Festival has launched a community writing project to capture this moment in history. We asked residents to send us stories of their experiences during the pandemic, from the acts of kindness by neighbors to the challenges in our biggest hospitals. And many people told us about how their furry friends were by their side through it all. The following collection gives us a glimpse into a few of those stories.

To check out more At Home Boston stories, visit BBF’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. We will be sharing submitted stories through the summer.

~

Jennifer Serafyn is a lawyer who lives in Dorchester with her husband, two sons, and their dog, Barkley.

It’s mid-March and our dog doesn’t realize that we’re all home in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. A school day. A work day. She doesn’t mind that when we go for our usual walk in Dorchester Park, we see no one. Not the guy who also has a beagle or the lady who doles out treats from her pocket.

It’s Easter and our dog doesn’t understand that no one is coming over for dinner. She doesn’t know about being over 70 and having lung disease. Instead, our dog jumps onto my lap as we Zoom with family to celebrate virtually. Safely.

It’s mid-May and our dog doesn’t notice that the bike path along the Neponset River is more crowded than usual. She wags her tail and sniffs the grass as runners, cyclists, rollerbladers, and walkers pass by. She doesn’t care that most of them are wearing masks.

Soon it will be June. My sons will turn 9 and 11. School will end. Our dog will continue to meander through the days, unaware.

That’s all we can be sure of.

~
David L. Cozad is a student at the UMass Isenberg School of Management

The Dog Days

It appears, that many in Boston have chosen this difficult time as an opportunity to open their homes to new family members of the canine persuasion. A puppy can certainly provide spurts of joy, especially through challenging times. They are, as advertised, loyal companions.

I grew up with Golden Retrievers and Springer Spaniels running around my childhood home. As I recall, they were always respectful, and obeyed their owners. They were rarely mischievous, and were most often behaving in a manner that would make even Norman Rockwell proud.

If summer was going to be spent inside, then my wife and I felt we needed a new, playful, well-mannered, handkerchief-wearing best friend.

Instead…we ended up with Clancy. Who does not enjoy walks, but will turn our Charlestown flat into a race track. Who isn’t supposed to shed, but leaves my clothes looking as if I spilled the remnants of the hand vacuum. Who will chew on your books, lick your face, and of course bark, somehow all in unison. Who has the bladder of an ant, but much more importantly the heart of a Lion.

~

 

 

Matt is a K2 teacher in Boston who lives with his fiancé Lucas and Neko!

A drowned mouse finally made me get serious about adopting a cat. My fiancé had left a pot overnight to soak and the next morning I watched in disbelief as the doomed vermin’s body circled the drain. I wanted to cover the kitchen in bleach but there wasn’t a clorox product available anywhere in Boston. So with the knowledge that I’d be teaching Kindergarten remotely for the foreseeable future, Neko came into my life the day Governor Baker announced the closure of non-essential businesses. This also led to a frantic trip to the possibly nonessential Petco.

Then came our first vet appointment. I sat in my car in the vet’s parking lot as rain pounded overhead. As I realized this was the first time we’d been separated for any extended amount of time, the call came in: she has heartworms and it’s a poor prognosis. I couldn’t call my best friend, recently pregnant whose mom was fighting Covid, and I didn’t know what to do with bad news alone. But I wasn’t alone. When I got home my fiancé reassured me, we’re going to give her the best life we can, one day at a time, each one a gift.

 

~

 

Kirstan Barnett is a startup investor and the Founder of SheGives.

Restless

It’s 3am and my dog Rikki just gave me a worried look. Up again?

“I can’t sleep,” I say. I flick the light, pick up “Non-Zero Probabilities.” But the words lay pinned to the page like swatted flies. I watch new Killing Eve episodes, play old Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats songs. Still night.

We are – what? – 12 agitated weeks into lockdown, and now this. The thing that got me was Chauvin’s sunglasses. Perched nonchalantly on his head, undisturbed, as if he were at a backyard BBQ. Or anywhere other than kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, on his life. And he was a Father, as we all now know, having seen his daughter Gianna on Stephen Jackson’s shoulders saying “Daddy changed the world.”

Precious child. I pray, safeguard her.

Rikki has her own bed. But she won’t leave me. A Goddess of Protection. She does that thing dogs do, hovers increasingly closely the more agitated I get. “I’m losing it,” I say. I know. And like those weighted Gravity Blankets meant to encourage sleep, she drapes her 70 lbs over me, covering my restless heart with safety.

As if daybreak, or a prayer, could bring peace today.

 

~

 

Lucy is a journalism graduate of Boston University’s class of 2020, currently on the job hunt.

I kept waiting for Amtrak to cancel my train on March 14th. My dad refreshed traffic on Google Maps every few minutes until we had to leave for Stamford Station. My mom, who’d just heard about “social distancing,” hugged me goodbye while holding her breath. I pet my 14-year old black lab, Cleo, and hopped in the car to return to Boston from spring break.

Coming back felt right. This was my last semester at Boston University, my lease in Allston ran until June and I was still a student with classes to finish, even over Zoom. I wanted to end college where I started.

I made it to South Station by 6pm. Life kind of exploded after that — my roommate went back to Connecticut, commencement was postponed, most friends living on campus left.

In mid-April, I said goodbye to my dog one last time over FaceTime. She’d developed a massive skin infection. We had 13 years together, and only 10 minutes on a screen for the end. Same with college — 3.75 years and a pandemic and poof, it’s over. So many goodbyes, gone.

 

 

Read more about BBF’s At Home Boston community writing project, in partnership with the Boston Globe.

Follow Boston Book Festiva’s At Home Boston project on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Share these stories using the hashtag #athomeboston.

Read more At Home Boston stories:

At Home Boston: Putting my son to bed over FaceTime.

At Home Boston: First stories featured in Boston Globe

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Volunteer Spotlight: Sarah Schlesinger on Kids’ Flower Crowns and the Challenges of Reading when Not Commuting

 

We were thrilled to catch up with long-time BBF volunteer superstar, Sarah Schlesinger, who told us about her serious crafting abilities and how she once made flower crowns for a BBF event.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I work in accounting currently for an online retailer but have crunched numbers at a hotel, dot com and non-profit in my career. I am an avid knitter and all-around crafty person. The festival put me to work one year making flower crowns for a children’s event. For the past several years, I’ve volunteered regularly at the Womens Lunch Place, a day shelter in Back Bay.
How did you end up volunteering at the festival? 
I honestly can’t remember! I had never gone to the festival before I volunteered. Most likely, I probably saw a flyer at Brookline Booksmith and it sounded like something I would like to do.
How long have you been volunteering for, and what kinds of different positions have you done during that time? Any favorites?
I have been volunteering at the festival since 2013 and have been an usher, worked at the merchandise table, and assisted in author hospitality rooms and with event booksellers.
What was one of the most memorable BBFs for you and why?
One year I was volunteering at the location of the YA Keynote. To see the line form hours before the talk, comprised mostly of young readers so enthusiastic to hear an author speak, was just a great sight to see.
What keeps you coming back volunteering year after year? I come back each year because I always have a great time.  I love being a part of so many people in the city celebrating books, learning, and discussing. Some of my favorite moments of the festival have been chatting with fellow ushers between events about what we are reading.
Anything interesting you’d like to share about your time in lockdown over the last few months? I realized how much I read during my morning commute on the T. The commute to my home office doesn’t afford that much reading time!
What are you most looking forward to this summer? Mostly I am looking forward to venturing back out into the city and hopefully a return to a bit of normalcy. I look forward to the idea of sitting outside a coffee shop, with an iced coffee, reading, and people watching.
What do you have in the line up for your summer reads? I joined a virtual book group that is reading Deacon King Kong by James McBride, so am looking forward to starting that.

 

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What’s on Your Playlist this Weekend? BBF’s ED gives you five ideas

We had such a great response to our last issue featuring some top picks from the archives that we thought we’d ask BBF’s Executive Director Norah Piehl to dig out some of her faves. What we love about this list is that there’s a little something for everyone, but you’ll definitely see a love for fiction and YA come through in her choices.

“On book festival weekend, I am usually too busy running around checking on everything to actually attend any sessions myself, which is one reason why I appreciate that so many of our sessions have audio archives available online so that I can at least hear what I’ve missed! I oversee the fiction and youth programming at the BBF, and the sessions here are some of my favorites over the past few years.”

Fiction: Campus Novels: Elizabeth Ames, Mona Awad, Jeanne Blasberg, CJ Farley, Host: Lisa Borders

Reading Like a Writer: Perspective: Susan Choi, Daphne Kalotay, Sandra Newman, Host: Dawn Tripp

Ghosts, Golems, and Gigantic Lizards: Katherine Arden, Jonathan Auxier, Camille DeAngelis, Daniel José Older, Host: Stacy Collins

YA Keynote: Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, Host: Kim Parker

BBF Unbound: Writing from Privilege: Laura van den Berg, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Shuchi Saraswat, Hasanthika Sirisena, Host: Kaitlin Solimine

Check out BBF’s full archive here.

 

 

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At Home Boston’s Intern Picks Her Top 10 Stories

Over the last month I’ve had the immense privilege of reading short stories from all over the Boston area as a part of the Boston Book Festival’s community writing project: At Home Boston. At times reading these stories brought tears to my eyes, sometimes they brought a much-needed laugh, overall they made me feel just a little bit closer to the roughly five-million people living in the Boston metropolitan area.

To everyone who submitted: Thank you for your words, your vulnerability, your gifts. I treasure them all. For my own contribution, I collected 10 stories that stuck with me. It was a hard choice as so many of these stories have struck me over the weeks, but I chose ones that rung the loudest for me, ones that I felt compelled to uplift and shed light on. — Campbell Simmons is a graduate student a Tufts and a 2020 Boston Book Festival intern.

 

 

Ginger Webb works as a social worker at Brookhaven Hospice

These days, there are far too many names on our hospice death list. For us they are not statistics, they are people who opted for comfort only. My heart aches reading the long tally. I miss seeing them, but social workers are  “non-essential,” and thus my work is mostly with families over a phone.

It’s the nurses and the health aides who are on the front lines. They put on brave fronts and play the hero, but inside they are scared of this virus: for their patients, for themselves, of bringing it home to their families. But their patients will never know.

Families think our nurses are angels for doing this work, but I know their humanity. I see them cry and swear.  I know how they need a good laugh and a big glass of wine at the end of their shifts.

They are also good shepherds who know their flock: John is feisty, Sarah likes watermelon gum. They smile when a confused patient wishes them Merry Christmas. They comfort each soul as they guide them through the valley of the shadow of death. And sometimes on their way to work, they stop to buy watermelon gum.

 

~

 

Doris Johnson, 84, is a retired Baltimore Public School educator who lives with family in Jamaica Plain. (Note: I am her daughter, Michelle Johnson and submitting this on her behalf.)

Black Lives in Crisis

Can you hear me, see me, cry for me? This message is from a black mother watching us get knocked down again. Yet, I can’t help but feel a sense of hope that there are still people out there who care.

Let’s talk about it. When did you last invite a black family into your home? Do you discuss racial issues with your child? Have you made a difference in your school, your church, your neighborhood? Or are you silent with no understanding of black people’s issues?

Can you hear me? My voice was full of hope when I raised my daughter and son, despite being followed and overcharged in stores, or ignored by clerks because they assume you can’t afford expensive items. Or having the police stopping you for no reason, or putting illegal holds on black boys and girls.

Can you hear me? See me? Cry for me? This message is from an 84-year-old black mother who kept her family together, hoping, caring and loving during extraordinary times. I will not forget the year 2020. Black lives still matter, despite forces that have long held us back. If you care, talk to your family and to your God.

 

~

 

Elissa Jacobs is a writer and writing instructor who lives in Arlington

“I hate you!” my seven-year-old screams. “I’m never going close to you again!” She clomps into the next room, slamming the door in her wake.

My mistake: I tried to get her to FaceTime with a school friend instead of watching another show on PBS.

I find her stretched out on the futon, her head wedged under a pile of blankets. When I lightly touch her back and ask what’s wrong, I hear a muffled sob. She peeks out and asks, “Mommy, can I draw my feelings?”

The resulting piece is an aberration from her usual art. There are no rainbows, no hearts, no dinosaurs. She ignores the purples and glitter pens in exchange for muted blacks and blues. I sit next to her, quiet, and try not to cry at the bruise of emotion spilling out from her small body and onto the paper.

She calls her creation, Giant Teardrop. With every brush of the marker, she feels better, and I feel more heartbroken for everything she has lost and all that she is struggling to make sense of.

 

~

 

Lucy Levin is a journalism graduate of Boston University’s class of 2020, currently on the job hunt. 

I kept waiting for Amtrak to cancel my train on March 14th. My dad refreshed traffic on Google Maps every few minutes until we had to leave for Stamford Station. My mom, who’d just heard about “social distancing,” hugged me goodbye while holding her breath. I pet my 14-year old black lab, Cleo, and hopped in the car to return to Boston from spring break.

Coming back felt right. This was my last semester at Boston University, my lease in Allston ran until June and I was still a student with classes to finish, even over Zoom. I wanted to end college where I started.

I made it to South Station by 6pm. Life kind of exploded after that — my roommate went back to Connecticut, commencement was postponed, most friends living on campus left.

In mid-April, I said goodbye to my dog one last time over FaceTime. She’d developed a massive skin infection. We had 13 years together, and only 10 minutes on a screen for the end. Same with college — 3.75 years and a pandemic and poof, it’s over. So many goodbyes, gone.

And now onto the rest of my life! As if that’s just… possible.

~

 

Sue Katz’s fiction and non-fiction have been published on the three continents where she has lived and worked, first as a martial arts master, then promoting transnational volunteering, and now as a book author.

My Pandemic Calm in Exactly 50 Words

My underlying condition keeps me inside, overlooking Spy Pond from my seventh story window. I am calm, used to living alone in a room, used to being alone as a writer. I’ve been content, prepared for the long haul, until I saw the mouse. Now every shadow is an enemy.

 

~

 

Elana Lev Friedland is a writer who lives in Somerville, and you can find them online at elanalevfriedland.com

Somerville is the most densely populated municipality in New England and it sounds like it.

At quarantine’s start, I’m grateful to be here. My room at the back of the house has views of the neighbors’ backyards. I get to see their dogs. The window I sit next to while working looks out on my landlord’s tiny vineyard, the tree at its center blossoming, growing green.

But the birds in its branches chirp. The birds on roofs chirp. Someone’s hosting karaoke parties. Setting off fireworks. My neighbor putts golf balls around his yard at 11PM. The dogs bark. My neighbors sit around recently acquired outdoor furniture. Talking. Laughing. And there are so, so many of them.

I’m hypervigilant at my best and worst–possessed of a PTSD so deep that I can hear everything, everything, everything. Another neighbor’s power tools. Cars starting, and their alarms. Fireworks. The birthday parade down my street: featuring real sirens, right here, because it turns out my neighbor’s kid is five and his dad is a firefighter. And all I can do is curl up, wait it out.

But, sometimes, I make noise too. I close my windows to dampen the sound. Sometimes, I sing.

 

~

 

Joanne Cassell is a mother, nurse, patient advocate and life long student.

Who are the Real Heroes?

They are calling me a superhero but I don’t feel like one. The superheroes are the people fighting for their lives. Like the psychotic person kept alone in isolation at a time when he needs counseling and group therapy or the person who is dying and the family has to talk to them by phone or the patient who just got extubated and her son is still intubated in the next room.

Before I go to work in the morning I have to make sure I eat and drink something otherwise there is just not enough time. Caring for Covid-19 patients is physically and emotionally challenging. Wearing an N95 mask, the suits and shields all day is a nightmare.  I often get overheated, my throat gets dry and I become lightheaded from sweating and breathing in my own CO2.

Finally, when I get home I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. My face is marked and aged from wearing a mask for twelve hours and my body weak from the long day. I take a hot shower wishing for peace and quiet –  no beeps, or phone calls. I mindlessly watch TV and cuddle the dogs. I struggle to get some sleep, but it often evades me because I am filled with guilt and fear that I could have done more.

 

~

 

Heather Watkins is a disability rights activist, mother, author, blogger, daydreamer, chocolate-lover, and serves on a handful of disability-related boards and projects

As a Black disabled person, I’ve been isolating since mid-February. I have a congenital form of muscular dystrophy that compromises my mobility and respiratory muscles. Since I’m higher risk I’m also hyper-aware of how pandemic is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities. I already use a ventilator to sleep with ease. I’ve experienced grocery delivery delays and PCA (personal care assistant) service interruptions because they’ve been affected by virus and are still in recovery.

At the same time, I’m watching stories across the media landscape about just how little Black lives matter as videos on repeat show the snuffing out and cries of “I can’t breathe” and many others take righteous anger to the street. Some days I feel defeated and vacillate from.trying to balance bouts of joy and being kept abreast of current events without burying my head in the sand.

I remind myself there are ways to stay engaged without short-circuiting myself and sense of peace but that’s easier said that done when so much  feels like a battering ram. So I find ways to calm the mind and stay productive through music and communing with family of all kinds, biological and otherwise, finding kinship online and exhaling.

 

~

 

Meghan Flannigan is a Speech Language Pathologist who works in a Skilled Nursing Facility

We started wearing face masks at work on a Thursday. Already, there was talk of a couple residents in my nursing home having the dreaded symptoms. But testing was hard to come by, at least quickly. My coworkers and I constantly checked ourselves. Am I feeling something? Every day we just waited for it to come to us. It wasn’t ever really a question of whether, but when.

The following Monday, I felt chilled at one point, then flushed. My skin suddenly felt sore. I rechecked my temperature at the receptionist desk. Still normal.

In the evening, my temperature spiked. I stayed home. Every day, a new symptom emerged. The chest tightness, the cough, the congestion and phlegm, the night sweats, the loss of taste and smell, the constant worry. I tested negative, then positive for COVID-19 a few days later.

It was an enormous relief when I was finally well enough to return to work. But everything had changed in my absence. Now there were gowns, and N95 masks, and face shields. But too late to protect me. Or our residents. So many empty beds. So many familiar faces, just gone.

 

~

 

Asa Badalucco (he/him) is a trans and queer writer studying at Emerson College.

THURSDAY

I take my testosterone shot on Thursdays. In quarantine, it’s the only way I keep up with the days of the week. If I took my shot today, tomorrow is Friday. If I take it tomorrow, today is Wednesday. It is a good routine; it is my only routine.

I take my shot in front of a big open window with lots of sun, and it’s often the only light I get. I strip to my boxers and get distracted as I watch hummingbirds give quick kisses to pink flowers. I prep my band-aids and syringes and listen to the neighbor’s dog bark. It’s a strange, thoughtful time, as I watch the needle break my skin and remind myself with a small wince just how human I am.

I realize that my transness, my queerness, has become quieter the longer I stay inside. It’s become an affair between me, myself and I, a conversation and embrace that we have just on these Thursday afternoons. I take my Thursdays to check in with my voice, my face, my thin mustache, my smile. No one is holding my hand through this anymore, they’re not allowed to. It belongs to me.

 

Read more about BBF’s At Home Boston community writing project in partnership with the Boston Globe.

Follow Boston Book Festiva’s At Home Boston project on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Share these stories using the hashtag #athomeboston.

Read more At Home Boston stories:

At Home Boston: Putting my son to bed over FaceTime.

At Home Boston: First stories featured in Boston Globe

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Summer Reading 2020

A lot of things might look a little different during the Summer of COVID, but one thing won’t change—our desire to escape for a few hours into the pages of a good book! Team BBF’s summer travel plans have been curtailed this year, but we’re still making time to head to the park, the backyard, or the sofa for some quality summer reading time. Here’s what you’ll find tucked in Team BBF’s tote bags this summer—along with a stylish mask or two, of course! You can find all our picks on our Bookshop.org page, where your purchases help support independent bookstores—and the BBF, too!

Norah Piehl, Executive Director

If you’re bemoaning the loss of your summer vacation, Yun Ko-Eun‘s new novel, The Disaster Tourist, out in August, might be just the thing to change your outlook. Yona works for Jungle, a Korean travel agency specializing in package tours to areas of the world ravaged by disasters, from hurricanes to nuclear meltdowns. She heads to a remote Vietnamese island to inspect one of Jungle’s vacation destinations—and what she discovers there is a mix of clever absurdity and mounting dread, as she uncovers cruel inequalities and environmental degradation.

This spring, we’ve been moved by reading true stories from hundreds of Bostonians, submitted as part of our At Home Boston project with the Boston Globe. It turns out that award-winning novelist Zadie Smith has spent her time in lockdown reflecting and writing as well—and the result is Intimations (out July 28), a collection of six brand-new short essays probing the meaning of this unprecedented time and our individual and collective responses to it.

If you need a break from introspection, there’s nothing better than a great romantic comedy; ever since I read Talia Hibbert‘s fantastic Get a Life, Chloe Brown last summer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its companion novel. Take a Hint, Dani Brown is British novelist Hibbert’s second novel about the vibrant, funny Brown sisters, and this one features a decidedly anti-romantic protagonist who may find herself falling in love despite her best intentions.

Finally, I’ve always been fascinated by cities and their design. I’m eager to pick up Jason Diamond‘s The Sprawl: Reconsidering the Weird American Suburbs (out in late August), which offers a hot take on the American suburban milieu as a hotbed of artistic inspiration and cultural significance. As a reluctant suburbanite myself, I look forward to viewing my neighborhood with renewed appreciation—after all, where else am I going to go this summer?

Carlin Carr, Director of Operations and Outreach

As I write this, I’m hours away from starting a week’s vacation, so it’s exciting to think about some good books to read with the extra time. I usually like to take a big trip somewhere, often India, but since that’s not happening this year, I thought I’d read A Burning by Megha Majumdar. It’s a debut novel that I’ve heard great things about, and I especially like the idea of the main character being a young Muslim girl from the slums. I’m looking forward to traveling back to India this way.

I also got really excited about Roddy Doyle‘s new book, Love, after seeing that he’ll be speaking at Harvard Book Store. I haven’t read him for years, but I went through a phase where I read tons of Irish writers and his books were just so funny. I thought a few good laughs could be a good way to mix up summer of 2020.

I’ve also been making my way through a big book of MLK speeches. It’s something I’m doing slowly, week by week, because it takes some time to really absorb the power and beauty of his words. I’ll keep working my way through that.

Ellie Manning, BBF 2020 Intern

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
I fell in love with Ariel Lawhon’s writing in the first chapter, and I could scarcely put the book down. Heroism, femininity, relationships, and the courage to face war with little except stubbornness, brandy, and a tube of red lipstick, Code Name Hélène is a powerful, gripping story based on the true events and life of a woman, Nancy Wake, fighting with the resistance against Nazi-occupied France in WWII.

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell
Michael Kingman, branded a traitor for the crimes of his father, has a family legacy to live up to and a past to confront to do it. In a world where the nobility can use magic at the price of their memories, Michael must face the political corruption of the High Nobility of the Hollows in order to find the truth about his family, and himself. But who’s memories can he trust, if not his own?

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
This is Maas’s debut adult fantasy novel. I’d never read anything by Maas, but I loved the novel’s strong heroine, murder and romance plots, and the clash of angels and demons in the fantasy elements.

Bree Reyes, BBF 2020 Intern

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore is a fun coming-of-age story with a time travel twist. Oona Lockhart celebrates her birthday every year just like everyone else. But instead of turning one year older, she hops to a completely different age, forward or backward in time. Her character development as she grapples with her reality makes this book both profound and relatable in a magical way.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
If you need an escape from the summer heat, Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party has the perfect setting and plot. On an isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands, a group of friends are welcoming the New Year together. But then one of them is found dead. Fans of a good murder mystery with an engrossing cast of characters will find this one really enjoyable.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
For those of you who might be stuck in a reading rut, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is an amazing collection of stories that is best savored rather than rushed. Each story explores the complications and importance of relationships in the face of cultural connections and barriers. Her writing style has a lovely balance of dialogue and detail that makes even the simplest of interactions enchanting.

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