Good morning and welcome to the LA Times Book Club newsletter.
The stories are short but sweet. In just a few pages, they transport us to wildly diverse destinations: an escape on an Icelandic island, an abandoned Peruvian mountain hostel, a research station on an Antarctic ice field. Other authors recall connections made while backpacking Asia, working on cruise ships, driving a Paris taxi, or traveling in their ancestral homeland.
In all, 65 seasoned and well-traveled writers reflect on a passing encounter that left a lasting impression in this month’s reading club, Letter to a Stranger: Essays to Those Who Haunt Us.
“The concept is so irresistible,” says Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds† “Who can read about it and not think of a person and a place, perhaps an unanswered question, lingering in the memory?”
Reynolds joins book clubbers May 26 for a conversation with authors Pico Iyer, Maggie Shipstead and Michelle Teathree of the book’s contributors, and Colleen Kindereditor of “Letter to a Stranger.”
This intriguing collection comes as many of us dare to travel again, or at least dream of new adventures. Reynolds, who spent 40 to 50 days a year on the road before the pandemic, has cut his own work trips in half over the past two years, often focusing on destinations close to home in California.
Kinder said the manuscript was completed in the fall of 2020, but already felt like a time capsule of sorts. “The book definitely reminds me of moving through the world in a more vulnerable and open state,” she says in an interview. “So many of these essays evoke a pre-COVID era, when we didn’t even realize how free we were.”
Join us: The book club night ‘Letter to a Stranger’ will be streamed live from 6:00 p.m. PT On May 26† Buy tickets and autographed books here.
“We spend such a large part of our lives in the company of people whose names we will never know, people we will never meet again,” says novelist Leslie Jamison in the preface to the book. “How seldom do we honor them. How seldom do we admit to ourselves the strange, unannounced ways they can nestle within us.”
Book Notes: Maggie Shipstead
Before the book club night, Novelist from Los Angeles Maggie Shipsteadauthor of “Great Circle” and the new “You Have a Friend in 10A”, shared some favorite writers and distractions.
Your next adventure† I got home from Fiji four days ago, so I hope not to go anywhere for a while! But I’ve been saying for a few years now that I would go for a long (270-mile) hike in the Swedish Arctic, and I hope to do so in late summer.
Last book that kept you up at night: “The Cold Vanish” by Jon Billmanthat is about the strange and mysterious ways in which people disappear into the wilderness and how others search for them.
The writers who influenced you the most: Oh god, different writers at different times. In high school, they were high WASPs like Cheever and Updike. Lately, it has been mostly female writers: Hilary Mantel† Mary Gaitskill† chimamanda [Ngozi] Adichie† Ruth Ozeki† Kate Atkinson† Min Jin Lee†
Something you’ve discovered about yourself since the pandemic† I am really able to live with another person!
What’s not on your resume (that says a lot about you): I like to embroider pillows and give them to friends.
Your next project† I’m working on another novel…but slowly.
What awaits us?
Mark your calendar for next month’s book club talk with bestselling author and historian Ibram X Kendi, who joins us in Los Angeles at USC’s Bovard Auditorium.
Kendi’s new book, How to Raise an Anti-Racist, is aimed at parents, teachers and other caregivers. He addresses questions such as: How do we talk to children about race and racism? How do we teach children to be anti-racist? How do children of different ages experience racing?
Buy tickets for this June 22 even there.
We can teach you that
You know the weekend exercise: wake up and search the new offers over a cup of coffee. Spend Saturday at open houses. Get discouraged by the million dollar price tags on modest fixer-uppers with no yards and even less charm. To repeat.
The latest We Can Teach You That event can provide much-needed help finding your refuge amid the madness. times staff Andrew Khoury and Patt Morrison participate Yolandra McClinton, of the Los Angeles County Nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services, on May 19 for “Secrets of the Great SoCal House Hunt.”
The Pulitzers: This week’s Pulitzer Prize-winning authors include recent awards at the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes: Poet Diane Seuss won for “frank:sonnets,” cited by the Pulitzer Commission as “a virtuoso collection that inventively expands sonnet form to confront the cluttered contradictions of contemporary America.” Ada Ferrer won for “Cuba: An American History,” a comprehensive chronicle of the island nation and its complex relationship with the United States.” Andrea Elliott won in nonfiction for “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City,” which follows a girl coming of age amid New York City’s homelessness crisis. Read more.
In journalism awards, Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent and photojournalist Marcus Yam received the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for his coverage of the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. The Times was also named a finalist in the ‘breaking news’ category for its coverage of a cameraman’s accidental death on the set of the low-budget western ‘Rust’.
A History in California: Acclaimed Science Fiction Writer Kim Stanley Robinson says he’s done with stories from deep space. His new book, “The High Sierra: A Love Story,” is Robinson’s first major non-fiction work. “I decided it was time to get straight to the topic of climate change,” he told the New York Times.
Haller and Bosch return: tv reviewer Robert Lloyd explains how Netflix’s “Meat and Potatoes” legal thriller “The Lincoln Lawyer” could predict the streamer’s future. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo plays lawyer Mickey Haller in the series, one of two New Crime Shows In LA Debuting This Month Based On Michael Connelly’s best-selling novels. The other is “Bosch: Legacy”.
The antique shop behind ‘On Gold Mountain’. Writer Lisa Zie talks about researching her family saga and the journey into this month’s operatic adaptation of her work in the Huntington Library’s Chinese garden.
Essential stories. Former editor of Times Books David L. Ulin “The Hutting Kind” reviews by Ada Citroen, “the poet of our lonely, terrifying moment.” Elsewhere, Ulin compiles an introduction to seven essential Joan Didion lectures in Alta Magazine.
After a two-year hiatus, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books returned—on a large scale—to the USC campus on April 23-24. “It was a great year”, says festival director Ann Binneywho shared a summary.
Here is the festival of 2022, by the numbers:
274 live events from bands to book reviews to poetry readings
8 outdoor stages
14 indoor locations
706 volunteers, who made sure everything ran smoothly.
And book festivals come back also elsewhere this spring, of the Bay Area Book Fest in Berkeley, to LitFest Pasadena† to next week’s debut of the Santa Fe Literary Festival.
“Letter to a Stranger” contributor and Los Angeles author Michelle Tea shared her writing inspiration and latest work as we count down to the book club night in May.
Your next adventure: Taking my son to San Francisco next month, where he was born.
The last book that kept you up at night: “Station Eleven.” I devoured it!
The writers who influenced you the most† Eileen Myles† Violet LeDuc† Lynda Barry† Jean Genet.
Something you’ve discovered about yourself since the pandemic† I’m not nearly as sociable as I imagine I am. Or am I just incredibly flexible?
What’s not on your resume (that says a lot about you): Which university did I attend, because I didn’t.
Your next project† My book “Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of My In/Fertility” will be out this summer!
We look forward to seeing everyone on May 26. Share your questions for our travelers: What do you want to ask? Michelle Tea† Maggie Shipstead† Pico Iyer† Colleen Kinder and Christopher Reynolds† Send comments by email to [email protected]
And if you like our community events: Please consider becoming a benefactor of the new Los Angeles Times Community Fund, which supports our local book club and annual book awards.
As always, thanks for watching and showing up every month. And please let us know what you think about the books we read and what we should read together in the future.