16 books we’re reading in summer 2020

Summer is in full swing, and that means summer reading is too! Whether you’re searching for a hot new release (may we suggest a few of our fantastic Books Forward authors below!), or you’re craving a fresh dip into a hit from summers-past, we’ve got you covered! Here’s what we’re reading in summer 2020: 

Ellen Whitfield, Senior Publicist 

Adult Conversation by Brandy Ferner (Fiction)

What mom doesn’t need a quick trip to Vegas right now? Brandy’s book is the perfect pandemic read for moms like me who were a little overwhelmed by their families BEFORE they were quarantined with them. Add in a therapist with her own issues, and a Thelma-and-Louise-style trip and you get a great summer read that’s a dose of fun with some deeper themes.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (Fantasy) 

To me, a book set by the ocean will always be a perfect summer read. I think everyone can identify with the themes of belonging in this book, and the fantasy elements add so much fun to the mix. Linus Baker is a simple man living a simple life as a case worker who checks on magical children living in orphanages. But when he gets sent on a very secret mission to an island, the inhabitants and their secrets change everything for him. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (Young Adult)

For some reason, I read a lot of YA books during the summer months, and Felix has been a standout for me so far. I read the library book in a day and immediately ordered my own copy because I loved it with my whole heart. Felix is a trans teen attending a prestigious art school and struggling with his identity on top of the typical teen complications. He also wants desperately to fall in love, but when he starts to receive harassment — both in real life and online — he worries he’ll never truly be accepted for himself.  

Angelle Barbazon, Lead Publicist 

The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman (Thriller, releasing Aug. 18)

Every time Jenny Milchman releases a new book, it shoots straight to the top of my reading list, and The Second Mother is no exception! Exploring themes of isolation and survival, this summer thriller follows a schoolteacher who attempts to outrun her past by accepting a job on a remote island off the coast of Maine, only to discover her new community isn’t quite as safe and welcoming as it seems. Jenny Milchman proves once again that she’s a master of suspense!

Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn (Historical Nonfiction)

I’m looking forward to digging through my TBR pile this summer and finally cracking open a few books that I’ve been meaning to read for years. First up is Eleanor and Hick, which I randomly discovered sitting in a Little Free Library last summer, and it’s been on my bookshelf ever since. The book follows the love affair between the ever-fascinating Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, a journalist who was assigned to cover the First Lady. This is a piece of history I never heard about, so I was automatically drawn to their story, and I can’t wait to read more.

Hunting Teddy Roosevelt by James A. Ross (Historical Fiction, releasing July 31)

If you can’t travel this summer because of the coronavirus, let James A. Ross whisk you away to the savannahs, jungles and deserts of Africa in “Hunting Teddy Roosevelt.” This historical fiction novel is based on an obscure true story about an assassination attempt during Roosevelt’s post-presidency hunting expedition that’s not found in most history books. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re looking for a book brimming for larger-than-life characters, an exotic locale and thoughtful writing, pick this one up!

Jennifer Vance, Publicist 

The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge (Thriller)

Time to let y’all in on a little secret: I took martial arts for about eight years when I was growing up — it was seriously a huge part of my life. So reading about a tough and cunning modern-day Ninja like Lily Wong not only took me back to my glory days of summer karate tournaments, it also kept me on the edge of my seat and reminded me how awesome it is to read about fierce women fighting for justice. I’m excited book 2 in the series, The Ninja’s Blade, is out Sept.1 so Lily’s story can continue!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction, releasing Sept. 1)

After a million friends telling me to, I finally read Homegoing this year by Gyasi, and I hate myself for waiting so long — it’s hands down one of my favorite books of the past five years. So I’m excited to bookend my summer with her newest, Transcendent Kingdom. Following a Ghanian family of immigrants living in Alabama, the novel touches on themes of faith, science, love and religion, all wrapped up in Gyasi’s exquisite prose. I’m going to be anxiously waiting by my mailbox for this one to arrive. 

Jackie Karneth, Publicist 

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Nonfiction, Memoir)

The most visceral, exhilarating, and painful short stories I’ve ever read can be found within Machado’s 2017 collection, Her Body and Other Parties. I’m overjoyed and grateful for the chance to experience her writing again, this time in the form of her memoir, which draws from her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. Abuse in queer relationships is often downplayed or overlooked entirely. Yet Machado’s heart-wrenching recollection lays it all out for the reader, while also tacking on her characteristic wit and humor.

Finding Hemingway by Ken Dortzbach (Fiction, Rom-Com)

This rom-com set in Spain is exactly what you need to escape to Europe from the comfort of your own home. In a magical-realist twist, Ken Dortzbach sends his protagonist — highly talented lawyer, Callie McGraw — on a whirlwind adventure after she receives a mysterious phone call from Ernest Hemingway. This endearing tale of friendship, experiencing new cultures, and finding oneself is one you’ll want to loan to your best friend after reading.

The Way You Burn by Christine Meade (Fiction)

If the main characters from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park had met in their 20s, it might look something like this debut new adult novel. A gorgeously well-written tale that brings back vivid memories of my childhood in New Hampshire, this book is told from the point of view of David as he remembers the ups and downs of his relationship with a woman named Hope. Also a tale of family secrets, this book has a brightly burning emphasis on how gender impacts our lives. 

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters (Young Adult, releasing July 14)

I swear when you hear what this book is about, you’ll be ready to bump this up to the top spot on your summer TBR. A young adult novel with LGBTQ representation, this eerie read follows Shady Grove, who has the unusual ability to call ghosts using a fiddle. Like a true Southern Gothic tale, it’s evocative and atmospheric with a strong focus on family history and secrets. Do yourself a favor and pre-order this baby like no tomorrow.

Lana Allen, Executive Administrator

Gyroscope of Life by David Parrish (Literary Nonfiction)

This unique book is a beautiful and insightful ode to biology and the joy of learning. Parrish tackles concepts relating to biology and agriculture while sharing his personal experiences with religion, battling illness and more, proving not only that science is relevant to daily life, but that it profoundly impacts all of our lives.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Nonfiction)

I’m a big fan of historian and journalist Rutger Bregman and I can’t wait to dig into his latest work! Bregman makes the case that our greatest asset as a species is our capacity for kindness and cooperation.  In these trying times, his hopeful message could not be more timely! 

Hannah Robertson, Publicist 

The Moon Always Rising by Alice C. Early (Fiction)

I was immediately drawn into Alice C. Early’s The Moon Always Rising. Her descriptions and character development are both incredibly lush, and, even though I didn’t actually take a vacation, the way she describes the little island of Nevis made me feel like I had. This story is full of heartbreak but also hope, and that’s the most important thing. Her ethereal elements and the setting make this the perfect summer or beach read, but I’ll be recommending it all year long!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Literary Fiction)

This book is my white whale. Years ago when I worked in a bookstore, a customer with eerily similar reading tastes as me recommended this title, and ever since this book has been sitting on my nightstand waiting to be picked up. I’ve tried a few times but it was never the right time. With the current situation, I’ve been leaning more on fantasy and magic to take me away, but recently I’ve been drawn to its story and it’s currently at the top of my TBR list for this summer. Don’t worry, I’ll be reading it with tissues at the ready.

Book recommendations for every dad this Father’s Day

We’re the kind of people who buy books for every occasion, and Father’s Day is no exception. We’ve compiled a list of book recommendations based on the type of dad you have in case you aren’t sure where to start looking!

  1. For the dad who loves police procedurals: Missions by Marc McGuire, Long Bright River by Liz Moore
  2. For the dad who likes to be kept on his toes: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris, Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
  3. For the dad who is fascinated by cults: Sins of the Mother by August Norman, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
  4. For the dad who has a great relationship with his daughter: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Price of Safety by Michael C. Bland
  5. For the dad who likes to read with his kids: Games of Deception by Andrew Maraniss, Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  6. For the dad who enjoys being out in nature: The Gyroscope of Life by David Parrish, H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald
  7. For the dad who does NOT enjoy being out in nature: The Ultimate Guide for the Avid Indoorsman by John Driver, The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall
  8. For the sports-obsessed dad: The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe by Granville Wyche Burgess, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  9. For dads who are history buffs: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Soldiers of Freedom by Samuel Marquis
  10. For the dad who loves a good revenge plot: The Unrepentant, E.A. Aymar, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

20 LGBTQ+ bookstagrammers to follow for Pride Month and their book recommendations

Pride is traditionally marked each June to honor the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. We asked 20 LGBTQ+ bookstagrammers to recommend a book that holds meaning for them. Many of them are also involved in #BookstaPride, a project donating funds to Lambda Literary and the LGBTQ Freedom Fund. And we also included 10 queer reads that we’ve loved and 10 books that are on our TBRs this month!

  1. Allison Reads DC: Nobody actually reads those intimidating books that everyone talks about and loves to reference, right? Allison does! Her picks often center on social justice and equality. She’s smart and funny, and frequent appearances of her “Bae” in her stories are always a highlight. She recommends Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow: “It is one of the most moving nuanced portrayals of the complexity of sexuality I have ever read, not to mention the other topics he covers — trauma, brotherhood, poverty, race, and coming of age. Blow is a phenomenal writer, and the writing in how he relayed his coming-of-age affected me deeply.”
  2. Shelf By Shelf: We are missing Hunter’s #yogadrama stories while in quarantine but not to worry — the whisper stories he films from his office are just as entertaining. Bonus, he’s a talented writer and artist and sometimes shares his work. He recommends The Light Years by Chris Rush: “It’s a memoir about being a young gay artist in the ’60s, and it’s filled with drugs and unusual coming-of-age experiences, told in sharp prose. I couldn’t put it down!”
  3. Bowties & Books: Jesse is the founder of the Enby Book Club, which seeks to highlight nonbinary books and readers. They’ve also recently been on the front lines in Minneapolis, amplifying the voices of the protestors. They recommend Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: “This dazzling showcase of imagination where a trans girl awakens a monster was a much welcome escape.”
  4. Read Molly Read: Molly started the #queerliteverymonth hashtag to encourage allies to remember that queer books aren’t just relevant in June. She recommends Mean by Myriam Gurba: “This is a collection of sharply-written essays about coming of age in the ’90s as a queer Mexican-American woman. Gurba’s writing doesn’t shy away from her experiences with misogyny, homophobia, racism, and sexual assault but rather attacks them head-on with brutal, biting humor.”
  5. Paris Perusing: Paris is open, honest and kind, and his reviews are incredibly well-thought out and descriptive. He recommends The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels: “It is a poignantly urgent novel that depicts the ways homophobia and ignorance can turn a family — and a town — against each other in cruel ways. How Sickels renders a gay man’s tragic fall from grace did nothing but leave me trembling with tears.”
  6. What’s Jenna Reading: An avid reader of romance, SFF, and everything in between, Jenna is a warm presence on Bookstagram who will (gently) try to make you read ALL the books. She recommends The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: “Queer representation is still relatively uncommon in genre fiction like science-fiction and fantasy. I love seeing characters like me in any stories, but it is especially delightful when they’re wielding magic or leading an intergalactic heist. The Priory of the Orange Tree is an epic fantasy full of magic, intrigue, assassins, and dragons and it features a beautiful love story between two courageous heroines. It’s one of my all time favorites, and I cannot recommend it enough.”
  7. Case Bounder: You know those people whose posts you just look forward to? Casey is one of those people — his genuine good nature and well-written reviews keep us coming back for more. He recommends The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: “It is one of my all-time favorite reads — it’s clever, heartbreaking, and hilarious. Spanning 70 years, the story covers a lot of recent history through one gay Irish man’s life. I love what this book has to say about biological family vs. found family, and I still think about some of these characters years after reading.”
  8. Books Tea n Henny: Come for the books, stay for the tea. Oscar is hilarious and not afraid to get real. He can also teach you the best way to find your light for book photos. He recommends We The Animals by Justin Torres: “This book, while tackling many different themes, captures perfectly what it means to be queer during childhood. There aren’t many books out there that talk about queerness and childhood so Justin Torres’ book with breathtaking language instantly pulls you in to illustrate what it feels like growing up feeling different from the rest. This is a heartbreaking story yet at the same time so gentle and beautiful.”
  9. Eloise Reads: Her #readingitqueer readathon incorporates nine wonderful prompts to help readers incorporate different stories into their June TBRs. She recommends Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour: “Everything about it is just pure magic — from the description to the characters, it’s a book that always fills my heart with joy and the sapphic relationship is portrayed so beautifully too.”
  10. Scared Straight Reads: His profile kind of says it all: “The NYC HBIC.” Dennis’ stories never fail to make us laugh, and he truly is the king of memes. He recommends A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen: “… A Beautiful Crime is not only a thriller, but it also is a great character study; infused with love, romance, and deception. This may be the first time ever that I’ve fallen in love with all the characters. Everyone was so multifaceted and deep — it was hard to hate on anybody! … It’s 2020, and I want to see more mainstream novels feature homosexuality in a ‘nonchalant’ and ‘matter of fact’ type of way. I loved that A Beautiful Crime was centered around a gay couple, and it wasn’t portrayed in a taboo fashion. … I really appreciated how the author portrayed the gay community with respect and gave readers a voyeuristic opportunity into that reality. Overall, A Beautiful Crime is a beautiful story about love, conflict, sexuality, and desperation. Go into the story with an open mind and an open heart.”
  11. Booked By Tim: Tim’s inventive photos will draw you in immediately, and he’s a total artist with matching makeup with a book cover. He recommends Tinderbox by Robert Fieseler: “It’s nonfiction and tells the story of the largest mass killing of gay people in the U.S. before the Pulse nightclub shooting: an arson in New Orleans. These people have had their names erased from history; most queer people aren’t even familiar with this event. Together, we can honor their legacy and eliminate their erasure by reading their story.”
  12. Casey the Reader: Her clean feed is a thing of beauty and is often filled with cute cats and cozy spots. She recommends Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey: “Their books effortlessly incorporate a wide spectrum of queer identities. Magic For Liars is their magical murder mystery, blending tropes from noir and YA fantasy into an entirely unique novel.”
  13. BKLN Books: Larissa is a midwife who provides wonderful info on women’s health, and she just had her own baby! Look no further for any rec you may need on literary fiction. She recommends Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis: “It is a beautifully written ode to chosen family and the importance of finding your people.”
  14. Stax on Stax: She lives in a treehouse! She champions body positivity and loving yourself, and will make you laugh at least once a day. She recommends Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: “It is about a queer Latinx from the Bronx who is faced with white privilege, love in its many possible ways, and what feminism truly is. Loved loved loved this book.”
  15. It’s A Bookish World: Jimalion has somehow mastered the art of taking a good ebook picture — teach us your ways! She’s also a total ray of sunshine who wears her emotions on her sleeve, and we just want to give her a hug. She recommends Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian: “It covers being gay during the height of the AIDS crisis, and it highlights the fact that love while feared during an uncertain could still be beautiful.”
  16. Books N Blazers: The blazers have been alternating with pajama pants during quarantine, but Megan rocks both looks. She also shares some fun behind-the-scenes looks at what it’s like to work as a social media associate for Penguin Random House. She recommends Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett: “I love this book because it is so unabashedly queer, but it’s a complicated, messy, icky kind of queer that feels so much organic and true than other queer narratives. The blend of complex family dynamics, the main character’s emotional unavailability, queer unrequited love and taxidermy (yes, taxidermy) somehow makes for a perfect queer slice-of-life book.”
  17. Read Run Sea: A talented writer, Sarah often provides reviews that make you stop and think, and she highlights books beyond popular frontlist titles. She recommends Abandon Me by Melissa Febos. “Febos is a north-star writer for me; her work is intricate, rich with imagery, cerebral and yet so smooth to read. I love how queerness informs her worldview in her writing, even when she’s not explicitly writing about it. Abandon Me is one of those books that changed my reading and writing DNA, one of very few books I re-read every year. It’s so complicated and gorgeous.”
  18. The Book Advocate: We always look forward to Alex’s reviews, especially when they come with a photo of the book in front of her gorgeous library. She reads a diverse selection across genres, so everyone will find a recommendation here! She recommends How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake: “This was the first book I read with diverse queer representation that made me feel seen. It helped me on my own coming out journey and will always hold a special place in my heart.”
  19. _perpetualpages_: Adri’s bright and colorful feed is truly a joy, and their emphasis on so many different and wonderful queer voices is a bright spot in Bookstagram. They recommend You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson: “This is a triumphant and joyful queer YA book that is set to deliver readers the queer prom rom-com of their dreams! It’s a realistic look at the deeply systemic disadvantages that a poor, Black, queer girl in a small town might face, but it’s also about family, friendship, and realizing who has always been there and who will always be there to pull you through when you need it most. Liz Lighty is determined to succeed in her own way, on her own terms, which is exactly what young readers need to see right now.”
  20. Esoterica Reads: Erica is the QUEEN of thrifting books — you won’t believe the awesome finds she comes across! She even has a shop where you can browse through her discoveries. She recommends High School by Sara Quin and Tegan Quin: “It is an autobiographical look at the famous musician duo Tegan & Sara and their experiences coming of age in the ’90s. The queer twin sisters came together through music even while they were fighting to distance themselves from each other.”

And in case that didn’t provide you with enough books to read, here are 10 of our favorite queer reads that would be perfect for June (and beyond!), and 10 more we’ll be tackling this month.

  1. Real Life by Brandon Taylor
  2. The House In the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  3. Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
  4. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
  5. Here For It by R. Eric Thomas
  6. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  7. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
  8. Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  9. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  10. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  11. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samatha Irby
  12. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevado
  13. American Dreamers by Adriana Herrera
  14. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
  15. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
  16. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
  17. How to Write An Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
  18. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  19. Kings, Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
  20. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Books Forward author Tori Eldridge uses Asian-Pacific pride to promote representation in literature

I can’t imagine a better place to grow up as an Asian-American, Pacific Islander than Hawaii. Our island community is predominantly Asian and mixed-race, so most of the kids I went to school with had dark hair and lovely shades of brown skin. I fit in perfectly.

My mother is Chinese-Hawaiian, my father is Norwegian from North Dakota, and they met and married in Tokyo, where my sisters were born. I came along over a decade later and was born and raised in Honolulu. There weren’t many full-blooded Hawaiians, even then, so being part Hawaiian was and is a source of pride. And with over 50 percent of the population identifying as Asian, being almost half-Chinese was common.

Things were quite different when I moved to Illinois to attend Northwestern University. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. In fact, less than 4 percent of the student population was mixed race and less than half a percent were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Fortunately, my self-image had been set in Hawaii, and I carried my Chinese, Hawaiian, Norwegian heritage proudly with me when I moved to Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, where I’ve lived for 36 years. Rather than feeling isolated by my extreme minority, I’ve felt kinship to everyone because of my mixed race.

I was able to share my heritage and mixed-race experience while writing my debut novel, “The Ninja Daughter.”

The protagonist Lily Wong is a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja in Los Angeles with “Joy Luck Club” family issues. I drew heavily from my own Chinese-Norwegian culture and experience as a fifth-degree black belt in the Japanese art of the ninja to write her story. But I also drew from the experience of my Chinese-American friends and fellow ninja.

Although my character and I are undeniably close, Lily is definitely not me. She is her own powerful person, plagued by doubts and demons, defined by family, and fueled by purpose.

That said, family and heritage are also deeply important to me.

I can trace my Hawaiian roots to 1783, during the reign of King Kamehameha. The kānaka maoli — native Hawaiians — are generous, beautiful people with a culture, rich in song, dance, and storytelling. Hawaiians are our own race of people with native language, customs and ancestry. But modern Hawaii culture is an amalgamation of many, especially those from Asian countries.

My Chinese ancestors were early pioneers on the island of Maui and, along with all the other first-wave Chinese settlers, contributed to its modern culture, language and commerce. The people of modern Hawaii are a mixed plate. This is evident in our fusion of food, clothing and our Hawaiian Pigeon English. Unlike other forms of pigeon English, Hawaiian Pigeon is a legitimate creole language — fully developed and taught to many children as a primary language. Although it incorporates many words from the native Hawaiian language, they are not at all the same. Although both have their place, I am happy to see a resurgence of our beautiful aboriginal language.

In the midst of this deeply ethnic environment, my father infused me with stories and wisdom from his own North Dakota upbringing and Norwegian heritage. Naturally, I wanted to celebrate this with my protagonist, Lily Wong.

It meant the world to me that my parents lived long enough to know I was writing a novel — and now a series — that would celebrate their heritage.

Asian and Pacific Islander representation in literature and media matters. Not only is it vital to see ourselves and identify with positive role models, but it’s important for everyone of all ethnicities to expand our awareness of each other. This is how people learn to appreciate and connect with one another.

I love that Lily Wong’s mother is an immigrant from Hong Kong, that her father is Norwegian from North Dakota, and that her ninjutsu teacher was born and raised in Japan. I love that my son fell in love with a woman from Hong Kong — after I was well into writing the first draft of “The Ninja Daughter” — and has married this wonderful woman into our family. I love how my art has not only become an expression of my life but a means to delve even more deeply into my ancestry and identity. I am honored to celebrate all of this during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Tori Eldridge is the Lefty-nominated author of “The Ninja Daughter,” which was named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, and her screenplay “The Gift” earned a semifinalist spot in the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer and dancer on Broadway, television and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu, where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the U.S. teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection.

Books Forward Authors Recognized with Awards and Accolades

We’re excited to celebrate a number of Books Forward family authors and their titles that have recently been recognized across the industry with various awards, nominations, and accolades. 

The Independent Publisher Book Awards, or IPPYs, were recently announced, and there’s a host of Books Forward authors featured among the winners.

Acknowledging independent authors with awards for more than 20 years, the IPPYs were created to “bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers.”

The Nautilus Book Awards announced its winners for 2019 — and there are quite a few Books Foward authors on the list!

  • Donald Rattner, “My Creative Space,” silver in Creativity & Innovation
  • Donna Cameron, “A Year of Living Kindly,” gold in Personal Growth (large publisher)
  • Richard C. Lyons, “The DNA of Democracy,” silver in All World Cultures Conscious Growth & Development
  • Hendrika de Vries, “When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew,” gold in Memoir & Personal Journey (large publisher)

The Nautilus Books Awards were created to recognize significant new cultural movements and the books that identify and publicize these movements. 

Multiple authors were named finalists in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers.

  • Andrew Lam, “Repentance,” winner in Historical (Fiction)
  • Rachel Kowert, “Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency,” finalist in Children’s Picture Book (Educational 6 Years & Up)
  • Hendrika de Vries, “When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew,” finalist in  Memoirs (Overcoming Adversity/Tragedy)
  • Elena Schwolsky, “Waking in Havana: A Memoir of AIDS and Healing in Cuba,” finalist in both Memoirs (Personal Struggle/Health Issues) and Travel/Travel Guides
  • Michael Bland, “The Price of Safety,” finalist in both Science Fiction and Thriller
  • Alice C. Early, “The Moon Always Rising,” finalist in Chick Lit, Paranormal, and First Novel
  • Elayne Klasson, “Love is a Rebellious Bird,” finalist in both General Fiction/Novel and Best Cover Design
  • Monique Allen, “Stop Landscaping, Start Lifescaping” finalist in Cooking/Home/Garden
  • Kathleen Shoop, “The Christmas Coat,” finalist Novella (17,500-40,000 words)

Three Books Forward authors were recently recognized by the eLit Book Awards. With more than 65 categories, the eLit Awards are dedicated to honoring the best e-books published each year in North America.

  • Susan K. Hamilton, “Shadow King,” bronze (tie) in Fantasy/Science-Fiction
  • Kelly Oliver, “Jackal: A Jessica James Mystery,” gold in Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
  • Donna O’Donnell Figurski, “Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale,” silver in Autobiography/Memoir

Other recent accolades include Donna Baier Stein’s “Scenes from the Heartland” being named a finalist for the inaugural 2019 Big Other Book Award for Fiction. Created by the online arts and culture magazine Big Other, the awards aim to “recognize excellence in literature, to promote and support the work of innovative writers and adventurous presses.”

Two Books Forward authors were recently named finalists for the 2020 Montaigne Medal as well as the Eric Hoffer Award Grand Prize Short List and honorable mentions for the aforementioned award. Recognized in those special lists are Elena Schwolsky for her memoir “Waking in Havana” and Janet Roger for her novel “Shamus Dust.” The Hoffer Awards honor the memory of American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting “salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers.” As part of the Eric Hoffer Awards, the Montaigne Medal is awarded to thought-provoking books that “either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought.” 

The 2020 Edgar Awards recently announced its list of winners, and Carol Goodman and her book “The Night Visitors,” are the recipients of the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award. The Edgar Allen Poe Awards, presented by Mystery Writers of America, honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in the previous year.

Stephanie Raffelock tied for gold in the Aging Human Relations Indie Book category in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. Her book, “A Delightful Little Book on Aging,” was recognized by the awards, which honor indie authors who indie authors with books “with a human relations focus related to various interactions among people in different settings such as work, organizations, school, home, family or in personal lives.”  

Finally, the Junior Library Guild has selected Suzanne Park’s debut novel, “The Perfect Escape” as one of its fall titles! The JLG is one of the leading voices in the library industry, providing a range of titles to libraries throughout the year. The guild’s editors meet with publishers of children’s and YA books throughout to narrow down their selections for their spring and fall lists.

Congratulations to all these Books Forward authors! We are excited and proud to see your hard work and perseverance recognized by industry leaders!

15 bookstagrammers to follow for Mental Health Awareness Month (with book recommendations)

Some books recommended for Mental Health Awareness Month
Some books recommended for Mental Health Awareness Month

May marks Mental Health Awareness Month. My dad is a psychiatrist, so I grew up in a household where talking about mental health was normalized and even encouraged (thankfully). And yet when I struggled with anxiety and depression later in my 20s, I still had trouble confronting what was going on. For me, reading books (fiction and nonfiction!) has been and still is an important coping mechanism for confronting issues that I face, understanding situations others are going through, and sometimes escaping the turmoil of my own mind. 

Recognition of how important it is to take care of yourself mentally as well as physically has grown in recent years; however, mental health is still an issue that some people don’t feel comfortable discussing. With some help from Bookstagram, we’ve put together a list of people who never shy away from talking about tough topics, and who encourage you to take care of yourself and look out for others. We asked them what books they recommend for learning more about mental health, as well as what stories they turn to when they’re struggling.

Jenna, Stop Reading recommends Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, and It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Mama’s Reading Corner recommends Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Books of Every Size recommends The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Mindset by Carol Dweck, Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnson, Beyond Beautiful by Anuschka Rees, and Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon

Shelf Made Woman recommends The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wung and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

LPM Reads recommends Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace by J.P. Moreland, A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, Rising Strong by Brené Brown, Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst, The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter, the poetry of T.S. Eliot and Mary Oliver, and anything by Sarah J. Maas

Shelf Help recommends Just Peachy by Holly Chisholm, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan, Supper Club by Lara Williams, and Severance by Ling Ma

Marvelous Geek recommends Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig and An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

Worlds Within Pages recommends Rabbits For Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum, Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Literary Heroine recommends Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Read With Kat recommends Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh and Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

The Roaming Reader (Insta: @theroamingreader) recommends The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Normal People by Sally Rooney and The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The Book She Elf recommends Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Sweating Till I Make It Too recommends Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, Welcome To My World by Curtis Bunn, Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me by Charlamagne Tha God, The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jennifer Lewis, Everything Is An Emergency by Jason Adam Katzenstein

Megh’s Bookshelf recommends Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson,  Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Our Lady of Sorrows Reads recommends The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

For more resources, please visit the National Institute on Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

10 bookstagrammers to follow for Asian & Pacific American Heritage Month (with book recommendations)

Book recommendations for Asian Pacific Islander Heritage monthWe’ve gathered some of our favorite bookstagrammers and books for API Heritage Month to diversify your feed and your TBR in May and beyond!

May is Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, and we asked some of our favorite bloggers and bookstagrammers to share their recommendations to diversify your reading this month and beyond! And of course we included 20 of our own recommendations, because you can never have a TBR long enough!

Sachi Reads | Insta: @sachireads

Have you met Sachi and Yuki? Sachi reads and reviews a variety of books, focusing on women of color, and Yuki is the goodest pup around. Sachi is also a cohost of Reading Women and Words Between Worlds Book Club. Her May recommendation: Whiter: Asian American Women on Skin Color and Colorism edited by Nikki Khanna.

Asha Reads | Insta: @ashareads | Website

She’s the host of #OCbooksandbrunch and her posts from sunny California will brighten up your feed and your day! Her May recommendations: Frankly in Love by David Yoon, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Definitely RA | Insta: @definitelyra

RuthAnn is a huge advocate for #dressember, and works tirelessly to raise awareness and funds to combat human trafficking. And feel free to ask her about Madeline L’Engle… but prepare for a long conversation. Her May recommendation: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu.

Simone and Her Books | Insta: @simoneandherbooks | Website

You’ll look forward to keeping up with Simone — she takes detailed notes on what she’s reading (we love her SFF recs), and she loves to discuss them with fellow book lovers. And her living room dance parties will raise your spirits on even the gloomiest day. Her May recommendation: Warcross by Marie Lu.

Owl’s Little Library | Insta: @owlslittlelibrary

Diana’s feed is filled with cozy, fancy hot chocolate vibes. She focuses on uplifting and promoting diverse voices, and her stories are filled with delicious food and her adorable dog, Belle. She’s also a co-creator of Words Between Worlds. Her May recommendations: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim, The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay, and The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar.

Reading Is Magical | Insta: @readingismagical

Some people just make your day brighter, and Christine is one of those people. She shares the ins and outs of working at a bookstore (the dream, right?) as event coordinator for BookBar in Denver, and hosts #bookstaboops to give bookstagram pets the virtual boops they deserve! Her May recommendation: America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo.

Where the Reader Grows | Insta: @wherethereadergrows | Website

If you want to read a good thriller but don’t know where to start, look no further. Chandra is queen of speed reading, and she has something for everyone on her blog, from horror to mystery to crime fiction! Her May recommendations: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan, and Please Look After Mom by Kyung Sook-Shin.

Anna and the Books | Insta: @anna.andthebooks

One of the most creative people on bookstagram, Anna’s thoughtful posts are full of honesty and heart. And don’t miss the tiny crochet animals! Her May recommendations: The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh and The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See.

Well Read Human | Insta: @wellreadhuman

Cherise’s reviews dig deep into books, and she highlights a variety of diverse authors in her feed. This is one of our go-to accounts when we’re looking for YA books! Her May recommendation: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong.

Bookish Behavior | @bookish.behavior

Is there anything Poonam doesn’t read? She even tackled (and loved) the behemoth that is Ducks, Newburyport. And her focus on intersectional feminism and mental health makes her a can’t-miss bookstagrammer. Her May recommendation: What We Carry by Maya Lang.

Some more book recommendations from the Books Forward team:

  1. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
  2. A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
  3. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
  4. The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park
  5. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
  6. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  7. The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge
  8. Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
  9. The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
  10. Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
  11. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
  12. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  13. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  14. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  15. Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
  16. Cravings by Chrissy Teigen
  17. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
  18. Brown White Black: An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion by Nishta J. Mehra
  19. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  20. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang


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Books Forward is an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers. 

Interested in what’s possible for your book sales and building readership? Check out our services, tell us your goals, and get a customized publicity campaign tailored just for you.

Books Forward Authors Provide Virtual Learning Opportunities at Home

Dear booksellers, librarians, parents, teachers, avid readers, book club members and other eager learners,

We have been so touched (and impressed!) with how you’ve kept yourselves and your networks engaged and learning during this difficult time. Our Books Forward author family wants to help by providing a variety of free virtual learning opportunities and story times!

Our children’s and adult fiction and nonfiction authors are available for sessions via Zoom, Skype and other platforms. We can coordinate a special day of readings, discussions and inspiring lessons, covering everything from the writing craft to science experiments to nature exploration and much more. Below, you’ll find some fantastic opportunities tailored specifically for children, tweens and teens, as well as many options for adult readers.

We’ve also partnered with Book Club Babble to help your book club go virtual during social distancing, and to connect you with bestselling and award-winning authors.

Email our coordinator Erica Martin at erica@booksforward.com with your requests, and we’ll arrange a virtual visit (or few) perfect for you!


Writing and Poetry

  • An advocate for marginalized voices in both publishing and her community, YA fantasy novelist J. Elle offers a tailored writing instruction video for your class.
  • USA Today bestselling novelist and Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day founder Jenny Milchman leads a virtual writers group for kids and teens.
  • Children can write poetry with Jet Widick, whose poems center around our everyday experiences and taking delight in the present moment.
  • Literacy instructional coach Caroline DuBois teaches writing in verse and shares supplementary educational materials for her forthcoming middle grade historical novel written in verse, The Places We Sleep.
  • Middle grade author Corabel Shofner shows how characters have a mind of their own and that settings hold a story in place and time, along with other writing prompts.
  • Historical novelist Donna Baier Stein helps budding writers find inspiration for stories by challenging them to find a piece of art in their homes and write a short story based on it (an activity that inspired her own book, Scenes From the Heartland). 
  • Crime thriller author Ed Aymar teaches the importance of diversity in fiction, with narrative techniques for getting it right.
  • Christine Meade, professional editor and author of the new thriller The Way You Burn, offers a writing lesson on how to craft tension, suspense and mystery in narrative form.
  • Love romance novels? Learn how romance author L.A. Long crafts her beguiling characters, gripping plot lines and simmering scenes.

Science & Nature

  • Children’s book author Cole W. Williams invites young ones on a journey with Dr. Brainchild as they discover how creativity, some wacky inventions and science can transform the ordinary into something EXTRA tasty!
  • Dr. Sam Stea offers classrooms and kids a practical introduction to discussing climate change through a fascinating YA climate-fiction adventure story.
  • Tracy Richardson shows there is more to our world than meets the eye with her environmentally-themed, science-fiction YA series.
  • Fine gardener Monique Allen, founder and creative director of The Garden Continuum, offers unique gardening tips, advice and how-tos for cultivating outdoor spaces that reduce stress, promote creativity and sustain the environment. 
  • Naturalist David Parrish offers a fresh understanding of the natural world for nonscientists. Whether you’re curious about sustainability or the accuracy of “The Big Bang Theory” theme song, Parrish will move you to think like a scientist in his insightful, unconventional — and often humorous — approach to biology.
  • How advanced is surveillance technology in the U.S., and how far could it go? Sci-fi thriller author Michael C. Bland details the uses (and abuses) of current surveillance technology and explains why “the future of tech” has already arrived.

Personal Development, Mental & Physical Health

  • Research psychologist Rachel Kowert initiates conversations with children about diversity and inclusion. Her latest book Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency inspires young minds to build their own castles and change the damsel in distress narrative to one of self-reliance (with the power of science behind it)!
  • San Francisco columnist and family law attorney Katie Burke demonstrates strategies to encourage open communication with kids about their living environments and other complex (and fun!) topics.
  • Missing that after-church fellowship? Christian novelist Annette H. Valentine hosts a “brunch chat” about books, family, children’s education, Bible study and God’s love.
  • Divorce lawyer and family therapist David and Julie Bulitt offer communication techniques and activities for families during this time of extra “togetherness.”
  • Caregiving expert Donna Figurski shares self-care tips and guidance for how people can still take care of themselves and find support while caring for others.
  • Lisa Boucher shares healthy ways to cope with the temptation to drink out of boredom and how to stay sober when dealing with elevated anxiety, job loss, etc. 
  • After 20 years as VP of publicity for Estee Lauder, Phyllis Melhado took a “second chance” with her life and began a career as a writer, and now she teaches how you can embrace your “second chance” as well.
  • Fifth-degree black belt Tori Eldridge teaches simple martial arts moves and exercises that help channel energy, work out restlessness or frustration, get focused, and have fun!

History & Literature 

  • Wendy Terrien explores the mythology behind her critically-acclaimed YA fantasy series and introduces viewers to the beloved canine rescues who inspired her stories.
  • Historical thriller novelist Samuel Marquis relays some of the most dynamic, fascinating and engaging real-life stories of battles and bravery that occurred during World War II.
  • Inspired by photographer Dorthea Lange’s gender-defying antics during the Great Depression, and her own personal family’s history in the Dust Bowl, Shelley Blanton-Stroud offers a fascinating look back at women’s unconventional antics to survive (and thrive).
  • Michelle Cameron offers a guided tour through a little-known, important period in history: Napoleon’s emancipation of the Jews from Italian ghettos in the 1790s, which still has reverberations in our world today.


  • Designer Justin Dauer (author of Creative Culture) shares fresh, insightful and, well, creative ideas for keeping employees engaged and motivated while working from home.
  • Want professional advice on how to secure your retirement during these uncertain times? Legal consultant Ida Abbott provides video consultations for those interested in retirement planning and financial security.


  • Join comedian and author Dani Alpert for a happy hour discussing unique family dynamics (and how to channel breakup-related grief to a hilarious memoir) from her own experiences as the Girlfriend Mom. 
  • Need a laugh right now? Humor writer Lori Duff shares funny oh-so-real life stories that demonstrate to us (especially women and parents) that we have no choice but to laugh at our failures, no matter how spectacular, and rejoice in our successes, no matter how itty-bitty.
  • Comedic novelist Brandy Ferner encourages children to brave the unknown (safely!), and moms can enjoy a chat with Brandy about the relentlessness of motherhood.

Don’t see a specific lesson you’re looking for? We have other opportunities available from our roster of bestselling authors and varied experts. Email Erica Martin at erica@booksforward.com and let us know what you need!

And if you need help with downloading ebooks or audiobooks to read at home, check out our #BooksForwardHelpline for guides, reading recommendations and other resources.

“Indoorsman” expert meets quarantine with inspirational humor

Pastor, expert “indoorsman” and award-winning author John Driver provides some comic relief during this time of social distancing and staying indoors.

Co-author of the bestselling book Vertical Marriage, as well as the autobiography of the inspiring Purdue superfan Tyler Trent, Driver adds his uplifting voice to the conversation surrounding COVID-19 with his comedic and faith-based survival guide for the “indoorsman.”

The Ultimate Guide For The Avid Indoorsman: Life is Better in Here teaches readers how to fully embrace the indoor lifestyle. This hilarious handbook provides tips and tricks to help you thrive in your comfy, climate-controlled world. Learn the finer art of setting up a perfect home theater, cleaning with minimal effort, developing indoor hobbies, etc. – and take the complimentary online Indooreagram Quiz.

Driver is putting something into the hands of people trying to survive the extended indoor lifestyle that will brighten their mood amid all the chaos. He knows the power of a good book – and laugh – can soothe the soul and calm the spirit. At a time when fear surrounds us, Driver hopes to remind us all we have to be grateful for within four walls.

#BooksForwardHelpline: Helping you learn how to download ebooks and audiobooks, and connecting you to your next great read

With libraries and many bookstores closing physical locations for quarantine and Amazon suspending nonessential shipments, book lovers who prefer physical copies are faced with a dilemma: How will you get your hands on your next great read? We understand not everyone is familiar with how to access ebooks and audiobooks, and figuring this out can be daunting if you’re self-isolating due to COVID-19.

Books Forward has organized a free helpline to connect readers with the books they need. Call us at (615) 212-8549 between 9 a.m and 5 p.m. CT, or browse our resources below.

We can help you:

1. Learn how to download ebooks and audiobooks

Read our helpful guide, and call us if you have any questions. We can walk you step-by-step through the process of downloading digital and audiobooks so you can easily begin reading or listening to a new book at the touch of a button.

2. Troubleshoot downloads to your preferred e-reader, iPad, computer or phone

Providers offer online help desks to assist you through common issues you may run into:

And call us if you still need help figuring out the best way to download reading material, regardless of your reading device.

3. Offer reading recommendations to help you find a new book you’ll love

Need something new to read and not sure where to start? You can join our #BooksForward Reading Challenge, where we are reading, sharing and discussing new books (a great way to feel more connected right now!). And check out our curated reading list, where we’ve compiled some of our favorite books that are particularly helpful and relevant for readers who are stuck at home during this time. Or call us! We have tons of great recommendations for you based on your reading preferences!

4. Discover how to support indie bookstores and libraries from home

You may be able to pick up a physical book curbside at your local bookstore or library. But you can still engage with and support your favorite independent bookstore and local library, even when their doors are closed. We’ll teach you how to order ebooks from bookstores and use your library’s app to download books.

Ready to get reading? Call our Books Forward helpline at (615) 212-8549 if you have any additional questions, and let us help you get connected to your next great book without leaving home!

Also check out these resources and articles from our family of authors and experts in response to coronavirus: 

May you have happy and healthy reading.