Graphic Novels and Comic Books: Not just for kids

a selection of comic books and graphic novelsI am absolutely a book snob and years ago I might have told you that I didn’t consider comic books or graphic novels “real” books, but guess what: I was wrong (imagine that)! People who are visual learners often connect better with this artistic format; it’s been shown that graphic novels and comics increase reading comprehension and inspire creativity. It can also help boost reading confidence in reluctant readers. 

Now to get technical: what’s the difference between the two? Graphic novels contain a complete narrative, whereas a comic book is part of a larger, serialized story. 

And there is something for everyone of every age. Some of the most rich and complete stories I’ve read have come from graphic novels.  I asked the Books Forward team what comics or graphic novels they’ve enjoyed, and added my recommendations at the bottom. Happy reading!

Jennifer Vance, Publicist 

The Netflix series Kingdom is based off the comic The Kingdom of the Gods by In-Wa Youn, (illustrated by Kyung-Il Yang), and after quickly bingeing the seasons available for the show, I knew I had to check out the source material. While the book definitely differs from the show, it’s still amazing. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and if you love horror and gore and action, you’ll love this. Oh, and spoiler alert: There’s a whole lotta zombies.

Angelle Barbarzon, Lead Publicist

American Elf by James Kochalka was my first introduction to autobiographical comics. For years, James Kochalka posted a daily comic on his website, typically one to four panels chronicling a snippet from his day like a diary entry. Some days, he shared completely mundane things like stargazing at night with his wife or his cat’s tendency to sleep on his pillow. But other days, he shared deeper glimpses into his life, like the day his first son was born. But that’s just life, right? A mix of ordinary and extraordinary. Sadly, after 14 years, the daily comics came to an end, but they were all compiled into books that you can buy and read over, and over, and over!

Blankets by Craig Thompson is one of those graphic novels that I recommend to people who think comics are limited to superheroes fighting crime or pun-filled newspaper strips. Everything about this book is beautiful — the writing, the illustrations, the stories, everything! Based on his own life, Craig Thompson intertwines stories of two young brothers growing up in snowy Wisconsin with a coming-of-age tale of love, loss and faith. There will always be a place for this book on my shelves!

Hannah Robertson, Publicist

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil has illustrations that are simple but striking, and its message is one I can get behind any day.

Everything about The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg is breathtaking. It made me think a lot about where we come from and where we’re going.

Jackie Karneth, Publicist 

As a fan of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s utopian/dystopian novel Herland and a lover of cheeky webcomics, Aminder Dhaliwal’s Woman World is the perfect mashup heaven made just for me. Have you ever imagined what the world would be like if men suddenly ceased to exist? (It’s okay, you can admit it). Well that’s the premise here, and you’ll get to dive right into the hilarious happenings of a diverse group of female characters as they each navigate life without men. 

Another webcomic-turned-book, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is the story of a young shapeshifter who suddenly becomes the sidekick of supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart. Nimona and Blackheart are on a mission to prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin isn’t really all that. And despite Blackheart’s tough exterior, he quickly warms up to Nimona as they begin wreaking havoc together. A funny, witty, and oh-so-smart story filled with magic, friendship, and lots of surprises, this is definitely a “I read this in one sitting” type of book.

Chelsea Apple, Content Creator

I really enjoy the online webcomic Lore Olympus. A version of the Hades and Persephone myth that mixes a modern retelling with a mythical reboot? Sign. Me. Up. The characters are well developed, the story is intriguing, and seriously look at this art

I also follow Let’s Play! When I first started this webcomic, I thought I knew where it was going: a nerdy (but clearly attractive) video game developer becomes next door neighbors with the hot video game reviewer who trashed her debut project. Perfect enemies-to-lovers territory, right? Turns out, I had no idea where this story was going, and I’m loving the fantastic character development, interesting relationships, and the surprising plot!  

Ellen Whitfield, Senior Publicist

My most recommended graphic novel is Check, Please! Ngozi Ukazu’s illustrations are a perfect fit for her story about an ice skater who got a hockey scholarship to a college in the midwest, and has to figure out how to navigate his new campus and coming out to his teammates. Oh and he’s a champion baker. You’ll fall in love immediately, and the good news is that volume 2 is even longer and cuter.

The first graphic novel I ever read (it was only last year!) was Kid Gloves, written and illustrated by Lucy Knisley. It covers her experience with fertility problems, conception, pregnancy and childbirth, and drops some serious knowledge along the way. 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman took me right back to the uncertainties and hopes and worries and breathlessness of high school. Everyone deserves to be loved like Nick loves Charlie — the way they are together just makes me melt. 

I read Good Talk because of Lupita Reads, and was blown away by Mira Jacobs’s storytelling ability. Being a parent is hard enough, and the responsibilities that come with raising a Black or brown child in America are overwhelming. The author switches between stories from her early life to present day in this intimate memoir.

I have a tendency to look at first love through rose-colored glasses, but Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, reminded me that falling for someone as a teen can be as difficult as it is wonderful. It captures the highs and lows of that emotional time of life.

Some other graphic novels and comics on our TBR:

 

 

 

Top audiobooks to get you through your self-mandated isolation jogs

So you decided to take up jogging during quarantine so you could have some time outside the confines of your house? Great in theory. But now you’re outside in 100-degree heat, cursing the healthy part of you that insisted on getting Vitamin D instead of doing push-ups inside. 

Cue audiobooks. 

What better to distract you from the awkward way you hold your arms or that annoying bead of sweat dribbling between your eyebrows than an audiobook so amazing you forget you’re actually running (OK, probably not forget, but I can dream). 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite audiobooks that have gotten me through my own self-mandated isolation jogs during the pandemic:

“Such a Fun Age,” by Kiley Reid, narrated by Nicole Lewis

Fiction is difficult for me to listen to on audiobook. My mind wanders. I realize half a chapter in that I haven’t been paying close enough attention to the plot and I’ve missed something. But Reid’s book constantly held my attention from the first page (or if we’re talking audiobooks, the first second?). This is such a quick, compelling read that I was shocked when it was over. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve convinced myself to listen to more fiction on tape.

“Kitchen Confidential,” by Anthony Bourdain, narrated by the author

This is an audiobook I honestly find my self coming back to over and over again. I’ve always been a huge fan of Bourdain’s shows, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed getting a gritty inside look at the restaurant world through this book. Funny and honest and raw, this is definitely required reading for foodies everywhere.

“We’re Going to Need More Wine,” by Gabrielle Union, narrated by the author

Memoirs are great, and memoirs by celebs are just *chef’s kiss*. Union’s book has made me literally laugh out loud on the jogging trail, as well as completely stop me in my tracks. Her writing flows so easily and is so personable — it felt like I was listening to a friend tell me their life story. And did it inspire me to pour my own glass post-run? Perhaps…

“Calypso,” by David Sedaris, narrated by the author

This was my first Sedaris book, and something about listening to it at 1.5 speed while dodging ducks and small children on my run has me believing it’s the quintessential way to listen to him. Sedaris has a way of writing that is part standup, part extremely personal diary entries, and somehow it all works together. After finishing this one, I was clamoring to reserve his other audiobooks through my library.

“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author

Obama’s book is loooong but also so worth it. Honestly, I could have listened to it even if it were 40 hours long. I would take an entire collegiate course on Michelle Obama if I could. Her storytelling is stunning and vulnerable and also incredibly powerful at the same time. I recommend this book to so many people, and I distinctly tell them to listen to the audiobook if they get a chance.

“Furiously Happy,” by Jenny Lawson, narrated by the author

Lawson is SO funny. I’m serious, like side-splitting, snorting laughing funny. With the way 2020 has gone, this is one of those books that’s great to tap into when I need reassurance that yeah, life may suck a bit — but laughing at yourself and the ridiculous situations you end up in makes it suck a bit less. Lawson’s sincerity and bluntness about mental illness is so refreshing. If you think you can’t sit back and laugh at your own depression or anxiety, think again.

To Promote or Not to Promote: The Pros and Cons of Facebook Advertising

Authors are always doing what they can to get their books in front of more people. But the real goal should be to get your book seen by the most people in your target audience. Number of eyes doesn’t mean anything if they are not likely to turn into sales.

That’s where targeted Facebook ads come into play. Advertising on social media is an extremely effective strategy for promoting your book or building up your social media accounts. As always with promotion strategies, there are pros and cons to Facebook advertising.

The Pros

  1. Targeting a Specific Audience: Blanket advertising is not always the best strategy when trying to get more people to purchase your book. You want there to be a larger click through rate on your ad, which is more prone to happen if the audience seeing the ad is interested. By using the data on Facebook, you can target people based on their interests, gender, age, and location. You can always change these parameters as well, depending on how well an ad is performing.
  2. Number of Users: You can reach so many people on Facebook. There are currently 2.7 billion users on the platform, so even with targeting you are reaching a wider audience than you would on other platforms.
  3. Different Ad Options: There are multiple types of ads that you can run depending on your goal. The ads fall under three different categories: awareness, consideration, and conversion. You can choose what you’re wanting to accomplish (more traffic to a website, more page likes, more sales, more brand awareness, etc.) and Facebook will run an ad tailored to that goal.
  4. Comparison Opportunities: Facebook allows you to run multiple ads at a time, which allows you to monitor which ads are performing better than others. They allow you to set up an ad with an A/B Test which means the same ad runs with two different ad sets (different target demographics/psychographics) so you can see which audience is responding more. This allows an efficient way to monitor who you should be targeting and can save you money by only spending money on the ad that is giving you the most engagement.
  5. Easy to Change: Facebook ads are also easy to tweak if needed. You can go in and change the target audience at any time. You aren’t locked in to the ad set you originally create. Having the ability to change demographics as well as the image/copy at any time is helpful in making sure you are getting the best results possible.

The Cons

  1. Costs: While you can set up a Facebook ad with any size budget, the bigger the budget the better an ad will perform. This doesn’t mean that your $5/day ad won’t generate more engagement, but if you want substantial numbers, it could become expensive. Also, if your targeting is off, it can be a lot of cost for not enough return.
  2. Limitations to Facebook: While you are reaching a wide amount of people, it is only Facebook users that you are reaching and a lot of people who have accounts have started to move on to other, more progressive social platforms. This fact could lead to lower numbers of engagement on your ads. But again, a lower percentage of 2.7 billion, is still a pretty large number.
  3. Diminished Organic Views: Only a small percentage of your customers will stumble onto your post organically since the Facebook algorithm limits brands visibility, so to reach more people you may have to boost your posts.

Marketing your book can definitely be overwhelming, and understanding your options is key. It is important to take all of these things into consideration before creating an ad, however the pros usually outweigh the cons when it comes to advertising your book or your brand as an author on Facebook.

How to make the most of the 2020 SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show

Books Forward is so excited for the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show starting Sept. 21 — check out our exhibitor booth here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/books-forward/! This year’s trade show is going to look a little different from previous years: for the first time ever, SIBA and NAIBA have partnered up to host a virtual, five-day event. We can’t wait to join our favorite indie booksellers, publishers, and authors online for this one-of-a-kind experience — and we also know that new opportunities can create questions for our authors. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the trade show to help authors navigate this year’s especially unique event with ease!

What does the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show look like?
Held Sept. 21-25, the trade show will consist of a series of Zoom events taking place across four different channels. It’s a joint event hosted between SIBA (the Southern Independent Booksellers Association) and NAIBA (the New Atlantic Booksellers Association), united under the name New Voices New Rooms. Booksellers will be eyeing new and upcoming book releases!

What does this year’s schedule look like?
You can find the trade show schedule here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/schedule/. It’s divided into four tracks: Education (panels, roundtables, and more for booksellers), Author Events, Publisher Events, and Networking. It’s interactive and searchable; you can add all events, or just individual events, to your personal calendar; you can subscribe to it; and you can easily share it on social media. You’ll also find all of the participating publishers tagged — just click on the publisher’s name to see all of the events that publisher is participating in.

This schedule is pretty extensive! How will I know what’s happening each day?
Not only is the schedule broken up by day, but the New Voices New Rooms blog will also have a rundown of each day’s events, and is a great hub for finding out info about the show: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/nvnr-news/. Their newsletter will also recap daily sessions and events, as will the SIBA and NAIBA newsletters, respectively.

How many people can attend the online trade show?
There is no attendance cap; there are more than 500 booksellers and other industry attendees registered right now.

Can I still arrange to be featured in an author event?
The Author Events schedule is full, but there are still some advertising options available to reach attendees via the email newsletter or trade show website, which is sure to have high traffic during that week! Find more info here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/sponsors/.

Do I have to register?
Anyone who is participating in the trade show (including exhibitors) or who wants to attend must register; you can do so here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/registration/. Registering gets you onto the list of people allowed into the Zoom rooms/events.

If my publisher/editor/representative got me scheduled to participate in a trade show author event, do I still have to register?
Anyone who is attending or participating in the trade show must be registered for the event; this is how you get on to the list of Zoom room attendees. However, it’s possible that SIBA/NAIBA registered you on behalf of your publisher/editor/representative; it’s best to check with your participating organization to make sure.

I am, or my publisher/representative is, participating in the trade show. How will ARCs/galleys/review copies of my book be available?
If an author is featured at an event, New Voices New Rooms will send a Google form to all session participants at the end of the event to incentivize people to sign up for copies; publishers will then receive a list with all the book requests. Exhibitors can also feature galley request forms on their pages in the Virtual Exhibitor Hall!

What is the Virtual Exhibitor Hall?
While we may miss the crowded and bustling exhibitor halls of previous years, New Voices New Rooms has created a really excellent Virtual Hall for Exhibitors, which you can peruse here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/virtual-exhibit-hall/. When you hover your cursor over each logo, the digital placard flips over to reveal a sentence or two about that exhibitor. Click on the logo to “enter” the exhibitor’s virtual booth, where you can learn more about their offerings and services, and even enter an online raffle! There’s also a searchable directory of exhibitors in the dropdown menu between the sponsor logos and exhibitor logos.

How do I know which booksellers are in attendance?
New Voices New Rooms has created a pretty awesome searchable list of all registered booksellers who will be in attendance — check it out here! https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/booksellers/

Will I be tagged on social media?
New Voices New Rooms is creating graphics and videos that can be shared on social media by publishers and exhibitors; each piece of content will include a list of participating authors’ social media handles so they can be easily tagged online. This is perfect for promoting and sharing specific authors and events!

Bookstagrammers to follow for Latinx Heritage Month

Latinx Heritage Month runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15, and there are so many wonderful bookstagrammers who represent the different facets of Latinx identity. We put together a list of people to follow, and asked them to recommend a book that means something to them.

  1. Vero (@readingvero) recommends: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. “It shows the Dominican Republic and its culture in a beautiful way. It’s a beautiful story about love and sisterhood that readers of all ages can enjoy.”
  2. Candace (@ace.of.pages) recommends Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester. “Told in dual timelines, it covers everything from immigration, family, marriage, and there’s even a bit of mystery and magical realism. Even though I read it two years ago, it’s a book I pick up and read passages from to this day.”
  3. Angie (@angiesreading) recommends: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone “because I haven’t been able to shut up about it since I read it back when the pandemic first started. Following the lives of two badass agents on opposing sides of a time war, this story is told in the form of letters. It’s witty, romantic, and full of suspense (and time travel!) — I couldn’t help but inhale it in one sitting!”
  4. Melissa Veras (@melissaverasreads) recommends: The Murmur of the Bees by Sofía Segovia. “This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about a child that is found abandoned covered in bees, and the family that takes him in. Set in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution and the influenza of 1918.”
  5. Andrea (@pagecactus) recommends: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika and Maritza Moulite. “Told in an epistolary format, this book explores the sometimes complicated relationships between not only mothers and their daughters but homelands and their people in the diaspora.” 
  6. Marian (@marianp.readsavidly) recommends: “Tomas Rivera’s classic Chicanx novella Y No Se Trago La Tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him. The book is composed of short, semi-autobiographical chapters that recount the challenges faced by the young male protagonist in the 1940s who works as a migrant laborer.  Rivera was the product of migrant labor and he became a university professor and chancellor of UC Riverside, the first Chicanx to do so.The book is meaningful to me because my dad also worked in his youth as part of a migrant labor family and likewise became an educator and the first in his family to graduate from college. Rivera’s words are meaningful as they reflect the young boy’s determination: “All he told her was that the earth did not devour anyone, nor did the sun…‘Not yet, you can’t swallow me up yet.’” 
  7. Jessica (@armyofwords) recommends The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero. “A completely engrossing novel about an undocumented Peruvian immigrant in New York trying to survive circumstances and the people around her. It often felt like several swift punches to the gut to witness her journey, and yet I could not look away.”
  8. Ana (@readingwithana) recommends Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. “This collection of short stories highlights the lives of various Latinx women of indigenous descent growing up in Colorado. Each story tackles issues such as motherhood, sisterhood, and generational trauma that many readers will be able to see themselves in the characters. Not to mention, Kali’s writing is breathtaking!”
  9. Lauren (@bylaurencapellan) recommends Let It Rain Coffee by Angie Cruz. “A lesser known book by Angie Cruz on bookstagram but definitely worth checking out. Let It Rain Coffee covers so much about Dominican culture, history, and identity politics while in the homeland and in the United States.”
  10. Lupita (@lupita.reads) recommends Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera. “Unapologetically written in Spanglish, this novel is an ode to all of us bilingual children often forced to choose one language to dominate over the other. It’s an immigrant queer coming of age story of Francisca finding herself within the tangles of her fractured uber-religious family.  One of my favorite books of this year.” 
  11. Kas (@kasandbooks) recommends With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. “I usually read thrillers but the book I really love right now is With The Fire On High. Personally it was extremely relatable and it touched up on important topics. I truly enjoyed how Acevedo captured the Puerto Rican and Philadelphian culture. I highly recommend this book.”
  12. Jessica (@bohobookish) recommends Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz. “Díaz’s poignant memoir reflects on her early life in Puerto Rico to her Miami Beach upbringing, all while dealing with an abusive mother, neglectful father, drugs, violence, and depression. Díaz struggled in life and she unfolds each moment on the pages and shows resiliency that inspires readers.”
  13. Emma (@bookish.em) recommends Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. “I was captivated by the cover and the book held my attention the entire way through. It was a new genre for me but I was so charmed by how beautifully (and authentically) culture and tradition were woven into the fantasy.”
  14. Marissa (@allegedlymari) recommends Paola Santiago and The River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia. “I don’t read a lot of middle grade stories, but this book has me wanting to read all of them now. Reading about La llorona, el chupacabras, and other mythical monsters I myself grew up hearing about felt like a warm cup of champurrado.”
  15. Mariana (@latinasleyendo) recommends The Book of Emma Reyes by Emma Reyes. “It is a Latin American classic and a lyrical portrait of an artist who conquers illiteracy, abandonment, and poverty and comes into her own as an artist and author. It is a powerful and underrated story and a must read for anyone looking for Latin American works in translation.”
  16. Neycha (@thesweetheartreader) also recommends Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. “It’s dark, suspenseful, and atmospheric and introduced me to one of my new favorite literary heroines!”
  17. Alejandra (@libros.con.coffee) recommends Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa. “This is my forever recommendation, especially to young Latinas! Using narrative, mythology, history, and poetry, Anzaldúa explores inhabiting intersecting identities and dualities—being Chicana, colonizer and colonized, indigenous and conqueror, being queer, speaking Spanglish, growing up on the border. It’s a groundbreaking classic that’s equally relevant today as it was nearly 35 years ago when it was written!”
  18. Debbie (@debbiesbooknook) recommends The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. “Every time I read or hear it, it evokes many emotions and memories of my childhood and (very) Dominican upbringing. Acevedo is a master of words and I am in awe of how her writing profoundly touches my soul. I’m grateful her books will be around for generations to come!”
  19. Nina (@literary.latina) recommends Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. “The author tackles all kinds of important issues through Juliet’s experiences as a queer Puerto Rican woman coming to an understanding of herself and feminism. Each time I read Juliet, she is less of a character in a book and more of a real friend that I feel like I know deeply.”
  20. Andrea (@nastymuchachitareads) recommends Knitting the Fog by Claudia D. Hernández. “It is a bilingual memoir of poetry and prose by a Guatemalan writer recounting her childhood in her beloved homeland before migrating to the United States with her mother and sisters. I loved reading about her upbringing in Mayuelas and Tactic, where the setting is so central to the narrative; the generations of dynamic women who raised her; and her resettlement in Los Angeles.”
  21. Karen (@idleutopia_reads) recommends Peel My Love like an Onion by Ana Castillo. “It gave me my reflection. I remember reading this book and feeling so grateful that it existed. It felt like finding a little crook that fit perfectly and ensconced your thoughts, fears and doubts in a comforting way that made you feel safe.”

And of course I have some extra recommendations of books I’ve read and loved recently from Latinx authors if you’re still looking for more books! (Who isn’t?) 

  1. Running by Natalia Sylvester: Mari has no interest in politics, but her father’s running for president. She finds her voice and is forced to reckon with her father’s policies.
  2. American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera: Nesto is giving his Afro-Caribbean food truck business one final shot when he meets Jude, a quiet librarian, and sparks fly.
  3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: This is a YA book with as much emotional richness as any adult story. It’s about the early blossoming of a relationship between two loners.
  4. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio: A stunningly intimate look at the lived of undocumented immigrants. The author is one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard and incorporates pieces of her story into the narrative.
  5. Movies (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano, illustrated by Arturo Torres: One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, Shea Serrano continues his “(and Other Things)” series by exploring the most random aspects of some great movies.

“Help Me Help You!” Tips for your family and friends who want to help your writing career

So many authors are reluctant to ask their family, friends and assorted contacts for help when they are promoting their book, but I always tell them to think of it from the opposite perspective. Wouldn’t you want to support a friend or loved one who had a new book coming out?

The thing is, most people don’t know exactly how to show that support, and they just need a little nudge in the right direction. So we put together a handy guide you can pass along when someone asks, “How can I help?”

Dear friends and family, here’s how you can help the authors in your life:

  1. Preorder a copy of their book — and not just for yourselves, but for others. Everybody’s getting a copy for Christmas! This is the most tangible way to help. For those who don’t have the financial means to order several books, there are a lot of other things that can help.
  2. Talk about the book on social media. Include links to the author’s website so people can order copies for themselves. Follow the author on their social media pages, and share their posts as appropriate to help drum up excitement.
  3. Rate and review the book on all platforms possible. Amazon doesn’t allow reviews before a book’s publication date, but Goodreads and other sites do. These ratings can be a deciding factor for whether someone buys the book or not. Seeing even just a handful of positive reviews can be a big incentive to check it out, so leaving a 5-star rating and review is an easy way to have a critical impact.
  4. Add the book to Goodreads lists to boost its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) power. When someone searches for books about specific topics — for example, “books about teenage witches” — Goodreads lists are often among the first results to pop up. By adding the book to several topical/thematic Goodreads lists and asking others to vote on it, you are making it more visible to its targeted readers.
  5. Suggest it as a book club pick to any groups you’re involved with who may enjoy it. The author may even be able to do a virtual Q&A with book clubs if that’s something you’d be interested in.
  6. Request that your local library carry the book. Check to see if the book is available at your library. If it’s not, check online to see if they have a form on their website where you can request that they carry the book. Many libraries have request forms specifically for this purpose (and if yours does not have an online form, a conversation with the librarian is a good place to start!). If the library chooses to carry the book, they will purchase a copy (another sale for the author!), and the book will be able to reach a new audience of readers who may not hear about it otherwise.
  7. Talk to your local booksellers and see if they know about the book. If not, give them an elevator pitch! Their recommendations are invaluable, so even putting the book on their radar can be helpful.
  8. And of course, spread the word! Word of mouth is still so important. Talk about the book to your friends, your coworkers, in your personal and professional circles, anywhere you can. Being an advocate for the author in your life is truly a gift — and you may help your other friends and connections discover a great new read!

Book Recommendations for Your Favorite Taylor Swift Songs

To celebrate the release of Taylor Swift’s new album folklore, we decided to pair some of our (and your) favorite songs of hers with amazing reads! Some of the books fit lyrically, and some just feel like they have the same vibe. Got a suggestion for our next book recommendation spree? Let us know!

  1. “Mad Woman” + Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon — Women rule (literally) in this book, and they’ve all got something to be angry about.
  2. “Ours” + Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — Henry and Alex’s relationship faces harsh criticism, but their time together is magical.
  3. “Out Of The Woods” + Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas — Calaena is saved from serving a sentence, only to be forced to compete in a fight-to-the-death competition. Not to mention her romantic entanglements—out of the frying pan, and into the fire.
  4. “Hey Stephen” + Heartstopper by Alice Osman — No one looks at Charlie quite like Nick does, and this graphic novel will bring back your high school nostalgia.
  5. “All Too Well” + Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram — When Darius travels to Iran and meets Sohrab, he finally starts to feel at home. But can it last?
  6. “Call It What You Want To” + Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender — Felix finally thinks he’s figuring things out when he is attacked anonymously.
  7. “Cruel Summer” + Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory — Olivia doesn’t think she wants a serious relationship, but it’s hard to say no when you’re swept off your feet.
  8. “Back To December” + Whiskey and Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith — A tragic romance that largely takes part in a snowstorm.
  9. “Death By A Thousand Cuts” + Here For It by R. Eric Thomas — Though it’s filled with laughs, there’s also a lot of emotion about being a Black, gay man in this book.
  10. “I Did Something Bad” + Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — Honestly, Amy Dunne is such a compelling bad guy. Looking for a narcissist? Look no further.
  11. “The Man” + Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart — The heroine in this series doesn’t take any flack from men, even though she lives in a time period when women aren’t well respected.
  12. “Delicate” + Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno — This whole book is full of delicate magic and infused with the feeling of falling in love for the first time.
  13. “Daylight” + Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert — Chloe is mired in darkness with her chronic illness until she decides to take back her life and meets her handsome neighbor.
  14. “King of My Heart” + American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera — You think you’re OK by yourself until a king comes along and shows you what you’ve been waiting for.
  15. “Sparks Fly” + You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson — This is a sparkly, delightful book that’s full of feelings and that nostalgia of falling in love in high school.
  16. “End Game” + The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller — Achilles with the big reputation, and his love with Patroclus is truly “end game.”
  17. “London Boy” + The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary — Such a cute British romance with the most charming, delightful boy.
  18. “Dress” + The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid — First of all, the dress on the cover is iconic. Second, this book and this song are very sexy.
  19. “Get Better” + Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong — Watching a parent suffer is unimaginable, and this song and this book tug on the heartstrings.
  20. “I Forgot That You Existed” + Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera — Juliet is getting a fresh start, much like Taylor with this song and album.
  21. “Story of Us” + Any of the Winston Brothers books by Penny Reid — Taylor’s early country vibes are a great match for this series, and the love stories are top notch.
  22. “Don’t Blame Me” + My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite — Some people do not want to clean up the messes they’ve made, and can see no fault in their mistakes.
  23. “Red” + The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren — Such a fun, well-done love-to-hate romance with fiery characters.
  24. “Clean” + Tin Man by Sarah Winman — A poignant love triangle with characters trying to deny themselves what they want and mourning losses.
  25. “The Archer” + Real Life by Brandon Taylor — A beautifully written book filled with questions that don’t have easy answers.
  26. “Bad Blood” + Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey — A twin is forced to reunite with her sister after they haven’t spoken in years in a very dangerous situation.
  27. “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” + Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy — A small-town girl learning to find herself and falling head over heels at the same time.
  28. “Ms. Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” + Running by Natalia Sylvester — The promise of America is so much sweeter than the delivery in the book and in the song.
  29. “Superstar” + Evie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes — Evie finds herself falling for a former baseball star, but she doesn’t know if it can last, or if she wants to.
  30. “I Knew You Were Trouble” + The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune — Teenage love is complicated and troublesome in this song and this book, plus both are a little extra.

Prepare for back to school with books

15 bookstagrammers to follow for children’s book recommendations, and 15 picture book recommendations

Whether the kids are heading back to school or learning from home, August always brings back fond memories of the smell of sharpened pencils, and a sense of new adventures and opportunities. One of the ways I learned best as a kid was through reading, so we’ve compiled a list of bookstagrammers who always have amazing new kids’ books to recommend! 

  1. Michelle (@the.book.report) is a mother of six who has great book recommendations for every age. She also shares fun, easy recipes to keep everyone fed and happy! 
  2. Megan (@ihaveabook4that) champions getting diverse books into schools, and is hosting an #augustkidlitchallenge encouraging people to share their favorite children’s books.
  3. Rosemary (@librarymombooks) is a former school librarian who curates fabulous lists that ensure you’ll be able to find a book your child will love. 
  4. Rosie (@diverse_kids_books) recommends books about people from all backgrounds and life experiences with the goal that every child will see themselves represented, and to spread inclusivity and kindness.
  5. Sarah (@picturebooksblogger) is a picture book expert. The photos of the book covers really pop in her feed–swipe to see more details from each book!
  6. Lauren (@happily.ever.elephants) shares books of course, but also quotes and lists that are fun and so helpful.
  7. Kelly (@deliahandtilly)  has a feed full of rainbows and smiles, and shares some amazing books and tips on home education.
  8. Charnaie (@hereweread) aims to help adults make the most out of their kids’ reading time, and promotes inclusive and beautiful books. 
  9. Shruthi (@thebookprivy) writes thoughtful captions that will inspire parents to talk with their kids about the books that they’re reading.
  10. Vera (@thetututeacher) is a kindergarten teacher who has tons of online resources for kids of all ages, and book recommendations to fit any need. 
  11. Nate (@mr_lyon_4th) led a Here and Queer educator series this summer to create space for LGBTQ+ storytelling, provide actionable steps for inclusion, and create space for queer storytelling. And of course, the book recs are top notch.
  12. Evie Sophia (@evieslearninglibrary) encourages literacy and love of reading by sharing creative activities and books for all different ages.
  13. Malorie (@rhetty.set.rea) has a colorful feed full of bright books that are sure to entertain kiddos.
  14. Lauren (@picturebookplaydate) manages to find the perfect background for each book she’s recommending to make them even more tempting! 
  15. Anna (@whatshouldireadtomykid) is a K-12 literacy specialist and has two young kids, which means her book recommendations come from experience!

And of course, I have LOTS of recommendations! Being a mom to a 3.5 year old means we are always on the lookout for fun new books. Here are some of our favorite picture books:

  1. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illustrated by Thomas Knight: No kids book has ever made me laugh as hard as this one. In this story, a little girl makes a persuasive argument to be able to sleep in her parents’ bed. 
  2. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Steve Lewis: An updated version of the  old-fashioned tale of the knight rescuing the princess.
  3. Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn: For anyone who has been told they can’t succeed because they’re too much or not enough.
  4. Because by Mo Willems, illustrated by Amber Ren: A cool way to teach kids how a small incident (a little girl’s uncle gets sick, so she gets to go to the symphony) can have long-term effects (she becomes a composer).
  5. Big Boys Cry by Jonty Howley: A gentle lesson dismantling down toxic masculinity.
  6. Windows by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale: Relying mostly on illustrations, this book offers a great view on exploring the worlds within our own neighborhoods.
  7. The Little Red Stroller by Joshua Furst and Katy Wu: A great story sharing many versions of what different families look like.
  8. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: Who hasn’t wanted to be a mermaid? Julián’s grandmother encourages him to embrace and celebrate his identity.
  9. Over There by Steve Pilcher: Beautiful illustrations from the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase tell the tale of a little shrew who wondered if he might find something better outside his comfort zone.
  10. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees: Everyone makes fun of Gerald’s dancing, but a little cricket teaches him to find his own rhythm and joy. 
  11. Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival: When Norman sprouts wings, he tries to keep them hidden, but keeping a huge secret weighs on him. 
  12. Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth: The kids in a family each learn a small lesson from a panda who is well versed in Zen tales.
  13. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison: An empowering ode to a young Black girl’s hair, and the love her father has for her. 
  14. Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis: A spunky little girl finds adventure with her trusty dog sidekick in their own backyard.

A Big Guy Took My Ball (or really any Elephant and Piggie story) by Mo Willems: A smart lesson about including people, even if they’re different from you — but they are all wonderful!

Book a Virtual Vacation with Some of Our Favorite Bookstagrammers

Take a virtual vacation and get some book recommendations, too!

Vacation season looks a lot different this year, with most of us spending more time in backyard kiddie pools than at the beach. We put together a list of ten bookstagrammers who make you feel like you’re traveling, and asked them what books transport them! So grab your passport and check out these accounts if you need a break from quarantine life. 

Paige (@paigerragerreads) frequently posts photos of her books at the beach in Maui, and honestly, what more can you ask for? She’s also a great advocate for libraries and thrifted books!She recommends Siracusa by Delia Ephron: “It’s a classic tale of people behaving badly (very badly) on vacation. Two couples, one of them joined by their precocious young daughter, Snow, decide to vacation together in Siracusa, a coastal Sicilian town. Their dream vacation quickly unravels as tensions surge to the surface, transgressions are revealed, and precious Snow is not at all who she seems. Mystery and mayhem unfold in this quick and delicious novel set under the Sicilian sun. Best enjoyed with a glass of chilled Vermentino.”

Cindy (@bookofcinz) describes herself as a Jamaican girl living in Trinidad & Tobago, and her love of the islands shines through her photos and extends to literature — she encourages people to diversify their TBR through #readcaribbean. And her glimpses into Carnival are amazing! She recommends Everything Inside: Stores by Edwidge Danticat: “I have a huge affinity for Haiti so I am always interested in reading stories set in Haiti and written by Haitian authors. When I read Edwidge Danticat’s collection of short stories Everything Inside, I felt like I got a very realistic look into what life is like for some Haitians. Danticat’s ability to write layered Haitian characters makes reading her collection truly enjoyable.”

Emily (@literaryviews) will make you feel like you’re in the middle of downtown Miami with her bright, aqua-themed feed. We can’t get enough of the bright skies and tall buildings in her photos! She said: “Born A Crime by Trevor Noah took me all the way to South Africa. In his memoir, Noah balances his witty humor with the realities of growing up during apartheid and gives us a glimpse of the experiences that defined the comedian we know from The Daily Show.”

Alix (@alix.k.reads) is a wonderful host to take you to the mountains and landscapes throughout Utah with her frequent hiking trips — though she freely admits adding books to her hiking bag is weighing her down a bit (#bookstagramlife). She recommends Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: “I actually read it while it was in Scotland and the scene descriptions of the beautiful hills and cliffs really makes you feel like you’re there. Plus you get to travel in time as well so another type of travel!”

Kiki (@ifthisisparadise) gives us glimpses into living in Jamaica, and seeing the beautiful beaches and lush flora makes it hard not to jump on a plane and travel there right now. She also reads a wide range of books, going well beyond what’s trendy, and has thoughtful and engaging captions. She said: “I could not think of another publication more transporting than the Arab Lit Quarterly. Each issue features short stories, poetry, interviews, essays, literary playlists—everything you could want and more than you could ever expect, which is a mark of the best journeys.”

Mel (@melannrosenthal) fills her stories with perfectly idyllic scenes from Connecticut — she even has daily views highlights if you need to ignore your current location and pretend to be somewhere else! She recommends: These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card. “Card’s debut proves she has a brilliant mind. Each chapter represents a different member of the extended Paisley clan as they grew up in and then fled Jamaica. The POVs change again and again, jumping backward and forward through time finding several characters at different life stages. At first, it seems like Abel, of the first chapter, is the protagonist and the family patriarch, but his life choices make for a much more complicated dissection of the plot. This is a perfect book to read with others because there is so much to discuss.”

Sara Lynn (@saralynnburnett) is a writer in Turks & Caicos Islands, and a self-proclaimed “beach snob” (we would be too if we lived somewhere that beautiful)!  She takes her followers from the beach to the pool, along with her books, and you can almost feel the breeze blowing off the ocean through her pictures. She said: “Since I live and work in a Caribbean resort I always recommend Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. It’s a story about the Caribbean that weaves in the influence of hotels on islands in the most realistic way.”

Shavonna (@smb_reads) features books with gorgeous backdrops — often the beach in Cape Cod, but also highlighting rocky paths, flowers and mossy forests. She said: I highly recommend The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern as a wonderful escape from reality. I have always been drawn to fantasy worlds that are based on our own, if only we could find the right door. It renews the childlike sense of wonder that first drew me into reading, and makes me want to go looking for magic or fairies in the woods again, as I did so often growing up after losing myself in a book. 

Heidi (@butthebooksarebetter2) will take you on a tour of the craggy cliffs and sandy coasts of Western Australia. Her posts frequently feature her cute pup and well-thought out reviews. She said “my favourite armchair travel book this year would be Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin, which is set in rural France. It features the unusual locale of a small French cemetery run by Violette, a young woman with a tragic past. Brimming with a rich cast of interesting and well rounded characters, it broke my heart but also filled me with love and hope, which was especially welcome during this tumultuous year.”

Sarah (@booklempt.gyal) features bright, sunny beaches and stellar books — often examining them through a scholarly lens. She also is a tireless advocate for Caribbean lit. She recommends Beloved by Toni Morrison: “When we think of books that transport us we often speak with a measure of fondness and awe about distant, unfamiliar locales. We don’t often talk about the books that take us inward to a part of ourselves we’ve closed off for self-preservation. Reading this book was a painful but cathartic journey, not only to a past that bleeds into the present, but also to the innermost part of ourselves where healing is possible.”

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.