Hello and welcome to the LA Times Book Club newsletter.
The stories are short but powerful. In just a few pages, they transport us to extremely diverse destinations: an Icelandic island getaway, an abandoned Peruvian mountain lodge, a research station perched on an Antarctic ice field. Other authors remember the bonds forged while hiking through Asia, working on cruise ships, taking a Paris taxi, or traveling to their ancestral lands.
In all, 65 accomplished and well-traveled writers reflect on a passing encounter that left a lasting impression in this month’s book club reading, “Letter to a Stranger: Essays on Those Who Haunt Us.”
“The concept is so irresistible,” says the Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds. “Who can read about it and not think of a person and place, perhaps an unanswered question, that lingers in memory?”
Reynolds joins book clubbers May 26 for a conversation with authors Pico Iyer, Maggie Shipstead and Michelle Teathree of the book’s contributors, and Colleen Kindereditor of “Letter to a Stranger”.
This intriguing collection comes as many of us dare to travel again, or at least dream of new adventures. Reynolds, who spent 40 to 50 days a year on the road before the pandemic, has cut his own business travel in half over the past two years, often focusing on destinations close to his home in California.
Kinder said the manuscript was completed in the fall of 2020, but it already felt like something of a time capsule. “The book certainly reminds me of going through the world in a more vulnerable and open state,” she said in an interview. “A lot of these essays evoke a pre-COVID era, when we didn’t even realize how free we were.”
Join us: The “Letter to a Stranger” book club evening will be broadcast live from 6 p.m. PT on May 26. Get tickets and signed books here.
“We spend so much of our lives in the company of people whose names we will never know, people we will never see again,” says the novelist Leslie Jamisson in the preface to the book. “How rarely do we honor them. How seldom we admit to ourselves the strange and unexpected ways they can lodge in us.
Reading Notes: Maggie Shipstead
Before the book club night, Los Angeles novelist Maggie Shipsteadauthor of “Great Circle” and the new “You Have a Friend in 10A,” shared some favorite writers and diversions.
Your next adventure: I got back from Fiji four days ago, so hopefully not going anywhere for a while! But I’ve been saying for a few years that I would do a long hike (270 miles) in the Swedish arctic, and hopefully that will happen in late summer.
The last book that kept you up at night: “The Cold Vanish” by Jon Billmanwhich deals with the weird and mysterious ways people disappear in the desert and how others search for them.
The writers who have influenced you the most: Oh my, different writers at different times. In college, it was bred WASPs like Cheever and Updike. Lately, it’s mostly been women writers: Hilary Mantel, Mary Gaitskill, chimamanda [Ngozi] Adichie, Ruth Ozeki, Kate Atkinson, Min Jin Lee.
Something you’ve discovered about yourself since the pandemic: In fact, I am able to live with another person!
What’s not on your resume (says a lot about you): I like to embroider pillows and give them to friends.
Your next project: I’m working on another novel… but slowly.
What awaits us
Mark your calendar for next month’s book club conversation with the best-selling author and historian Ibrahim X. Kendi, who joins us in Los Angeles at USC’s Bovard Auditorium.
Kendi’s new book, ‘How to Raise an Anti-Racist’, is aimed at parents, teachers and other caregivers. It addresses questions such as: How do we talk to children about race and racism? How to teach children to be anti-racist? How do children of different ages experience race?
Get tickets for it June 22 even there.
We can teach you that
You know the weekend drill: wake up and look for new listings over coffee. Spend Saturday doing open house cruises. Be put off by the million dollar price tags on modest repairers with no yard let alone charm. Repeat.
The latest We Can Teach You That event can offer much-needed help in finding your retreat amidst the madness. Time employed Andrew Kouri and Patt Morrison join Yolandra McClinton, of the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County, the May 19 for “Secrets of the Great SoCal House Hunt”.
The Pulitzers: This week’s Pulitzer Prize-winning authors include recent Los Angeles Times Book Award winners: Poet Diane Seuss won for “frank: sonnets”, cited by the Pulitzer committee as “a virtuoso collection that inventively expands sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America”. Ada Ferrer won for “Cuba: An American History,” a lengthy chronicle of the island nation and its complex relationship with the United States. » Andrea Elliott won in non-fiction for “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City,” which follows a girl who comes of age amid New York’s homelessness crisis. Read more.
In the journalism awards, the foreign correspondent and photojournalist of the Los Angeles Times Marcus Yam received the Pulitzer Prize for News Photography for his coverage of the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. The Times was also named a finalist in the breaking news category for its coverage of the accidental shooting death of a cinematographer on the set of the low-budget western “Rust.”
A California story: Acclaimed science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson says he’s done with deep space tales. Her new book, “The High Sierra: A Love Story,” is Robinson’s first major nonfiction work. “I decided it was time to address the topic of climate change directly,” he told The New York Times.
Haller and Bosch return: tv review Robert Lloyd explains how Netflix’s “meat and potatoes” legal thriller “The Lincoln Lawyer” could predict the streamer’s future. Manuel Garcia Rulfo play lawyer mickey haller in the series, one of of them new LA crime shows debuting this month based on by Michael Connelly bestselling novels. The other is “Bosch: Legacy”.
The antique store behind ‘On Gold Mountain.’ Author Lisa View talks about researching his family saga and journeying to this month’s operatic adaptation of his work at the Huntington Library’s Chinese Garden.
Essential stories. Former Times Editor David L. Ulin review “The Hurting Kind” by Ada Limon, “the poet of our solitary and terrifying moment”. Elsewhere, Ulin compiles an introduction to seven essential readings by Joan Didion in Alta Magazine.
LA shows up
After a two-year hiatus, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books returned — to much fanfare — to the USC campus April 23-24. “It was a record year”, says the director of the festival Anne Binneywho shared a recap.
Here is the 2022 festival, by numbers:
274 live events, from groups to reading conferences to poetry readings
8 outdoor scenes
14 indoor venues
706 volunteers, who helped make it all work.
And book festivals come back elsewhere this spring too, of Bay Area Book Fest in Berkeley, at LitFest Pasadena, at next week’s debut of the Santa Fe Literary Festival.
“Letter to a Stranger” contributor and author from Los Angeles Michelle Tea shared her writing inspiration and latest work as we count down to May’s book club night.
Your next adventure: Bringing my son to San Francisco, where he was born, next month.
The last book that kept you up at night: “Station eleven.” I devoured it!
The writers who have influenced you the most: Eileen Myles, Violette Le Duc, Lynda Barry, Jean Genet.
Something you’ve discovered about yourself since the pandemic: I’m not as sociable as I imagine myself to be. Or maybe I’m just incredibly adaptable?
What’s not on your resume (says a lot about you): Which college I attended, because I didn’t.
Your next project: My book “Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of My In/Fertility” is coming out this summer!
We can’t wait to see everyone May 26. Please share your questions for our travellers: What would you like to ask Michelle Tea, Maggie Shipstead, Pico Iyer, Colleen Kinder and Christopher Reynolds? Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you like our community events: Please consider becoming a benefactor of the new Los Angeles Times Community Fund, which supports our community book club and annual book awards.
As always, thank you for reading and introducing yourself each month. And please let us know what you think of the books we read and what we should read together in the future.