For book lovers, it doesn't get any better.
At BookExpo America, the annual trade convention for the publishing industry, thousands of booksellers and librarians walked the floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center May 31 through June 2, surveying booths displaying publishers' wares.
On various stages, authors and editors talked about their work. The headliner, who spoke to a crowd of 1,000, was Hillary Clinton, whose as-yet untitled memoir will be published in September.
Attendees lined up for signings by authors promoting their new and upcoming books, and the lines were very long, as always, for a couple of Florida-based writers: Michael Connelly and James Patterson. Connelly has two new books this year, The Late Show in July and Two Kinds of Truth in October. Based on Patterson's past output, he'll probably have at least a dozen, but coming later this month is Murder Games. (Patterson is co-writing a novel with Bill Clinton, to be published in 2018.)
Another bestselling novelist who has a Florida home, John Grisham, has set his new book, Camino Island, in the Sunshine State. One of the book's main characters is a rare books dealer, and the novel is Grisham's nod of thanks to booksellers. Hundreds lined up for his signing.
Speaking at the author breakfast one morning was another part-time Floridian. Stephen King co-wrote his upcoming novel, Sleeping Beauties, with his son, Owen King. He could praise the book, Stephen said, "because I only wrote half of it."
Owen came up with the book's starting point, a world in which all women fall into endless sleep. He joked about pitching the idea to his father: "If my dad had a nickel for every time somebody said, 'Hey, do I have a story for you,' he'd be dead under a mountain of nickels."
One author of blockbuster bestsellers, Dan Brown, had to cancel his BookExpo appearance because of a family emergency, but Origin, his next thriller about symbologist Robert Langdon, is on schedule for October.
Several other authors whose books are among fall's most anticipated were on hand, including Jennifer Egan, whose Manhattan Beach is her first book since 2011, and Louise Erdrich, whose Future Home of the Living God is a departure for her, a dystopian novel set in a world where evolution has reversed.
Some other well-known writers who appeared at BookExpo are working in new forms as well. Minnesota Sen. (and former SNL writer and cast member) Al Franken has published several bestselling books of political satire, but his new one is a memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. Although he said during an on-stage interview that the book wasn't part of a plan to run for president, "I thought about doing the first book signing in New Hampshire and the second one in Des Moines, just to mess with people."
Amy Tan has often drawn upon her own life and family history in her novels, but in the fall she'll publish Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir. The book reveals for the first time shocking truths she uncovered in researching her family and explores her complex relationships with her parents.
Matthew Weiner is best known for his award-winning writing for television shows Mad Men (which he created) and The Sopranos. He was at BookExpo to sign his debut novel, a dark tale about a privileged family called Heather: The Totality, to be published in November.
As always, many writers talked about how books had influenced them. Capt. Scott Kelly discussed his memoir, Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery. The former astronaut (who spent a record 340 days on the International Space Station) said it was a book that inspired his career. As a slacker college student, he picked up Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff on a whim. He raced through it and thought, "I'm going to be like those guys."
Hillary Clinton, too, talked about the inspiration of books. She found a bond with another first lady, Laura Bush, when they discovered they had the same favorite book, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.
Clinton proudly mentioned daughter Chelsea Clinton's new children's book, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. "Seeing my daughter read the book she wrote about American women to my granddaughter and grandson — it doesn't get any better than that."
Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.