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2019 AJC Decatur Book Festival Highlights

The 2019 AJC Decatur Book Festival presented by Emory University (DBF) will host more than 250 authors from across the U.S. whose books represent a broad range of topics and genres. In addition to the Keynote, Kidnote, and Sunday night closing event presenters, we are thrilled to highlight the following authors and books who will be headlining this year’s festival. To view a current list of all 2019 DBF authors and presenters, please visit the presenters page.


Adult Nonfiction

Stacey Abrams, 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Georgia House Democratic Leader, will discuss her New York Times bestselling book, “Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change” (previously published in hardcover as “Minority Leader”).

Princeton University professors Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer co-wrote the book “Fault Lines” based on their research and a hugely popular course they taught entitled, “The United States Since 1974.” The book takes a wide-angle view of history as it attempts to answer the questions, “How and when did the United States become so divided?”

Harper Lee, the reclusive author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” devoted many years to a nonfiction book that was never published. She wanted to expose a rural preacher acquitted of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. Author Casey Cep unravels the mystery and Lee’s obsession with the case in the true crime book “Furious Hours.”

In another instance of the truth often being stranger than fiction, “The Ghosts of Eden Park” introduces readers to George Remus. During Prohibition, Remus was one of America’s biggest bootleggers and served as real-life inspiration for the character of Jay Gatsby. He may have continued giving away Buicks as party favors if his wife hadn’t fallen in love with one of the federal agents working to put Remus away. Sizzle historian and bestselling author Karen Abbott returns to her former home of Atlanta for this festival appearance.

New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl will discuss her first collection of essays, “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.” Renkl explores the natural world, suburbia, and family in these brief essays illustrated by her brother.


Adult Fiction

Serbian-American novelist Téa Obreht celebrates the release of her new book “Inland.” This book is the highly anticipated follow-up to Obreht’s 2011 National Book Award finalist, “The Tiger’s Wife.”

The New York Times called “Disappearing Earth” a “superb debut,” and Entertainment Weekly named it one of the best books of 2019 so far. Author and Fulbright fellow Julia Phillips will talk about her literary thriller, set on the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, at this year’s festival.

Appearing as part of the festival’s PEN America immigration track, Nigerian-American writer and Morehouse alum Tope Folarin debuts his first novel. “A Particular Kind of Black Man,” which tells the story of a Nigerian family trying to adapt to American life in Utah, is one of Time magazine’s “32 Books You Need to Read This Summer.”


MailChimp Track

For the sixth year, MailChimp has designated a well-read writer and tastemaker to curate a DBF track. This year’s curator is Jenna Wortham, an award-winning staff writer for the New York Times Magazine and co-host of the “Still Processing” podcast. Better known as “Jenny Deluxe” to her online followers, Wortham co-edited the forthcoming visual anthology “Black Futures,” with Kimberly Drew, which will be published by One World in 2020. In addition to Wortham and Drew, featured author-presenters on the MailChimp track include Jacob Tobia (“Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story”), Fariha Roisin (“How to Cure a Ghost”), Marlee Grace (“How to Not Always Be Working”), Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (“Blue Talk & Love”), Meredith Talusan (“Fairest”), Mira Jacob (“Good Talk”), Ocean Vuong (“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”), Ross Gay (“The Book of Delights: Essays”), Safiya Nobel (“Algorithms of Oppression”), and Tommy Pico (“Feed”).


Young Adult Fiction

Scott Westerfeld, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “Uglies” and “Leviathan” series, presents “Shatter City.” “Shatter City” is a sequel to Westerfeld’s bestselling book, “Impostors.”

Ibi Zoboi, a Haitian-American author whose YA novel “American Street” was a National Book Award finalist, will lead a panel with Lamar Giles, Atlanta’s Nic Stone, and Tracey Baptiste. All the authors on the panel contributed to a new story compilation entitled, “Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America.”

Kimberly Jones, former manager of the Decatur bookstore Little Shop of Stories, and Gilly Segal, an Atlanta advertising lawyer, will celebrate the release of their first YA novel, “I’m Not Dying with You Tonight.”


Children’s Fiction

Saturday’s children’s parade will be “beary” special! Parade-goers are invited to bring their favorite teddy bears to join Ryan T. Higgins, New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of the “Mother Bruce” series, in the march to the Children’s Stage. Higgins will present his newest book, “Bruce’s Big Storm.”

Beloved children’s book character Pete the Cat and his creator James Dean will lead the Sunday children’s parade. In the thirteenth “Pete the Cat” picture book, “Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party,” the famous blue feline learns a thing or two about compromise when he plans a pizza party for his friends.

From the creators of the New York Times bestseller “Dragons Love Tacos” comes “High Five.” Author Adam Rubin talks about this rollicking and rhyme-tastic new picture book about a high five competition.

Who wouldn’t want to start school by rocking a crown? Derrick Barnes, the Newbery Honor-winning author of “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” introduces us to a confident little boy who takes pride in his first day of school in “The King of Kindergarten.”

A mischievous rabbit, a cranky old lady, and a lovable dog star in “Hi, Jack.” New York Times bestselling author Mac Barnett and Geisel Award-winning illustrator Greg Pizzoli present the first in their new “Jack” series, designed to bridge the gap between picture books and chapter books for kids.

Author, teacher, and mom Kelly Barnhill brings her Newbery Medal-winning book “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” to this year’s festival. Voted one of the best middle grade books in recent years, “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” tells the story of a young girl on a magical quest of self-discovery who seeks to break a horrible curse with the help of a kind and loving witch and other fantastical creatures.

Laurel Snyder, author of picture books and novels for children, including the National Book Award nominee “Orphan Island,” debuts a new middle grade book set in Atlanta. “My Jasper June” details a summer friendship between Leah and the mysterious and magical Jasper.

Katherine Arden, author of the New York Times bestselling adult novel “The Bear and the Nightingale,” debuts her creepy, spine-tingling follow-up to the critically acclaimed “Small Spaces.” In the middle grade novel “Dead Voices,” characters Ollie, Coco, and Brian try to make the most of being snowed in with ghosts at the Mount Hemlock Resort.

Inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” middle grade book “More to the Story” features four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia. Author Hena Khan is a Pakistani-American Muslim, born and raised in Maryland, who enjoys writing about her culture and religion.



Chelsea Rathburn, Georgia’s newly appointed Poet Laureate, will read from her most recent poetry collection, “Still Life with Mother and Knife.” Rathburn begins a new job as assistant professor of English and creative writing at Mercer University in August.

The director of Emory University’s creative writing program, Jericho Brown, will share his astonishing new poetry collection at the festival. “The Tradition” details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s first book, “Please” (2008), won the American Book Award.

Internationally renowned poet Ilya Kaminsky will read from his 2019 poetry collection “Deaf Republic,” which opens in an occupied country where soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy. Kaminsky was appointed poetry chair at Georgia Tech last year.



Jim Auchmutey, a Decatur native and former writer and editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, argues that barbecue—not apple pie—is our true national food. His new book “Smokelore” explores the “delicious and contentious history of barbecue in America.” Auchmutey, a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and food writer whose work has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation, was a guest curator for the Atlanta History Center’s “Barbecue Nation” exhibition, which inspired “Smokelore.”

Speaking of BBQ, what goes better with steak than cake? North Carolina native Elizabeth Karmel, aka “Grill Girl,” is an authority on grilling, barbecue, and Southern food. Her new book “Steak and Cake” offers more than a hundred recipes for choosing and cooking steaks and baking cakes.

Readers and foodies will be in good spirits with “The Cocktail Codex” session. Alex Day and David Kaplan, co-owners of the Death & Company speakeasies in NYC and Denver and the Los Angeles-based hospitality company Proprietors, reveal surprisingly simple ways to master classic cocktails in this James Beard Award-winning book.

Media Contact:
Alison Law