2019 Decatur Book Festival Adult Reading List
New Talent on the Scene
It’s always exciting to discover debut authors and this year we’re thrilled to introduce these wonderful new voices to Decatur readers.
- Julia Phillips, Disappearing Earth
Filled with suspense and set in a stunning Russian landscape, this novel unpacks the complex bonds of community and family.
- Jenn Lyons, The Ruin of Kings
An epic fantasy centered around Kihrin, a thief raised in the slums who finds that his destiny involves an empire.
- Jake Wolff, The History of Living Forever
A chemistry student falls for his teacher and uncovers a centuries-old quest for the elixir of life.
- Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Set in Colombia at the height of Pablo Escobar’s violent reign, this mesmerizing debut is about a sheltered young girl and a teenaged maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both.
- Kira Jane Buxton, Hollow Kingdom
One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.
- Rion Amilcar Scott, The World Doesn’t Require You
A book of stories that shatters rigid genre lines to explore larger themes of religion, violence, and love.
New Books by Local Poets and Authors
These are some of the 2019 books by authors who are familiar to us, whether by notoriety, proximity to Decatur, or previous appearances at the festival.
Chelsea Rathburn, Still Life With Mother and Knife
This collection of poems sees the female body as both “mute and posable,” and as art and violence. These poems bring voice to tough issues from children and predators to postpartum depression.
Jericho Brown, The Tradition
Jericho Brown’s daring new book, The Tradition, explores the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal.
Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic
Ilya Kaminsky’s astonishing parable in poems asks us, What is silence?
Barbara Brown Taylor, Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others
Taylor reflects on how her own spiritual journey has been impacted and renewed through the connections she has made with those of other traditions and beliefs.
Bill Curry, Ten Men You Meet Meet in the Huddle: Lessons From a Football Life
In this book, Curry shares his knowledge and demonstrates how football is not just a game but a metaphor for life.
Carl Ware, Portrait of an American Businessman: One Generation from Cotton Fields to Boardroom
Born in 1943 to humble Georgia sharecroppers, Ware worked his way through college, taking part in the Atlanta Student Movement. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he rose to become one of the most influential business leaders and philanthropists of his generation.
Doris Payne, Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World’s Most Notorious Jewel Thief
In the ebullient spirit of Ocean’s 8, The Heist, and Thelma & Louise, a sensational and entertaining memoir of the world’s most notorious jewel thief–a woman who defied society’s prejudices and norms to carve her own path, stealing from elite jewelers to live her dreams.
Joshilyn Jackson, Never Have I Ever
New York Times-bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson displays her masterful talent in this dark and deliciously addictive tale of domestic suspense.
Jessica Handler, The Magnetic Girl
Gorgeously envisioned, The Magnetic Girl is set at a time when the emerging presence of electricity raised suspicions about the other-worldly gospel of Spiritualism, and when women’s desire for political, cultural, and sexual presence electrified the country.
Susan Rebecca White: We Are All Good People Here
A gripping, multigenerational story inspired by true events that follows two best friends through their political awakenings in the turbulent 1960s—and the repercussions of their actions after their daughters encounter the secrets they thought they had buried long ago.
Books that Inspire Action
This year the festival has an amazing collection of books that will inspire readers toward change–in society, politics, or one’s personal life.
Rachel Louise Snyder, No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us
An award-winning journalist’s exploration of America’s domestic violence epidemic, how we have misunderstood it, what it portends about other types of violence, and how to address it.
Jared Yates Sexton, The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making
Both a memoir and cultural analysis, this book explores the origins of toxic masculinity and its effects on our society.
Louise Aronson, Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life
Due to rising life expectancy, most people will spend more time in elderhood than childhood. While addressing our preconceived notions of aging, this book shows a vision of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging.
Stacey Abrams, Lead from the Outside
An empowering blueprint on how outsiders can take leadership positions, told from the first African American woman to be nominated for governor by a major political party.
Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy
With a foreword by Senator Dick Durbin, Anderson exposes a history of suppressing voting rights, and how modern-day voter suppression takes place.
Jennifer Pastiloff, On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard
An inspirational memoir about how Jennifer Pastiloff’s years of waitressing taught her to seek out unexpected beauty, how hearing loss taught her to listen fiercely, how being vulnerable allowed her to find love, and how imperfections can lead to a life full of wild happiness.
Margaret Renkl, Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss
From New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl comes an unusual, captivating portrait of a family—and of the cycles of joy and grief that inscribe human lives within the natural world.
Samantha Allen, Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States
A transgender reporter’s narrative tour through the surprisingly vibrant queer communities sprouting up in red states, offering a vision of a stronger, more humane America.
Books that Educate and Inform
These books and stories teach us new things about the world around us, beliefs within us, or about things outside our grasp.
Mary Norris, Greek to Me: Adventures From the Comma Queen
The Comma Queen returns with a buoyant book about language, love, and the wine-dark sea.
Ryan Jacobs, The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus
This exposé documents the dark–and sometimes fatal–crimes of the truffle industry.
Kelli Harding, The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness
Discover an eye-opening and provocative new way to look at our health based on the latest groundbreaking discoveries in the science of compassion, kindness, and human connection.
Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer, Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974
This historical overview illustrates modern America’s polarization traced back to 1974, and reveals that current divisions are deepened due to profound changes in our political system and a transformed media landscape.
Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Sister and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America
Three sisters from the South wrestle with the orthodoxies of race, sexuality, and privilege.
Richard Wrangham, The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution
Authoritative, provocative, and engaging, The Goodness Paradox offers a startlingly original theory of how, in the last 250 million years, humankind became an increasingly peaceful species in daily interactions even as its capacity for coolly planned and devastating violence remains undiminished.
Frans de Waal, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves
Primatologist Frans de Waal explores the fascinating world of animal and human emotions.
Katherine Harmon Courage, Cultured: How Ancient Foods Can Feed Our Microbiome
A revealing look at the 300 trillion microorganisms that keep us healthy—and the foods they need to thrive.
Stories from the Past
Historical stories–both true and imagined–are critical to shed light on our culture, on our relationships, and how we’ve navigated our past.
Elliott Gorn, Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till
Elliott J. Gorn delves more fully than anyone has into how and why the story of Emmett Till still resonates, and always will.
Karl Marlantes, Deep River
A family epic set in the 1900’s with themes of human suffering, courage, and reinvention.
William Krueger, This Tender Land
From a New York Times bestselling author, we get the story of four young orphans who are forced to flee all they know and undertake a life-changing odyssey.
Kris Waldherr, The Lost History of Dreams
Love and ghost stories meet when a post-mortem photographer discovers secrets that will impact the rest of his life.
Philippa Gregory, Tidelands
It is dangerous for women to be different in 1648. Despite this, Alinor, a poor and superstitious descendant of wise women, defies what is expected of her and remains authentic to her ambitious and determined personality.
Tea Obreht, Inland
Perseverance marks the epic journey of Nora and Lurie. Set during the Arizona drought of 1893, their journey is a remarkable tale of how two lives collide in a land of magic and myth.
Crystal King, The Chef’s Secret
During the Italian renaissance, the nephew of famous chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, seeks out to find his uncle’s secrets and discovers a love affair wrapped in deception, betrayal, and murder.
Rkia Elaroui Cornell, Rabi’a From Narrative to Myth: The Many Faces of Islam’s Most Famous Woman Saint, Rabi’a al-’Adawiyya (ca. 717-801 CE)
This books tells the story of the international symbol of Sufi and modern secular culture, Rabi’a, through the use of medieval, modern, and newfound sources.
PEN America Immigration Track
The DBF is proud to partner with PEN America this year, an organization working at the intersection of human rights and literature. The nuanced questions related to migration and the complexities of identity and home are very much at the center of the organization’s mission. These curated festival conversations and individual books are timely for the public consciousness, as they shine a spotlight on an urgent human rights issue.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Decatur Book Festival this year, and honored to be participating in their immigration track, including the festival keynote.” Katie Zannecchia, National Outreach Program Director.
Richard Blanco, How to Love a Country
A new collection from the renowned inaugural poet exploring immigration, gun violence, racism, LGBTQ issues, and more, in accessible and emotive verses.
Natalie Scenters-Zapico, Lima::Limon
In her striking second collection, Natalie Scenters-Zapico sets her unflinching gaze once again on the borders of things.
Tope Folarin, A Particular Kind of Black Man
A stunning debut novel from Rhodes Scholar and winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Tope Folarin, about a Nigerian family living in Utah and their uncomfortable assimilation to American life.
Devi Laskar, The Atlas of Reds and Blues
A novel that grapples with the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today’s America.
Nicole Dennis-Benn, Patsy
A beautifully layered portrait of motherhood, immigration, and the sacrifices we make in the name of love from award-winning novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn.
Ocean Vuong, On this Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling.
Aaron Bobrow-Strain, The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez
Taking us into detention centers, immigration courts, and the inner lives of Aida and other daring characters, The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez reveals the human consequences of militarizing what was once a more forgiving border.
Suketu Mehta, This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto
Drawing on his own experience as an Indian-born teenager growing up in New York City and on years of reporting around the world, Mehta subjects the worldwide anti-immigrant backlash to withering scrutiny.
Aleksandar Hemon, My Parents: An Introduction; This Does Not Belong to You: An Introduction
Two books in one in a back-to-back format: the story of the author’s parents’ immigration from Sarajevo to Canada and a book of short memories of his family, friends, and childhood in Sarajevo.
Rigoberto Gonzalez, Unpeopled Eden
Built from the lives and stories of undocumented immigrants, these mournful and mystical poems are a cry for remembrance.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Fruit of the Drunken Tree
A mesmerizing debut set in Colombia at the height of Pablo Escobar’s violent reign about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both.
Karl Marlantes, Deep River
A rich family saga about Finnish immigrants who settle and tame the Pacific Northwest, set against the early labor movements, World War I, and the upheaval of early twentieth-century America.
Jennine Capó Crucet, My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education
A book of essays on being an “accidental” American–an incisive look at the edges of identity for a woman of color in a society centered on whiteness.
Since 2014, the DBF, with support from MailChimp, has offered a unique author-curated track, working with a notable author to personally select a group of authors to present at the festival. This year’s curator is Jenna Wortham, an award-winning staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. She is the co-host of the podcast “Still Processing” and co-editor of the forthcoming visual anthology Black Futures, with Kimberly Drew, out in 2020.
Tommy Pico, Feed
Through breezy walks in New York’s High Line Park, Feed
asks many questions, such as–is there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely? Can anyone truly be friends with their ex? How do you make perfect mac & cheese?
Mira Jacob, Good Talk
Humorous while demonstrating vulnerability, this profoundly relatable graphic memoir serves as a love letter to the art of conversation, as well as to the hope that hovers in life’s most difficult questions.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, blue talk & love
This award-winning collection of short stories focuses on girls and women of color maneuvering through urban daily life.
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
A letter from a son to a mother who cannot read discovers a family’s history that stems backs to Vietnam.
Marlee Grace, How to Not Always be Working
While offering suggestions on how to make the best of your time, this book helps readers define and consider the role of work in their lives.
Safiya Noble, Algorithms of Oppression
After a thorough analysis of textual and media searches, as well as extensive research on paid online advertising, Noble argues that search engine algorithms benefit whiteness while discriminating against people of color, specifically women of color.
Ross Gay, The Book of Delights
Award-winning poet, Ross Gay, celebrates the beauty of nature from his garden and the flowers that live between the sidewalk, to the dazzling movements of a praying mantis.
Fariha Roisin, How to Cure a Ghost
A poetry compilation recounting a woman’s journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance, confusion to clarity, and bitterness to forgiveness.
Jacob Tobia, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story
Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world–one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism.