Food Network favorite Abby Jimenez is an award-winning pastry chef, and the owner of the world-famous Nadia Cakes cupcakery and custom cake studio. A self-taught baker, Jimenez won Food Network’s competitive Cupcake Wars in 2012. She parlayed her successes into her Minnesota-based small business, which now boasts outlets in Maple Grove, Woodbury, and Palmdale, California. Jimenez is also a USA Today bestselling romance writer. Publishers Weekly commended her debut, The Friend Zone, noting that “biting wit and laugh-out-loud moments take priority, but the novel remains subtle in its sentimentality and sneaks up on the reader with unanticipated depth.” Jimenez brings this same formula to Life’s Too Short, which hits shelves April 6. It follows a globe-trotting social media superstar whose carefree lifestyle hits a road bump when she unexpectedly comes into custody of her baby niece. In a glowing review, romance mainstay Katherine St. John praised Jimenez’s latest for “refreshingly real characters and compulsively readable prose… clear your schedule, because you won’t be able to put this delicious book down!”
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Therese Anne Fowler is a perennial favorite among historical fiction readers. She is perhaps best known for Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (2014). Z showcases the incredible life and historic times of Zelda Sayre, the reckless Southern belle who married and inspired literary superstar F. Scott Fitzgerald. Amazon Studios turned the book into a period drama, Z: The Beginning of Everything, starring Christina Ricci and co-produced by Fowler herself. Fowler’s next novel, the New York Times and USA Today bestseller A Well-Behaved Woman, profiles the iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt. Matriarch of one of the Gilded Age’s richest families, Vanderbilt gained a notoriety in her own right as an early and instrumental leader in the universal suffrage movement. Fowler’s latest novel, A Good Neighborhood, turns the spotlight from historic luminaries to everyday Americans. Set in modern times in a tight-knit suburban community, A Good Neighborhood “traverses the topics of love, race and class” and asks whether families with diametrically opposed worldviews can be authentically neighborly (Kirkus Reviews).
Robert Kolker is an established and esteemed investegative reporter. Long known in journalism circles for his exposés in New York Magazine and Bloomgberg News, Kolker became one of the nation’s most read nonfiction writers (almost overnight) after the April 2020 publication of Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. Now a #1 New York Times bestseller, Hidden Valley Road centers around the 12-child Galvin family in post-WWII Colorado. Considered a paragon of domestic prosperity and bliss by friends and neighbors, the Galvins harbored dark secrets. Hereditary schizophrenia – diagnosed in six family members – eventually came to light as the culprit, but only after the Galvins’ story had confounded medical science for years. Oprah Winfrey recently selected Hidden Valley Road for her reimagined Oprah’s Book Club, bringing Kolker to a still wider audience. In 2020, Netflix released the feature film Lost Girls – based on Kolker’s 2013 book of the same name – which tracks the murder spree and clues trail of an as-yet-unidentified serial killer.
Chart-topping historian H.W. Brands is one of the foremost American Studies scholars writing today – and also one of the most prolific. With nearly 40 published books to date, his work spans more than three decades of dedicated scholarship and nearly every epoch of American history. Brands’ areas of speciality include economic history and global policy, as well as biographies on presidents and other change-makers who shaped our nation. He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, for The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (2000) and Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (2008). Brands’ latest is The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom. Brands’ incisive look at the abolition of slavery gained wide acclaim. Library Journal calls it “a fascinating and wonderfully readable portrayal of the tensions between fiery militancy and determined-but-measured devotion in working toward a goal.”
Claire Lombardo is one of few first-time authors to see their debut novel chart immediately on the New York Times Bestseller List. The Most Fun We Ever Had follows the fortunes and factious relationships of four sisters over five decades. In this time-jumping narrative, the surprise re-emergence of a teenage son put up for adoption by one sister sparks a long overdue family reckoning. NPR praised Lombardo’s debut as “a wonderfully immersive read that packs more heart and heft than most first novels,” and “a deliciously absorbing novel with – brace yourself – a tender and satisfyingly positive take on family.” The Chicago Tribune, People magazine, and Good Housekeeping singled out The Most Fun We Ever Had as one of the best books of summer 2019. Random House will release a paperback edition on April 6, and the book is currently being adapted for HBO by the powerhouse Hollywood producing duo of Amy Adams and Laura Dern.
Cameroonian-American novelist Imbolo Mbue burst onto the literary scene in 2016 with her debut novel Behold the Dreamers. Semi-autobiographical in nature, the book tracks a young Cameroonian couple as they struggle to re-establish themselves in New York City in spite of racial barriers and the economic upheavel of the Great Recession. Lauded by The New York Times as “a dissection of the American Dream, savage and compassionate in all the right places,” Behold the Dreamers became an Oprah’s Book Club pick in 2017. Mbue’s anticipated follow-up, How Beautiful We Were, hits shelves on March 9. A heart-wrenching story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company, How Beautiful We Were reads as a contemporary fable. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves that Mbue’s masterwork “uses an ecological nightmare to frame a vivid and stirring picture of human beings asserting their value to the world – whether that world cares about them or not.”
John Moe is one of Minnesota’s best-known radio and podcast personalities. The reporter and talk show host first cut his teeth in the Seattle radio market, before bringing his unique wit to the North Star State. He is best known for his work as a senior reporter and host of American Public Media enterprises including Weekend America, Marketplace Tech Report, and the uproarious radio variety show Wits. His podcasting projects include The Hilarious World of Depression, a show in which Moe set out to dispel societal stigma around and entrenched stereotypes about clinical depression. Celebrity guests have included chef Andrew Zimmern, authors John Green and Jenny Lawson, and actors Wil Wheaton and Jameela Jamil. In 2020, Moe published a book under the same title. In The Hilarious World of Depression, Moe shares all he knows about the illness – from personal experience, extensive research, and years of interviews. In a glowing review, Booklist asserts that “Moe is exactly the right person to give an attentive, irreverent voice to those suffering with depression.”
Lauren Fox is an acknowledged master of the family novel. Readers enjoyed their first taste of her achingly funny take on marriage, friendship, and domesticity in Still Life with Husband (2007) – a literary debut that The New York Times heralded as “the arrival of an immensely gifted writer.” Fox’s follow-ups, Friends Like Us (2012) and Days of Awe (2015), justified the praise. Her latest, out February 2, is Send for Me. In this time-jumping work of historical fiction, a woman discovers a cache of old letters from her Jewish grandmother that sheds light on her family’s struggles and fate during the rise of Nazism in Germany. Booklist touts Send for Me as “a thoughtful, character-driven exploration of the unbreakable bonds of motherhood, [which] deftly moves between generations as Fox illuminates the ways that choices echo through the lives of those who come after.” Send for Me is also semi-autobiographical in nature, inspired by heirlooms letters held by her own family.
Eduardo Porter is an economics reporter for The New York Times. His distinguished career in journalism has taken him to Mexico City, São Paulo, Tokyo, and many points in between. He currently co-hosts The Pie, a podcast on pandemic economics sponsored by the University of Chicago, which explores the financial and social ramifications of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Porter is also the author of The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do (2011), a revealing look at the cost-benefit analyses that underpin each and every human behavior. His latest book is American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise. In a sterling review, Booklist says that “with a scintillating rhythm and pointed language, Porter exposes all the ways in which racism has infected everything from unions to welfare to education and immigration policy. American Poison is a work for our times.” It will be reissued in paperback on February 9.
Megha Majumdar is the author behind A Burning, one of the most anticipated and best reviewed fiction debuts of 2020. Set in modern-day India, this propulsive narratives hinges around three characters on the margins of society: Jivan, a Muslim girl living in the slums of Kolkata (Calcutta); Lovely, a member of India’s intersex hijra community; and PT Sir, an opportunistic gym teacher turned right-wing politician. Although fiction, “A Burning quickly dismantles the ordinary skepticism that attends the reading of made-up stories” (New Yorker), and “offers a powerful corrective to the political narratives that have dominated in contemporary India” (Time). Majumdar is herself a native of Kolkata. She moved to the United States to attend school at Harvard and Johns Hopkins University. She is currently an associate editor at literary magazine and independent publisher Catapult. A Burning has won several honors since its June launch, including being picked up by NBC’s “Today” as the summer’s #ReadWithJenna pick.