Vision 2020: Austin Books We're Looking Forward to in the New Year
Some local writers' books due out in 2020 we're eager to read
By Robert Faires,
11:15AM, Thu. Jan. 9, 2020
Austin has about as many writers as it does musicians, and every year more and more of them are getting published. We don't know all of the local authors with new books coming out in 2020, but we do know of a few, and these are the ones that have our bibliophilic senses buzzing.
Emily Beyda was a faithful contributor to the Chronicle's Food section for three years – you may remember her better as "Dear Glutton" – but these days Beyda has swapped Austin for L.A. and the alt-weekly food beat for novels of suspense, and she's already having some success. Her debut, The Body Double, published all too fittingly by Doubleday, is due out March 3. As the title suggests, it's set in the world of cinema, where a small-town nobody is tapped to surrender her life to step into the glittering heels of a fallen star whose breakdown has made her unfit for the spotlight. Only she won't be just covering for said star in long shots and stunts, like most body doubles, but standing in for her in life. The nobody signs on, and … yeah, those kinds of deals alwasy work out, right? Caite Dolan-Leach, author of We Went to the Woods, says Beyda's book "sucks you in with reflected glamour, and masterfully spits you out the same way Hollywood does— transfixed, disposable, wanting more.”
Mary Pauline Lowry took readers onto the fire line of a burning forest in Colorado in her debut novel, Wildfire. Five years later, she's taking readers onto the checkout line of a bustling Whole Foods in Downtown Austin. (Which is the more dangerous? You tell me.) The deli counter of that store is the spot from which underpaid, under-loved, quirky, Venus disciple Roxy watches the city she loves get smothered by skyscraper condos and chain stores. When a Lululemon is slated for the old Waterloo Video site, she's had enough and takes action to save Austin – and maybe herself in the process. The Roxy Letters is the account of her discontent and new inspiration, recounted in missives to her ex (who's couchsurfing in her place). J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest, says, "Roxy's life, from its wildly risqué escapades to its numerous crises du jour, is a total blast. Lowry's debut is the racy, funny page-turner we could use in these times." The Roxy Letters will be published by Simon & Schuster and hit the shelves April 20.
Deb Olin Unferth follows her 2017 short story collection Wait Till You See Me Dance with a novel about a heist of … chickens. (Maybe not so unusual for this particular author; Unferth also penned the graphic novel I, Parrot.) The new book, Barn 8, proceeds from what may strike you as an outrageous premise – a pair of U.S. egg industry auditors are out to steal a million chickens at once – but it becomes something richer and more provocative as Unferth opens up the minds of the various characters, including those chickens. She shows us people seeking to make change in a world desperately in need of it and willing to take radical action in support of it. She reveals hearts broken and the efforts taken to heal them. She lets us see how hens view death and what their future may be like in 20,000 years. It's a tale that's expansive and passionate and absurd and tender. Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation, says, “Unferth's hilarious genius is on dazzling display in this novel. Come for the brilliant insights about our faltering civilization. Stay for the revolutionaries and the chickens. You are really really going to love these chickens.” Graywolf Press delivers Barn 8 on March 3. Unferth will appear in conversation with Elizabeth McCracken at BookPeople on March 9.
Think Lawrence Wright and books, and you think nonfiction – works such as Going Clear, Thirteen Days in September, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Looming Tower, and most recently, God Save Texas. Well, the prolific Mr. Wright has a surprise for you in 2020: a book of fiction – a medical thriller, to be precise. In The End of October, Wright goes exploring in Contagion territory, tracking the spread of a new killer virus from an internment camp in Indonesia to Mecca just as the Hajj is underway to … well, can you imagine that the good ol' U.S. of A. is gonna escape a superbug that's covering the world? Not a chance. And the victims aren't restricted to humans; institutions go down when enough of the people who run them do. Can microbiologist/epidemiologist Dr. Henry Parsons figure out how to stop it before the end of the world as we know it? You'll find the answer – and probably learn more about the history of viral diseases than you ever expected to know – when Knopf releases The End of October May 12.