The most popular #BookTok books in every state

TikTok’s book community “#BookTok” was recently referred to by The New York Times as a “best seller machine.” In this community, creators post literary content to the app, ranging from book recommendations to their emotional reactions during pivotal plot points. 

This content has catapulted sales for a select few books, and major book retailers such as Barnes & Noble are recognizing the community’s power.

These days, it takes one viral TikTok for a book to become a bestseller. #BookTok reaches readers across the world, and a nation’s most popular books can tell us a lot about its language and culture. So which books are actually selling, and what do they have in common? 

Using Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Google search interest data, we conducted an analysis of the titles rising in popularity due to TikTok. Our report ranks the most popular books and authors, determines which are favored in each state, and even highlights the older books making a comeback due to TikTok. 

Key findings

The most popular #BookTok books and authors

For BookTok community members, reading is all about finding stories that captivate their audience’s emotions – particularly their sense of romance. The top-five best-selling books due to TikTok are nearly all romances, and two of them share the same author.

The five most popular #BookTok books are:

  • It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (romance)
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (romance)
  • Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover (romance)
  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (romance)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (young adult)

#BookTok has popularized the romance genre with Gen Z readers. Romance tropes such as “enemies to lovers” and “fake dating” allow readers to enjoy fun, lighthearted stories with satisfying emotional endings across many different books with unique characters. 

In fact, of the top 55 books analyzed, 24 were in the romance genre, according to Goodreads classifications. Fantasy books took up 12 slots, with young adult (8), thriller (6), and historical fiction (4) genres following.

With two books in the top three slots, Colleen Hoover is the standout author on #BookTok. Her titles Verity and It Starts With Us are also in the top 25 #BookTok books. A romance author with one thriller title (Verity), Hoover is active on TikTok and Instagram, engaging with the community with her humorous personality. She clearly has a strong sense of what’s popular in online reading communities. 

Jennifer L. Armentrout also has four titles gaining significant traction on TikTok. A prolific fantasy and romance writer, books from her Blood and Ash, Harbinger and Dark Elements series have each been heavily promoted by the #BookTok community. 

Other popular #BookTok authors include Alice Oseman, Casey McQuiston, Elle Kennedy and Emily Henry, each with three books on the top #BookTok book list.

The most popular #BookTok books by state

A nation’s most popular books can tell us a lot about its culture, and the same is true for individual states. We analyzed the list of over 170 popular #BookTok books using local search data to determine the most popular #BookTok bestseller in every state and created a map to display each state’s favorite title.

With 41 books represented, there are a wide variety of popular books in the U.S. right now, thanks to TikTok. The books most popular on a state-by-state level include:

  • Ugly Love (4 states)
  • Book of Night (3 states)
  • A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (2 states)
  • One Last Stop (2 states)
  • The Spanish Love Deception (2 states)
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty (2 states)
  • Written in the Stars (2 states)

The books making a comeback thanks to #BookTok

Finally, some books published well over a decade ago are seeing a resurgence in popularity thanks to TikTok. We removed books that have movie adaptations or are part of popular franchises such as Twilight or The Hunger Games

Here are the lesser-known titles that #BookTok is giving a comeback:

  • I Am Number Four (published 2009)
  • Anna and the French Kiss (published 2010)
  • The Song of Achilles (published 2011)
  • Throne of Glass (published 2012)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (published 2012)

Conclusion

Books open up our worlds and minds. Simple stories that follow traditional narrative arcs can also be effective language learning tools. Whether your recommendation comes from #BookTok or The New York Times, discover a new title and learn about a different culture, place, or time. 

Methodology: Using a list of 170+ popular #BookTok titles compiled by Barnes & Noble, we used Google search data to conduct this analysis. Genre data compiled using Goodreads.

The Patron Saint of Second Chances

is village sadly slipping away, self-appointed mayor and radiator repairman Signor Speranza listens in horror as a water commission official tells him that the water pipes must be replaced or the commission will shut the village’s water supply off — making Prometto uninhabitable.

The cost to fix it? Seventy thousand euros — an exorbitant sum for a village of 212 residents, most of whom are just barely getting by.

But Speranza has a plan — not a good plan or even a mediocre one, but at least it’s something. He decides to start a rumor that famed movie star Dante Rinaldi is filming his next mega hit in Prometto. If tourists think that Rinaldi will be readily available, Speranza believes that tourists will descend upon Prometto. After all, when there was a rumor that George Clooney would be filming in a neighboring town, it was a madhouse. And it looks like it will be so once again.

Soon tourists arrive with plenty of money to spend. But it isn’t just tourists. The locals go crazy with the idea of being in a film, almost any film. The butcher wants Speranza to find roles for all 15 of his overlarge sons, offering Speranza money if he makes it happen. Even Speranza’s daughter gets movie fever.

“The plan works a little too well, however, and he soon finds that in order to keep up the ruse, he will have to make the movie for real,” said Christine Simon, the author of “The Patron Saint of Second Chances” (Atria 2022; $23.70 on Amazon).

Simon says her plot was inspired by news articles she ran across that talked about how shrinking Italian villages were offering homes for a dollar.

“These stories usually have at their core some enterprising mayor trying to drag their village back from the brink of extinction,” she said. “This flash of inspiration was, therefore, triply rewarding for me, because it gave me my setting, my main character, and my main character’s mission, all in one fell swoop. Everyone should be so lucky.”

It also has origins in the Italian village where Simon’s grandparents grew up.

“My grandparents came to the United States via Canada in the early 1950s, trading their tiny village of Ferruzzano for Cliffside Park, New Jersey,” she said. “I grew up going to parties in their backyard — sprawling gatherings with dozens of people, many of them also from the village, sitting at long tables in lawn chairs and eating, eating, eating. When I began working on this story, at first I felt intimidated because I’ve never been to Ferruzzano in real life, but as I was researching the setting, and looking at family photos and even Google map images of the village, I was startled to find that the two places — my grandparents’ backyard in Cliffside, and their mountain village of Ferruzzano — looked astonishingly similar. I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to bring their village with them when they came here, and that’s the flavor that I hope I’ve incorporated into the fictional village of Prometto.”

Simon loved authoring this book, which she did just after the quarantine started.

“It was wonderful escaping reality each day to see what Signor Speranza and his zany crew would get up to next,” she said.

Now Simon says she’s devoted to comedy and small-town antics.

“I guess you can say we know what to expect from my next book,” she said.

Printers Row Lit Fest

FULL PROGRAM SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED FOR PRINTERS ROW LIT FEST, THE MIDWEST’S LARGEST LITERARY CELEBRATION, SEPTEMBER 10 & 11

Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey joins over 100 authors including national bestsellers Jamie Ford, Marie Myung-OK Lee, and Danyel Smith in a jam-packed weekend of free programming

This year’s festival highlights Chicago stories and offers fun for all ages, with a poetry tent organized by The Poetry Foundation; a rare presentation from satire writers at The Onion; interactive programs for youth and families; and more

The 37th annual Printers Row Lit Fest, presented by the Near South Planning Board, is pleased to announce the full schedule of participating authors and programs. Printers Row Lit Fest is one of the three largest and oldest literary festivals in the U.S. and stretches across five blocks, along South Dearborn Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Polk Street and on Polk Street from State to Clark, in Chicago’s historic Printers Row neighborhood. The outdoor event is accessible via public transportation and takes place rain or shine from Saturday – Sunday, September 10 – 11, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The festival kicks off with Evanston-based Pulitzer Prize winner and two-term United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, who will be awarded with this year’s prestigious Harold Washington Literary Award. Chicago authors and stories will be presented during the Printers Row Lit Fest including dozens of new books and anthologies focused on Chicago. From columnist Neil Steinberg’s Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago and Ray Long’s The House that Madigan Built: The Record Run of Illinois’ Velvet Hammer to fictions set in Chicago neighborhoods such as Toya Wolfe’s Last Summer on State Street, Joe Meno’s Book of Extraordinary Tragediesand One Book One Chicago author Eric Charles May’s Bedrock Faith, Chicago is a leading character in today’s literary zeitgeist.  

Printers Row Lit Fest’s dynamic lineup offers fun for book lovers of all kinds, from poetry and romance to satire and spoken word. Highlights of this year’s festival include a conversation with Danyel Smith, the first Black editor of Billboard magazine, on her recent book Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in PopJamie Ford discussing his current New York Times bestseller The Many Daughters of Afong May; and celebrated author of The Evening Hero, Marie Myung-OK Lee.

Poetry Tent

New to this year’s festival is a dedicated poetry tent curated by The Poetry Foundation with a lineup of award-winning and emerging poets. Also new to the festival is the laugh-out-loud Literary Death Match, whichpits four local authors against each other in front of a panel of all-star judges, and the Chicago-based, national satirical news site The Onion will present a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the article production process of “America’s Finest News Source” with a post-apocalyptic twist. Visitors can participate in a spoken word workshop and open mic led by EmceeSkool, and The Moth will showcase recent winners from their popular StorySLAM live storytelling competition.

The Printers Row Lit Fest will present powerful voices in social and environmental justice and activism with a series of panels hosted by reporters from Chicago Sun-Times and personalities from WBEZ. The fest includes a timely discussion reflecting on two years of the COVID-19 pandemic with a conversation between Dr. David Ansell, author of The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills, and Dr. Thomas Fisher, author of The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago E.R. In addition, the Chicago Public Library will host Voices for Justice: Natalie Moore’s “The Billboard” including a staged reading of excerpts from the award-winning play.

This year marks the return of children and family-focused programming at Printers Row Lit Fest. Programs include Theatre on the Hill’s Choose Your Own Once Upon a Time, an opportunity for children to decide the fates of their favorite fairy tale characters in a live, interactive theatrical event, and Carlos Theatre Productions which will present a Latin American puppet show for children in Spanish and English. Parents can hear Dr. Dana Suskind in conversation with former Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens about her recent book Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise. 

Programs are organized by Printers Row Lit Fest Program Director Amy Danzer, assistant director of graduate programs at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies and Board President of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

Including Sandmeyer’s Books and The Book CellarPrinters Row Lit Fest hosts over 100 booksellers in airy outdoor tents, inviting visitors to peacefully peruse everything from the rare to ‘hot off the press,’ newly published works. All programming, includingfeature presentations by myriad authors, spoken word artists, journalists, comedians, and poets,is 100% free of charge.

Printers Row Lit Fest 2022 Schedule

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10

10:00 a.m.

Center Stage – Children’s Programming – Theatre on the Hill Presents Choose Your Own Once Upon A Time

Poetry Foundation – Children’s Programming – A bilingual reading of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions, Selections/Libro de Preguntas, Selecciones (Enchanted Lion Books, 2022) by translator, Sara Lissa Paulson.

Main Stage – Welcome by Near South Planning Board Chairman Steven Smutny, Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown, and First Lady Amy Eshleman. Program to follow featuring Natasha Trethewey, Harold Washington Literary Award Winner in conversation with Donna Seaman, Booklist. Program introduced by Natalie Moore, Harold Washington Literary Award Selection Committee Chair.

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – The Deep Creativity of Translation: A Reading and Discussion with Izidora Angel, Mary Hawley, and Alta L. Price. Moderated by Irina Ruvinsky. Presented by Another Chicago Magazine and the Third Coast Translators Collective.

Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Big Shoulders Press Presents Virus City: Chicago 2020-2021. Reading and Discussion featuring Amy Do,  Robin Hoecker, Emily Richards, Oscar Sanchez, and Frank Tempone. Moderated by Rebecca Johns Trissler.

Grace Place (1st Floor) – Children’s Programming -10:15am – Doors. 10:30am – Miss Friendship Ambassador 2022 Susan Liu to tell the story of the Moon Festival Presented by the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. 10:45am – Moon Festival Parade to depart Grace Place.

11:00 a.m.

Center Stage – Welcome by Alderman King One Book One Chicago – Thomas Dyja, The Third Coast and Eric Charles May, Bedrock Faith with Judy Rivera-Van Schage

Poetry Foundation – Children’s Programming – Reading by Julian Randall, Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa. Emceed by Stefania Gomez. 

Main Stage – (11:30 a.m.) WBEZ Presents Adriana Herrera, A Caribbean Heiress in Paris, and Sarah MacLean, Heartbreaker: A Hell’s Belles Novel in conversation with WBEZ’s Greta Johnsen, host of Nerdette

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Ray Long, The House That Madigan Built: The Record Run of Illinois’ Velvet Hammer in conversation with Joan Esposito

Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Unlocking Memories and Uncovering Stories: Bindy Bitterman, Skiddly Diddly Skat (children’s book) and Sharon Kramer, Time for Bubbe (children’s book) in conversation with Chicago author Beth Finke 

Grace Place (1st Floor) – Patricia Carlos Dominguez Presents Yo Luchadora (bilingual children’s book) followed by a workshop

Saturday Afternoon

12:00 p.m.

Center Stage – Erika L. Sanchez, Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir in conversation with Juan Martinez

Poetry Foundation – – The Chicago Poetry Center – Readings by Mayda del Valle, Aricka Foreman, Tim Stafford, Natasha Mijares, C. Russell Price, and Viola Lee. Emceed by Marty McConnell.

Main Stage – (12:30 p.m) WBEZ Presents Danyel Smith, Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop in Conversation with WBEZ’s Natalie Moore

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Deborah Cohen, Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War in conversation with Peter Slevin

Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Crises: The All Ages Show – Dan Chaon, Sleepwalk and Jean Thompson, The Poet’s House in conversation with Eileen Favorite

Grace Place (1st Floor) – Writing Overwhelming Realities – Readings by Julia Fine, Dionne Irving, Ananda Lima, Jami Nakamura Lin, and Jeffrey Wolf. Emceed by Ananda Lima.

1:00 p.m.

Center Stage – Debut Fiction: Jessamine Chan, The School for Good Mothers and Shelby Van Pelt, Remarkably Bright Creatures in conversation with Rebecca Makkai 

Main Stage – (1:30 p.m.) Chicago Sun-Times Presents The Environmental Justice Exchange: A tribute to Hazel Johnson, the Mother of Environmental Justice. Host: Brett Chase. Guests: Cheryl Johnson, Hazel’s daughter and executive director of People for Community Recovery; Tarnynon Onumonu, poet and author of “Greetings from the Moon, the Sacrificial Side”; Luis Carranza, poet and author of “Viva la Resistencia”. 

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – M. Chris Fabricant, Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System in conversation with Rob Warden

Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Sourcebooks Presents – How Books Are Made: Authors Discuss the Publishing Process. Julie Clark, The Last Flight and The Lies I Tell; Ann Dávila Cardinal, The Storyteller’s Death; Iman Hariri-Kia, A Hundred Other Girls. Moderated by Kate Roddy, Associate Editor at Sourcebooks.

2:00 p.m.

Center Stage – Title IX, 50 years later: Women writers, women’s sports – Corin Adams, Tiny Setbacks, Major Comebacks, Julie DiCaro, Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America, and Melissa Isaacson, State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation in conversation with Jeanie Chung

Poetry Foundation – Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry – Readings by Daniel Bortzutzky, Ugochi Nwaogwugwu, Elise Paschen, and Sara Salgado. Emceed by Carlo Rotella.

Main Stage – Chicago Sun-Times Presents Social Justice in Chicago: The Mexican community’s fight to stay in the city. Host: Elvia Malagon. Guest: Mike Amezcua, author of Making Mexican Chicago: From Postwar Settlement to the Age of Gentrification

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Dr. David Ansell, The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills and Dr. Thomas Fisher, The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER with Katherine Davis, Crain’s

Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Elizabeth Crane, This Story Will Change: After the Happily Ever After with Kim Brooks 

Grace Place (1st Floor) – The Onion: America’s Finest News Source In The Post-Apocalypse featuring Skyler Higley and Sammi Skolmosk

3:00 p.m.

Center Stage – PHENOM & EmceeSkool (Open Mic) 

Main Stage – (3:30 p.m. ) Joe Meno, Book of Extraordinary Tragedies with Gint Aras

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Beth Macy, Raising Lazarus: Hope, Justice, and the Future of America’s Overdose Crisis with Alex McLevy

Grace Place (2nd Floor) – Leslie Bow, Racist Love: Asian Abstraction and the Pleasures of Fantasy with Michelle Huang.

Grace Place (1st Floor) – Rebuilding a Life – Ann McGlinn, Ride On, See You; Alex Poppe, Jinwar and Other Stories; Lynn Sloan, Midstream with Rachel Swearingen

4:00 p.m.

Center Stage – The Chicago Public Library and16th Street Theatre Present The Billboard by Natalie Moore – Staged Reading featuring Ti Nicole Danridge and Felisha McNeal followed by conversation between Natalie Moore, The BillBoard and Kathy Hey, Third Coast Review

Poetry Foundation – RHINO Poetry – Readings by April Gibson, Kathleen Rooney, Jessica Walsh, E. Hughes, Faisal Mohyuddin, Kenyatta Rogers, Jacob Saenz, Maja Teref & Steven Teref. Emceed by Naoko Fujimoto and Elizabeth O-Connell Thompson.

Main Stage – (4:30 p.m.) – Literary Death Match – Presented by StoryStudio Chicago and Near South Planning Board. All-star judges: David Cerda, Julia Morales, and Luis Urrea. Readers: Shannon Cason, Elizabeth Gomez, Mikki Kendall, and Diana Slickman. Emceed by Adrian Todd Zuniga. 

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Resistance, Resilience and Surviving the Sex Trade: – Brenda Myers-Powell, Leaving Breezy Street: A Memoir and Hannah Sward, Strip in conversation with Anne Ream, The Voices and Faces Project

5:00 p.m.

Center Stage – The Guild Complex Presents Exhibit B – Reading by CM Burroughs, Ruth Margraff, and Nami Mun. Emceed by James Stewart III

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Ramzi Fawaz, Queer Forms in conersation with Chicago LGBT Hall of Famer Owen Keehnen 

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

10:00 a.m.

Center Stage –  Representation in Children’s Books: Reading and Conversation featuring Sam Kirk, The Meaning of Pride; Mrs. Yuka Layme, Co-Producer of Drag Queen Story Hour; Katie Schenkel, Cardboard Kingdom with Barbara Egel 

Poetry Foundation – A Poetry Reading featuring Jennifer Steele, 826 Chiand Chris Aldana, Luya Poetry

Main Stage – Pirates, Ghosts, and Loss – Sara Connell, Ghost House and Michael Zapata, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau with Paula Carter

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Kori Rumore and Marianne Mather (authors of), and Rick Kogan (prelude to) He Had It Coming: Four Murderous Women and the Reporter Who Immortalized Their Stories with Mary Wisniewski

11:00 a.m.

Center Stage – Chicago Graphic Novelists – Markisan Naso, By the Horns and Michael Moreci, Wasted Space in conversation with Terry Gant, Third Coast Comics

Poetry Foundation – Chris Abani, Smoking the Bible – Reading followed by conversation with Parneshia Jones 

Main Stage – Jamie Ford, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy in conversation with Carey Cranston, President of the American Writers Museum

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Victor Ray, On Critical Race Theory: Why It Matters & Why You Should Care with Cassandra West, Crain’s

Grace Place (2nd Floor) – – Rev. Amity Carrubba in conversation with Tom Montgomery Fate, The Long Way Home: Detours and Discoveries

Sunday Afternoon

12:00 p.m.

Center Stage – NU Press Reading, Growing Up Chicago – Second to None: Chicago Stories – Readings by Anne Calcagno, Shelley Conner, and Jessie Ann Foley. Emceed by David Schaafsma 

Poetry Foundation – Roger Reeves, Best Barbarian – Reading followed by conversation with Simone Muench. Musical accompaniment, Mai Sugimoto.

Main Stage – Girlhood in Chicago – Illinois Poet Laureate Angela Jackson, More Than Meat and Raiment and Debut Novelist Toya Wolfe, Last Summer on State Street in conversation with Amina Gautier

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Dana Suskind, Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise in conversation with Heidi Stevens

1:00 p.m.

Center Stage – City in a Garden of Books: Literary Fellowship Among Independent Publishers and Booksellers – Parneshia Jones, NU Press; Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Third World Press Foundation; Doug Seibold, Agate Publishing with Jeff Deutsch, In Praise of Good Bookstore

Main Stage – Secrets – Bradeigh Godfrey, Imposter and Marie Myung-Ok Lee, The Evening Hero with Kate Wisel

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Kevin Boyle, The Shattering: America in the 1960s in conversation with Elizabeth Taylor

2:00 p.m.

Center Stage – Adam Levin, Mount Chicago in conversation with Jarrett Neal

Poetry Foundation – Young Chicago Authors – Reading featuring The Roots Crew, hosted by E’mon Lauren

Main Stage – The Moth: 25 Years of Live Storytelling featuring Grace Topinka, Melissa Earley, Archy Jamjun, and Jacoby Cochran

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Neil Steinberg, Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Humorous and Heartbreaking Historical Tour of Chicago in conversation with Shermann Dilla Thomas (“6figga_dilla”)

3:00 p.m.

Center Stage – Reading and Conversation featuring Ana Castillo, My Book of the Dead: New Poems with Yolanda Nieves

Main Stage – Romance Panel: Legacy and Love – Ali Brady, The Beach Trap and Natalie Caña, A Proposal They Can’t Refuse with Tanya Lane

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – The Insidiousness of Hatred – Adam Langer, Cyclorama and Jerry Stahl, Nein, Nein, Nein!: One Man’s Tale of Depression, Psychic Torment, and a Bus Tour of the Holocaust in conversation with Ben Tanzer

4:00 p.m.

Center Stage – The Crisis in American Democracy – Dick Simpson, Democracy’s Rebirth: The View from Chicago and Michael Dorf, Clear It with Sid!: Sidney R. Yates and Fifty Years of Presidents, Pragmatism, and Public Service with Gerry Plecki, President of The Society of Midland Authors

Poetry Foundation – Reading and Conversation featuring Tara Betts, Refuse to Disappear and Keli Stewart, Small Altars. Moderated by Rachel Jamison Webster

Main Stage – Chloé Cooper Jones, Easy Beauty: A Memoir with Gina Frangello

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – Sarah Kendzior, They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent – with Rick Perlstein, Crain’s

5:00 p.m.

Center Stage – Blue Heron Press, Open Heart Chicago: An Anthology of Chicago Writing – Readings by Dorothy Frey, Lorena Ornelas, Joe Peterson, and Sandi Wisenberg. Emceed by Editor Vincent Francone.

Main Stage – Debut YA Fiction – Giano Cromley, The Prince of Infinite Space and Skyler Schrempp, Three Strike Summer with Michelle Falkof

731 S. Plymouth Ct. – A Visual Read of the City – Lee Bey, Chicago Sun-Times architecture critic; Blair Kamin, former Chicago Tribune architect critic; Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s with Gerald Butters\

First Born by Will Dean

Two identical twins as different as can be. Molly, anxious and reserved, lives a quiet, contained life in London. Katie, gregarious and fun-loving, is now attending school in New York where she has a great apartment, lots of friends and a handsome, athletic boyfriend.

Molly feels betrayed and jealous — until she gets a call from her parents who are visiting in New York. Katie is dead.

And so, Molly, forced to leave the safe confines of the cocoon she has enveloped herself in, flies to New York to comfort her parents and to take on the task of discovering her sister’s killer. But this isn’t a simple story of a twin forced to grow beyond the safe confines of her life. In “First Born,” author Will Dean takes us on a twisting path of family secrets, dark deceits and the slow recognition that even those we love aren’t who we think they are.

Katie, Molly discovers, has earned her admission to the prestigious school program not just because of her academic successes but also because of her relationship with a rich playboy philanthropist who jets around the world with an entourage of pretty young women.

“Molly soon realizes she never knew her twin as well as she thought she did,” said Dean, who was born in England, studied law at the London School of Economics and now lives in a remote area of Sweden. “Molly grows in confidence in New York. She starts to piece together the puzzle of Katie’s life. She finds those who wronged her. And then she goes about seeking revenge.”

Remember, we said it wasn’t simple, and as Molly attends Katie’s cremation ceremony with her parents, we learn of her own involvement in Katie’s death. And yet she still seeks vengeance for all those who wronged Katie.

Dean says the inspiration for his book came to him one night a few years ago.

“I imagined identical twins who had been treated differently from early childhood,” he said. “I was curious how being labeled ‘the fun one’ and ‘the serious one’ might manifest in later life. I’m also intrigued how we all think we know our partners, siblings, parents, children, etc well. But we never know them quite as well as we think we do.”

This article originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times.

Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry’s Heritage by Carol Peachee

“Bourbon is a legacy of blue grass, water and Kentucky limestone,” Carol Peachee tells me when I ask what makes Kentucky bourbon so prized.

Limestone? Water? Bluegrass? What’s that have to do with fine bourbon?

Turns out it’s quite simple. According to Peachee, the limestone filters the iron out of the water as it flows through the rock, producing a sweet-tasting mineral water perfect for making the greatest tasting liquor. Limestone, with its heavy calcium deposits, also is credited with the lush blue grass the state’s prize-winning horses gaze upon — making their bones strong.

It’s been a long time since I took geology in college, but I do like the taste of good bourbon and the sight of stately horses grazing in beautiful pastures and the more I can learn about it all, the better. Which is why I love Peachee’s entrancing photographs.

Carol Peachee

I first met Peachee, an award-winning professional photographer, when she was autographing copies of her latest book, Straight Bourbon: Distilling the Industry’s Heritage (Indiana University Press 2017; $28). Creating beauty as well as a sense of yearning, her books, including The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries, take us on a wanderlust journey of lost distilleries and those now re-emerging from the wreckage of Prohibition. At one time, Kentucky had over two hundred commercial distilleries, but only sixty-one reopened after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Now, as Kentucky bourbon becomes a driving force throughout the world, once barely remembered and long closed distilleries are being restored and revamped and are opening again for business.

Using a photographic technique known as high-dynamic-range imaging ― a process that produces rich saturation, intensely clarified details, and a full spectrum of light ― Peachee hauntingly showcases the vibrancy still lingering in artifacts such as antique tools, worn cypress fermenting tubs, ornate copper stills some turning slightly green with oxidation and age, gears and levers —things we would never typically think of as lovely and compelling.

Traveling with the Book

Keeping copies of her books in my car when I travel to Kentucky, I love visiting some of the places and sites she’s photographed.

Her passion for bourbon may also have come about, in part, because she lives in Lexington, Kentucky which is rich in the history of bourbon making (and, we should say, sipping).

To get a taste of how bourbon connects to the land, when in Lexington, Peachee suggests a stop at the Barrel House Distilling Co. including the Elkhorn Tavern located in the old James B. Pepper barrel plant. It’s part of Lexington’s happening Distillery District. But fine bourbon doesn’t just stop in Lexington.

“There are so many bourbon distilleries now,” she says, noting that the heritage of good bourbon making is more than the equipment and the water.

“The cultural heritage of distilling also lays in the human culture,” she writes in the Acknowledgements section of her latest book, “the people who learned the crafts of milling, copper welding and design, barrel making and warehouse construction and then passed them on through the generations down to today’s workers and owners.”

And now Peachee has passed them down to us so we can fully appreciate the art of distilling

Town Branch Bourbon Bramble

  • 2oz Bourbon
  • 3/4oz Fresh squeeze lemons
  • 3/4oz Simple syrup
  • 5 Fresh blackberries muddled

Shake with ice, strain and pour over fresh ice in rock glass with blackberry garnish.

Town Branch Bourbon Mint Julep

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 8 mint leaves
  • 1/4oz simple syrup
  • Dash of bitters

Muddle ingredients.

Add crushed ice with mint garnish and straw.

The above recipes are courtesy of the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company.

The Verifiers by Jane Pek

Her brother is on the fast track to a successful career in finance and has plans for his sister to follow along. But in Jane Pek’s debut novel, “The Verifiers,” Claudia Lin secretly drops out of the corporate rat race without telling her siblings or mother and takes a job at Veracity, a new start-up that uses algorithms along with good old detective techniques to determine whether online suitors are real or not.

Claudia, a queer Asian American, really isn’t a computer geek. The reason she was chosen for the job by the company’s founder is her passion for reading, particularly the works about a fictitious crime solver named Detective Yuan.

Once she is hired, the firm becomes a three-person endeavor, with Claudia spending her time cyberstalking (the modern way to dig up dirt) and real life stalking, like they do in the crime novels Claudia consumes.

When Iris Lettriste comes in wanting them to investigate the men she’s met online, it at first seems like a simple case. But, of course, they never are. Lettriste is a no-show for her last appointment, and later is found dead of what looks like an accidental overdose of a prescription drug she’s taking.

Claudia’s bosses want to move on from Iris, but she thinks there’s more, particularly after all the online accounts belonging to Iris disappear and the real Iris shows up, saying that her sister has been impersonating her.

That’s enough for Claudia to start sleuthing on her own. Soon she’s fired from her job and almost involved in a fatal bicycle accident because someone has rigged her bike. On the home front, her gorgeous older sister is having relationship problems, and Claudia takes it upon herself to do some detecting to see what’s he’s up to.

Her brother is appalled and disappointed in her when he finds out she has quit the stellar and potentially very lucrative job he arranged for her.

Pek, who has an undergraduate degree from Yale, a law degree from New York University and an MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College and works as an attorney in New York for an international investment company, says she began the book by asking herself what if there was an online dating detective service, and from there began assembling the story line.

“I liked that Claudia would actually draw her detective rules from this obviously silly murder mystery series,” said Pek who is working on a sequel, “but that every now and then it would actually work out for her.”

The article originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times.

Breathless: A Mountaineering Thriller by Amy McCulloch

Breathless, Amy McCulloch’s debut adult thriller, is set on the world’s eighth highest mountain in Nepal. Cecily Wong, is a struggling journalist given the opportunity to interview legendary mountaineer Charles McVeigh but with one catch: she has to summit the mountain as part of his team first.

I had a chance to ask McCulloch, a Chinese-White author, born in the UK, raised in Ottawa, Canada, now based in London, UK. questions about her book including how much she and Cecily are similar. But first a little more about McCulloch, the  youngest Canadian woman to climb Mt Manaslu in Nepal – the world’s eighth highest mountain at 26,781ft, is the co-author of the #1 YA bestselling novel THE MAGPIE SOCIETY: One for Sorrow, and has written seven solo novels for children and young adults. She’s made bestseller lists in several countries around globe and her books have been published in fifteen different languages. 

Now the interview.

JA: Tell us how much the character Cecily is like and unlike you?

AM: While Cecily and I share some similarities (we are both mixed race, Chinese and White, and both writers), I wanted Cecily to be more of a novice to the world of mountaineering than I was when I went to Manaslu, so she could be a window into the high altitude world for readers who might be unfamiliar with the sport. Yet I also drew on many of the challenges I faced to create her character: imposter syndrome – in the mountains and in my career, and a struggle to belong.

You mention being, like Cecily, at a nadir in your career and life when you first embarked first on walking and then on climbing. Can you tell us about that? Has physical exertion always been restorative for you?

Actually, turning to physical exertion as a means of healing was a surprise to me! Before my divorce, I was not a particularly active person, although I always loved travel and adventure. However, when my husband left, for the first time I felt truly lost – like my entire future was crumbling in front of me. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so while I processed these big emotions I decided to do something good for my body. I flew out to the Kerry Way – Ireland’s longest way-marked trail – and walked over 250km. I was amazed by what my body was capable of, so I ventured next to Nepal to trek the Annapurna Circuit. It was there that I fell in love with the big mountains, sparking a curiosity in me to see where my feet could take me.

How did you go about preparing to climb an 8,000 high peak?

When I said “yes” to climbing Manaslu with Nims Dai (as part of his 14 Peaks, Project Possible mission – later a Netflix series), I knew I was about to embark on the most difficult challenge of my life. I already knew I could handle high altitudes and difficult weather conditions, having successfully summited Aconcagua (the highest mountain the Americas) a few months before. But this was next level. I embarked on an intense training regime at home in London, tackling multiple ascents of the only hill in the area (London is a remarkably flat place!) and I headed up to North Wales several times to take 1:1 mountaineering lessons with British mountaineering guide Jon Gupta. It also took a while to get all the necessary gear together. I was particularly surprised how difficult it was to find extreme high altitude mountaineering gear designed for women.

How did you come up with the concept of your book and the characters? You mention that you always intended to write a book about your climb but what inspired you to make it a mystery/thriller? And did that occur when you were actually climbing?

I had been a full time author for a few years before I started on my mountaineering journey, writing science fiction and fantasy for young adults. The mountains are such an inspirational place that I knew that there would be a story in there somewhere, but I had no idea what shape that story would take. At first, I toyed with a scifi idea – maybe the first expedition to Olympus Mons, the highest mountain on Mars. It wasn’t until I was actually living at base camp in Manaslu that I realized the novel should be a thriller. It struck me that the mountain was the perfect setting: the isolation, the lack of authority figures, the risks of the environment like avalanches, crevasses and serac falls, but you’re also living amongst total strangers – people whose backstories and motivations are a mystery, and yet you need to trust them with your life. Fatal accidents are considered part of the accepted risk of climbing in these high places – what better place to get away with murder than somewhere already known as the death zone? I knew then that I could use my own personal experience as research, hoping create a unique, compelling, page-turning and yet authentic thriller in Breathless.

Tell us about Manaslu. I know it is the eighth-highest peak but had never heard of it before. Yet it sounds both beautiful and daunting.

Manaslu was the first eight thousand metre peak I’d ever laid eyes on, long before I ever believed I’d be able to climb it. It stands apart from a lot of the other 8,000m peaks, so it dominates the skyline – with a distinctive fishtail peak. It is stunningly beautiful and it is also considered one of the most ‘achievable’ of the 8000m peaks. Many people use it as a training ground for Everest, so it seemed like the right level of challenge as a next step for me in my mountaineering journey. Although ‘achievable’ is a funny word – it was also known as the ‘killer mountain’ for a long time as it had one of the highest death rates of any mountain in the world. There is no safe place to camp on the mountain – everywhere is prone to avalanche danger. It is definitely not to be underestimated.

Cecily is one of just a few women mountaineers in the book. Was that similar to your real life climb? Do you think that it’s harder for women to be accepted into the climbing world?

When I climbed Manaslu in September 2019, I held the record for the youngest Canadian woman, but even more surprising to me was that I was one of only eight Canadian women to have ever reached the summit in history, according to the Himalayan Database. That really showed me just how few women partake in this sport. For so long, I think there have been a lot of barriers to women being fully accepted into the climbing world – there’s the issue of equipment (as I mentioned above) not being designed with women’s bodies and needs in mind, and also the stigma that women in particular face when they participate in high risk sports while leaving their families at home. I think though the tide is changing – with more women than ever breaking ground in this sport, including my good friend and tentmate Stefi Trouget, who became the youngest woman to climb K2 without O2. I found the camaraderie I felt with other women on the mountain to be truly inspirational, and helped me find confidence on the mountain itself.

I loved your description of the teas and the foods you ate both in the town and in the camps. Do you miss that? Or did you take recipes home with you? To me, it seems like a real immersion into the culture of the people who live on the mountain. I’d never run into that in other books about climbing.

Thank you so much! I miss Nepal (and Nepali food) every day! It was important to me when I chose to climb in Nepal, that I used local operators and guides to support their economy as much as possible. What I didn’t realize is how those guides – Nims Dai, Mingma David and my Sherpa Tensing Kasang – would become more like family to me over the years. I have been invited back to their homes and even had the honour of being blessed by Nims’ mother during their Dashain festival. For me, it’s the people who make these climbing trips so memorable and impactful – and getting to immerse myself and learn more about Nepali culture is always the highlight.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my next adventure thriller, set in Antarctica – a place I was lucky enough to visit back in 2016. I was intrigued to write about the “white night” – because when the sun never sets, there are very few places to hide. My hope is to continue to write books that transport readers to incredible places – with some page-turning thrills along the way.

Is there anything we didn’t cover you’d like readers to know?

I don’t think so!

Follow Amy at:

Twitter: @amymcculloch

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amymccullochbooks/

Instagram: @amymccullochbooks

Recipes from Tara Teaspoon’s Delicious Gatherings

I love cookbooks, whether they’re old or new and I’m always looking for those that offer recipes for what’s available from local farms and also using ingredients that I want to learn more about. And my friend Carrie Bachman sent me a cookbook that covers both. It’s by Tara “Teaspoon” Bench, a former Martha Stewart food editor and food stylist, and is titled “Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together.”

It offers new recipes for many of the fruits already available and soon to be: blueberries, grapes and apples as well as quinoa. I have several packages of Ancient Harvest’s Quinoa with Sea Salt, Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic, and Inca Red Quinoa so I was happy to find Tara Teaspoon’s Grape and Feta Quinoa recipe.

Bench offers complete meals in her new cookbook but also says that the menus are created so that home chefs can pick and choose singular recipes, just a few or all of them to create the meal they want. There are more than 120 recipes which are divided into four main sections: “Main Events,” “Serious Sides,” Breakfast and Brunch,” and “Baking and Sweets.”

“Bringing my cooking expertise to print and online articles taught me how to clearly share my recipes and knowledge with every kind of cook,” said Bench who also has a blog, tarateaspoon.com. “I know how to create recipes with easy steps so everyone at home can be successful in the kitchen.”

Waldorf Salad With Radicchio and Buttermilk Dressing

SERVES 6 TO 8

Makes ¾  Cups Dressing

Hands-On Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 30 Minutes

“Really, the resemblance to classic Waldorf salad is just the combo of apples, celery, and grapes—but I just love that one of my favorite salads heralded from New York City, where I live. I’m paying a little homage to its history,” writes Bench. “With shaved apple, flavorful radicchio, and a light, savory buttermilk dressing, this updated version of Waldorf salad is elegant and welcoming. I made a tangy buttermilk herb dressing and opted for delicious, candied pecans instead of walnuts.”

Candied Pecans

  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces) pecans

Buttermilk Dressing

  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Salad

  • 1 small head or half a large head
  • radicchio (10 ounces)
  • 1 apple, cored and cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced on the bias
  • 1 ½ cups California red grapes, sliced in half

For the pecans: Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a small skillet over medium heat, bring maple syrup and cayenne to a boil. Boil 1 minute, and then add pecans. Stir to coat and cook another 30 seconds. Turn onto lined baking sheet and separate nuts. Set aside and let cool completely. When cool, coarsely chop.

For the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients and set aside in the refrigerator.

For the salad: Break or chop radicchio into pieces. Use a mandoline or slicer to thinly slice apple. Arrange radicchio, apple, celery, and grapes in a bowl, then top with chopped pecans. You can toss with the dressing and extra parsley at this point, or you can serve the salad with the dressing and parsley on the side so guests can dress their own salad.

TARA’S TIP

Radicchio is a very strong, sometimes bitter leafy vegetable. I think it’s fantastic with tangy buttermilk and yogurt. But if you want a milder salad, opt for butter lettuce leaves.

Grape and Feta Quinoa

Serves: 6 To 8

Makes: 4 cups

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

“This is my favorite grain salad with all the crunchy nuts, salty feta, herbs, and juicy grapes,” Bench wrote about this recipe.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) grapes, halved
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta
  • 1/3  cup (1 ounce) walnuts, toasted and broken up
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

DRESSING

  • Grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To cook quinoa, rinse in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Transfer to a medium saucepan with water and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

While quinoa cooks, make dressing by whisking together all dressing ingredients. Set aside.

When quinoa is cool, add grapes, feta, walnuts, and parsley. Toss with dressing and serve. Quinoa can be refrigerated for up to a day.

Blueberry Bannock Scone

 Makes: 8 servings, 1 (9-inch) scone

Hands-on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

“Traditional Scottish Bannock cakes are baked on a griddle, but I make a simple one in the oven to serve the whole family. I’ve added wheat germ instead of whole wheat flour to give the quick bread a nutty but light texture, and finely chopped pecans add amazing flavor,” she wrote in the intro to this recipe. “I’ve stuffed my Bannock with blueberries, which takes an extra step to get them nestled in a layer, but it’s well worth it when you slice into a molten-berry middle! My biggest tip is to use a gentle hand and not overwork the dough.”

SCONE

  • 1 ¼ cups (160 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up and chilled
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon water

ICING

  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

For the scone: Heat oven to 400.F. Use the top of a bowl to draw an 8- or 9-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper as a guide. Set aside on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine flour, pecans, wheat germ, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 4 tablespoons sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut butter into flour mixture until mixture forms small crumbs with tiny bits of butter.

In another bowl, combine buttermilk and 1 egg. Add to flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Dough will seem wet and sticky but work it as little as possible.

Divide dough in half and use two spoons to dol lop half the dough around the circle marked on the prepared baking sheet. With floured hands, shape the dollops into one circle. Spread blueberries evenly over the scone, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Using spoons again, dollop remaining dough over blueberries, then with floured hands press together to make a top layer, covering the berries.

Beat remaining egg with water and brush some on top of the scone. Score into 8 wedges on top. Bake until scone is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

For the icing: Stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk to make a thick icing. When scone is almost cool, drizzle with icing.

Spoon batter over blueberries, then gently press together to form the top of the scone, sealing the edges around the blueberries.

Apple Pudding Cake with Butter Sauce

Serves: 12 to 14

Hands-on time: 40 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 55 minutes

“This rich cake, reminiscent of the dense steamed puddings my grandma used to make, is our family Christmas dessert—although we’ve been known to make it year-round, especially during peak apple season. It’s subtly spiced and full of the tart and sweet taste of apples, plus crunchy pecans. To make the cake even more special for the holidays, top with Apple Crisps.

“You may think adding the sauce is gilding the lily, as the cake on its own is delicious. But in my opinion, the sauce is essential and makes each bite of cake extra divine.”

Apple Pudding Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 4 cups grated apple, any variety, from 3 to 4 cored apples
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for pan
  • 2 large eggs

Butter Sauce

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups (12-ounce can) evaporated milk
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

For the cake: Heat oven to 350.F. Brush a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan generously with extra butter. Sprinkle pan with extra sugar, then tap out excess. Set pan aside.

Stir together flour, pecans, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a food processor or with a box grater, shred apples with the skin on. You should have 4 cups grated apple.

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar with the paddle attachment. Add eggs and beat until mixture is fluffy. Stir in apples (and any juice they produce) and flour mixture until completely combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and cake pulls slightly away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Tent cake with foil for the last half hour of baking to prevent overbrowning.

Let cool on a wire rack, about 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to remove from pan. Let cool completely.

For the butter sauce: In a saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer all butter sauce ingredients, stirring, for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve the sauce warm over slices of cake or serve sauce on the side and let guests add a generous amount of warm sauce to each slice of cake.

Garnish with apple crisps, if desired.

NOTE The cake and sauce can be made a day in advance. Allow both to cool completely before storing. Cover cake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Refrigerate butter sauce and reheat in microwave or saucepan to serve.

TARA’S TIP

I make this cake in a fun tube pan for the wow factor at the holidays, but it bakes perfectly in a 9-by-13- inch cake pan. Bake about 35 minutes.

Apple Crisps

2 apples

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 250.F. Thinly slice apples using a mandoline. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat liner.

Use a sieve to lightly dust both sides of each slice with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake one to two hours, turning apples over once during baking. To test doneness, remove one slice and let it cool. It will be crispy when cooled, and the apples will be done.

Remove from oven and quickly transfer apples to a wire rack and let cool.

The recipes above are courtesy of ‘”Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together by Tara ‘Teaspoon’ Bench.” Photo by Ty Mecham.

Tales of Al: The Water Rescue Dog, the Making of a Super Athlete

With her golden eyes and short brown coat, Al is unlike most Newfoundland dogs not only in color. She’s also bigger than a bear cub at an equivalent age and able to pull two to three times her weight. Al is also exuberant, intelligent, and eager to please. But in her overwhelming enthusiasm, Al doesn’t always listen to commands.

In other words, does she have what it takes to be a water rescue dog?

Lynne Cox is an inductee into the International Swimming Hall of Fame who has set open-water swim records around the world including being the first to swim across the Bering Strait which she did in 43° F. water. Fascinated by watching videos of these dogs projecting themselves into the water to save people, flew all the way from her home in Long Beach, California to Lake Idroscalo in Italy to watch Al along with other Newfoundlands, Labradors, German shepherds, and golden retrievers undergo rigorous instruction at the Italian School of Rescue Dogs. Would Al be able to make it?

Cox, who obviously is tough as nails, admires the dedication and strength of these dog and recounts the training that makes them capable of jumping from helicopters and boats as well as swimming through heavy waves to rescue those in peril. All this is recounted in her fascinating new book “Tales of Al: The Water Rescue Dog, The Making of a Super Athlete.”

“I love dogs, I love swimming, I love Italy, and I love people working together to accomplish something,” says Cox about the impetus for her trip to Lake Idroscalo. But there was more than that.

In some ways, she says, it’s because both she and the dogs train and swim under the most challenging conditions. After all, she’s twice set the record for swimming the English Channel. The first time at age 14 and then when someone broke her record, she did it again the following year setting another record.

But the training the canines undergo is no harsh doggie bootcamp.

“I really appreciated the way the dogs were taught,” she says. “There was never a time when anyone yelled at the dogs or hit them. Both the owners and their dogs really love each other.”

NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL: ONCE AGAIN, BOOK TV IS LIVE, IN-PERSON

22nd-STRAIGHT YEAR: EXCLUSIVE NON-FICTION BOOK COVERAGEON BOOK TV ON C-SPAN2

C-SPAN’s Book TV has provided live, in-depth, uninterrupted coverage of the National Book Festival since it began.  Now, after several years of virtual coverage because of the pandemic, Book TV is back in person, once again providing signature LIVE gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Festival’s non-fiction authors.

“As we celebrate this year’s National Book Festival with the theme ‘Books Bring Us Together,’ the Library of Congress’ partnership with C-SPAN’s Book TV will bring together readers across the country, allowing them to enjoy our exciting lineup of authors. We’re proud to join with C-SPAN to extend the reach of the Library of Congress National Book Festival once again so that book lovers from coast to coast can experience this celebration of reading,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

Among the guests and authors the nationwide Book TV audience will see and hear from on September 3, 2022, (9:30amET-5:30pmET):

  • Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden
  • David Maraniss, “Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe”
  • Conversation on women leaders of the civil rights movement with authors Tomiko Brown-Nagin (“Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley”) and Kate Clifford Larson (“Walk With Me: Fannie Lou Hamer”).  Moderated by Neda Ulaby.
  • Clint Smith, “How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America”
  • Conversation on creating community in America with authors Gal Beckerman (“The Quiet Before) and Kathryn Judge (“Direct”). Moderated by Sewell Chan.
  • Conversation on conspiracies in America with authors Brendan McConville (“The Brethren”) and Elizabeth Williamson (“Sandy Hook”). Moderated by Roswell Encina. 
  • Jack Davis, “The Bald Eagle: The Improbably Journey of America’s Bird”
  • Conversation on climate change with authorsJuli Berwald (“Life on the Rocks”) and Edith Widder (“Below the Edge of Darkness”). Moderated by Liz Neeley. 
  • Conversation on the modern essay in the age of speed with Morten Høi Jensen (“The Fiction That Dare Not Speak Its Name”), Shawn McCreesh (“The Hatboro Blues”) and Becca Rothfeld (“Sanctimony Literature”) .Moderated by Celeste Marcus.
  • Will Bunch. “After the Ivory Tower Falls.”

In partnership with the Library of Congress, C-SPAN has been part of the National Book Festival from the first one, September 8, 2001. Book TV’s LIVE coverage has taken the C-SPAN2 audience to the Festival’s various venues – U.S. Capitol grounds, a vast tent city on the National Mall (2002-2013), expo-style event in the Washington Convention Center (2014-2019), virtual (2020-2021), and now back to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Wherever the National Book Festival goes, Book TV is there. Over the past 21 years, Book TV has featured hundreds of non-fiction authors and guests, including Laura Bush, David McCullough, Buzz Aldrin, Salman Rushdie, Carla Hayden, Julie & David Eisenhower, Kinky Friedman, David Rubenstein, Joyce Carol Oates, Colson Whitehead, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Madeleine Albright, to name a few.

You can see all of Book TV’s coverage of the National Book Festival over the decades via this dedicated C-SPAN Video Library subpage:  https://www.c-span.org/liveEvent/?nationalbookfestival

Book TV doesn’t limit itself to covering the National Book Festival. A partial list of other book festivals from around the country which Book TV covers includes: the Miami Book Fair, the Mississippi Book Festival, the Tucson Book Festival, the Southern Festival of Books, the Wisconsin Book Festival, the Texas Book Festival, the Brooklyn Book Festival, and many more.

If non-fiction books are your thing, C-SPAN is your place.

About Book TV:

Book TV – Sundays on C-SPAN2 – is the only television service dedicated to nonfiction books. Book TV features programming on a rich variety of topics, such as history, biography, politics, current events, the media and more. Watch author interviews, readings and coverage of the nation’s largest book fairs. Every Sunday on C-SPAN2 starting 8am ET or online anytime at booktv.org  . Use that website as well to connect with Book TV via social media and email newsletter.

About C-SPAN:

C-SPAN, the public affairs network providing Americans with unfiltered access to congressional proceedings, was created in 1979 as a public service by the cable television industry and is now funded through fees paid by cable and satellite companies that provide C-SPAN programming. C-SPAN connects with millions of Americans through its three commercial-free TV networks, C-SPAN Radio, C-SPAN Podcasts, the C-SPAN Now appC-SPAN.org and various social media platforms. The network’s video-rich website contains over 270,000 hours of searchable and shareable content. Engage with C-SPAN on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube, and stay connected through weekly and daily newsletters. 

%d bloggers like this: