Book Notes: Recommended reading from the experts

What better way to learn about books than to attend the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference, as I am privileged to do every year in Manhattan at the end of April.

Hundreds of authors and journalists, editors and agents come together to present to each other, listen, learn and connect.

This week, in lieu of a book review (I didn’t get much time to read “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer), I want to share recommendations from some of the well-read publishers, editors, agents, authors and journalists who spoke at the conference.

If you’re looking for good feature-length journalism or essays, there are scores of exceptional websites. Check out Longreads, a subscription service that emails you several of the best articles published each week by other magazines and websites.

Among other websites mentioned often at the conference were: Medium (agents scour this site), Atavist, Slate and Salon, NextCity and the numerous New York Times columns including Modern Love, Private Lives, Couch, The End, Anxiety, Fixes and many more.

The New York Times columns are popular with writers because they pay and because they’re widely read and can lead to notice by agents and editors. Two mobile apps that aggregate great journalism suited to your interests are Flipboard and Pocket.

Books that sold exceptionally well at the conference bookstore included the books by the transgender professor from Maine, Jennifer Finney Boylan, who was the conference keynote speaker.

Her books that take up the topic of her transition to a transgender female include: “She’s Not There,” “I’m Looking through You,” and “Stuck in the Middle of You.”

Lizzie Stark’s book, “Pandora’s DNA” is a reported memoir about her decision to have a double mastectomy because she carries the BRCA mutation (the same diagnosis Angelina Jolie got) that has killed a number of women in her immediate family.

Daniel Menaker, editor at The New Yorker for 20 years, editor in chief at Random House and now, full-time author, recommended two books. “On the Move” is a new memoir by Oliver Sacks, a man Menaker greatly admires. He says Sacks now battles terminal cancer and has only a short time left.

Menaker’s all-time favorite book is the 30-year-old “The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes.

Literary agent Ryan Harbage recommended the year-old “The Dismal Science” by Peter

Mountford and published by highly touted Tin House. In this novel, the middle-aged VP at the World Bank quits his job, loses his marriage and starts over.

“Lifted by the Great Nothing,” is a brand new coming-of-age novel about a boy who emigrates from Beirut to the United States, by Karen Dimechkie. Max, whose mother was killed by burglars, learns a secret that disrupts his life and sends him back home to Lebanon.

Other recommendations include “Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life” by Melody Moezzi. “Intimacy Idiot,” by Isaac Oliver, comes out in June. It’s said to be a very funny collection of essays and clever writing by a gay man seeking connection in New York City. “Diamond Head,” by Cecily Wong, is another brand new novel. It spans several generations of a shipping family.

The annual BookExpo America is scheduled for the end of this month and will enthusiastically promote new books publishing throughout this year and into the new year. Look for a quick rundown of the most noteworthy of those books in early June.

Rae Padilla Francoeur’s memoir, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” is available online or in some bookstores. Write her at rae.francoeur@gmail.com. Read her blog atfreefallrae.blogspot.com or follow her @RaeAF.

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