The one book I went down to D.C. knowing that I wanted to take back with me from BookExpo was Fly By Night, a YA fantasy set in the 18th-century England of an alternate universe where there’s a gazillion pagan saints and books are under severe restrictions. Luckily, I managed to get my luggage checked into the storage lockers at Union Station and hustle over to the convention center in time to meet Frances Hardinge (left) and her editor, Michael Stearns, at one of the autographing tables. I started reading the book on the train ride back that evening, and it is awesome. Even if you don’t have a young person you can use as an excuse, buy it and read it.
What else did I get? I actually don’t remember much about Friday’s haul, because as soon as my messenger bag was full I took everything up to the shipping center so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. But I do remember stopping by the Coffee House Press booth early that morning, where they had galleys of Laird Hunt’s The Exquisite and Brian Evenson’s The Open Curtain side by side, a neat juxtaposition since I had seen the two of them taking part in a discussion about “nonrealist” fiction back in March. Oh, and I dipped into the Random House booth because David L. Robbins had given me a heads-up that they’d have ARCs of his new thriller, The Assassins Gallery.
Sunday was a slightly muted affair. Carolyn Kellogg told me she had scored a copy of Mark Z. Danielewski’s new novel, Only Revolutions, so of course I had to run back to Random House to snag one from the Pantheon table, too. Later, she would one-up me by acquiring the very last ARC of M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing at the Candlewick booth. Meanwhile, Henry Holt had an enormous stack of Anonymous Lawyer, the novel based on that famous blog, while Little, Brown made me feel a little bit better about how space all these books will take up in my apartment with Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman’s A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder.
Oh, there was one other book from Lyons Press that I absolutely loved, so much so that I finished it on the subway Friday night—From Baghdad, With Love, a memoir by USMC Lt. Col Jay Kopelman about his self-assigned mission to rescue one orphaned puppy named Lava (after the batallion that found him in Fallujah) out of Iraq. Gotta admit I came pretty close to crying at a couple scenes with Lava (and probably would’ve if I hadn’t been on public transportation), but my favorite line was about the Marines themselves: “The common belief is that you go in a boy and come out a man, like they have this magical ability to change who you are, but the truth of the matter is, we were insane going in and insane coming out only now we sing this anthem and know cool martial arts.”