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#PDXBookFest Authors on NYT’s 2020 Best Books List

Readers rejoice! Now is the time of year when “Best of 2020” reading lists are everywhere you turn. Literary Arts was thrilled to host over 100 exciting authors at the virtual Portland Book Festival, presented by Bank of America in November, many of whom we are delighted to see appear now on such recommended reading lists.

Below are three authors featured in The New York Times’ “The 10 Best Books of 2020” list who also appeared at the 2020 Portland Book Festival. Missed these authors’ events? All free events from the Festival were recorded and are available to watch now in our Video Library at PDXBookFest.org!


A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet discussed A Children’s Bible at the Portland Book Festival in conversation with Claire Messud (Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write) and moderator Alexander Chee (How to Write an Autobiographical Novel). Watch their conversation in our Video Library HERE.

About A Children’s Bible: In Millet’s latest novel, a bevy of kids and their middle-aged parents convene for the summer at a country house in America’s Northeast. While the grown-ups indulge (pills, benders, bed-hopping), the kids, disaffected teenagers and their parentally neglected younger siblings, look on with mounting disgust. But what begins as generational comedy soon takes a darker turn, as climate collapse and societal breakdown encroach. The ensuing chaos is underscored by scenes and symbols repurposed from the Bible — a man on a blowup raft among the reeds, animals rescued from a deluge into the back of a van, a baby born in a manger. With an unfailingly light touch, Millet delivers a wry fable about climate change, imbuing foundational myths with new meaning and, finally, hope. (NYT)

Holiday shopping (for yourself or a loved one)? Purchase a copy of A Children’s Bible from Portland-based independent bookstore Annie Bloom’s Books here.


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett discussed The Vanishing Half at the Portland Book Festival in conversation with Bryan Washington (Memorial) and moderator Jennifer Baker (Everyday People). Watch their conversation in our Video Library HERE.

About The Vanishing Half: Beneath the polished surface and enthralling plotlines of Bennett’s second novel, after her much admired “The Mothers,” lies a provocative meditation on the possibilities and limits of self-definition. Alternating sections recount the separate fates of Stella and Desiree, twin sisters from a Black Louisiana town during Jim Crow, whose residents pride themselves on their light skin. When Stella decides to pass for white, the sisters’ lives diverge, only to intersect unexpectedly, years later. Bennett has constructed her novel with great care, populating it with characters, including a trans man and an actress, who invite us to consider how identity is both chosen and imposed, and the degree to which “passing” may describe a phenomenon more common than we think. (NYT)

Holiday shopping (for yourself or a loved one)? Purchase a copy of The Vanishing Half from Portland-based independent bookstore Broadway Books here.


Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Robert Kolker discussed Hidden Valley Road at the Portland Book Festival in conversation with Eli Saslow (Rising Out of Hatred). Watch their conversation in our Video Library HERE.

About Hidden Valley Road: Don and Mimi Galvin had the first of their 12 children in 1945. Intelligence and good looks ran in the family, but so, it turns out, did mental illness: By the mid-1970s, six of the 10 Galvin sons had developed schizophrenia. “For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted,” Kolker writes. His is a feat of narrative journalism but also a study in empathy; he unspools the stories of the Galvin siblings with enormous compassion while tracing the scientific advances in treating the illness. (NYT)

Holiday shopping (for yourself or a loved one)? Purchase a copy of Hidden Valley Road from Portland-based independent bookstore Powell’s Books here.


Relive the magic of the 2020 #PDXBookFest by viewing ALL free events on demand in our Video Library now!

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