Book Notes: Your go-to place for the latest on books and authors

Credit: Harper Collins

Credit: Harper Collins

Generally speaking, most books are published on Tuesdays. That’s what makes today the perfect day to launch Book Notes, a new feature full of newsy tidbits about books, authors, literary events and publishing. Book Notes will appear in the AJC Living section every other week, alternating with AJC Bookshelf, which has moved to Tuesdays. If you have news to share, email it to

On the radar: One of the pleasures of seeing the list of local writers nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Awards (GAYA) is discovering new books and authors with whom I wasn’t previously familiar.

Founded in 1964 and presented by the Georgia Writers Association, the annual event celebrates books written by authors while living in Georgia in more than a dozen categories of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Among the new-to-me nominees is Kate Young, author of “Reading Between the Crimes” (Penguin Random House, $26.99). This classic entry in the cozy mystery genre, which applies to books in which crimes are solved by amateur sleuths, finds the members of a book club reading Agatha Christie’s “Crooked House” on the hunt for who killed Leonard Richardson with a candlestick in the library. Young is nominated for a GAYA in the category of Detective/Mystery.

Another one is Atlanta author Vanessa Riley. The New York Times called her historical novel “Island Queen” (Harper Collins, $27.99) “a powerful story” about a woman born into slavery who buys her freedom and that of her mother and sister from her father, and goes on to build a glamorous life of wealth and power in a story set in the Caribbean and South America. The paperback comes out June 14. Riley is nominated in the category of Literary Fiction.

For a full list of nominees, go to Winners will be announced starting at 10 a.m. June 11 on Facebook Live at

Get out of the house: The Georgia Writers Museum has been stepping it up in the event department lately. On Saturday, May 7, it hosts a talk with Atlanta author Jim Auchmutey, who will talk about his book “Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America” (UGA Press, $32.95) at Oconee Springs Park (109 S. Springs Road, Eatonton) on Lake Sinclair. The Tom Hill Band will provide live music and, best of all, there will be beer and barbecue provided by Fresh Air in Jackson. The event takes place from 6-9 p.m. and costs $25 per person. Advance registration required at

Also on May 7, Savannah author Taylor Brown will talk about his new book “Wingwalkers” (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99) at Manuel’s Tavern (602 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta). Spanning the pandemic of 1918, Prohibition and World War I, this historical novel imagines William Faulkner’s encounter with a couple of aerial daredevils in New Orleans. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m. Presented by A Cappella Books. For details go to

Better late than never: It came out March 22, but I can’t let another day go by without mentioning Atlanta author Andre Henry’s book “All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep” (Penguin Random House, $26). This bold collection of personal essays charts Henry’s political awakening sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, his growing recognition of systemic racism, and the white friends he lost on his path toward activism. Through the course of this engaging, enlightening book, Henry writes about witnessing the Stone Mountain laser show as a young Black child, getting gaslit by white people from his past on Facebook and being criticized by his white godparents’ family for being justifiably angry. If you want to take the pulse of Black America, this is the book to read.

Credit: File

Credit: File

Currently reading: As revealed earlier this year in the love letter I wrote for Janisse Ray’s book “Wild Spectacle,” I have a soft place in my heart for nature writing. So, it comes as no surprise that I am totally engrossed in “Riverman: An American Odyssey” (Knopf, $28) by Ben McGrath. My first introduction to this story came several years ago when I read McGrath’s New Yorker article about his encounter with Dick Conant, a man who took many epic solo paddles along many of the country’s waterways in a canoe. When his canoe washes up empty one day, McGrath sets out to find out what happened to Conant and to learn what he can about this remarkable man. I won’t say anymore, because I’ve only just started. But look for a review soon.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic, columnist and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @svanatten.