Barnes & Noble has released its latest Discover Great New Writers list–the Discover list, which the retailer produces four times a year, has an uncanny knack for highlighting some of the best brand-new fiction and nonfiction. Publishers submit early copies of forthcoming books to B&N and a group of volunteer booksellers at the company read the submissions and meet to decide which books make the final cut. The chain’s stores then promote Discover titles, a valuable privilege for writers who otherwise might be overlooked amidst all the other books getting media attention and sales. Past writers selected for the program include Monica Ali, Joshua Ferris, Ben Fountain, Chang-rae Lee, and Hampton Sides, among others. Kirkus asked the director of the Discover program, Miwa Messer, about the kinds of trends she’s seeing in this spring’s books.
How is this spring's list different from previous lists?
It’s half and half, fiction and non-fiction – for years and years, fiction outweighed nonfiction. It really comes down to voice and these were the really memorable books that had us all talking and saying, ‘That was a 1am read.’ That’s become Discover shorthand; the voices in these 14 titles were the ones we carried around with us. There’s also more global literature here.
Why is that?
Publishers are widening their scope. Everything goes in waves and we’re in this amazing moment of global literature. You’ve got this new generation of younger writers who have a larger canvas and whether that’s because of their background or education or interests, it’s really different from when we were young. And I think some of these folks are a little older when they’re coming out with their first novel.
Booksellers at B&N volunteer to read the books submitted to the program and you all decide as a group which books get selected, but if you’re seeing a trend like more international books, can you make sure international books end up on the list?
There are always going to be practical considerations but we’re not responding to trends per se–it’s always about the book first. Sometimes there are very obvious things–we are always going to see four or five memoirs about addiction and growing up, always a handful of coming-of-age novels, no matter what. The books on this list are all essentially stories of identity, whether fiction or nonfiction.