Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.
While everyone else was hunkered on the couch binge watching “Ted Lasso” and old movies, Gabrielle Zevin spent the pandemic lockdown diving into her longtime obsession with video games.
For Zevin, the history of gaming was a way to talk about how technology has altered our lives on every front: how we get around, how we wait in line, how we connect with friends and find dates. That history, says Zevin, “made video games the perfect metaphor for my own kind of artistic career, and what it was like to be a person in these last three decades.”
Zevin published “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” last summer, and the novel has become a fixture on bestseller lists ever since, captivating critics, TikTokers and book clubbers like us. The L.A. Times Book Club is reading “Tomorrow” in April.
Wondering if you should join us? Here are five things to know.
The story: “Tomorrow” tracks the collaborative, competitive friendship of game developers Sam Masur and Sadie Green, who meet as L.A. kids and play “The Oregon Trail.” They lose touch, then cross paths again as college students in the early ’90s. Both are still obsessed with video games, and they create “Ichigo,” the first game that would cement their careers. Sam and Sadie’s friendship is at the heart of the novel.
The author: Raised in Florida, educated at Harvard and now living in Los Angeles, Zevin is a novelist and screenwriter who has written 10 books. In “Tomorrow,” Zevin injects her own story. “Before I wrote this book, I’d never made anyone half-Jewish and half-Korean like I am and like Sam is,” she says. “Part of that is because, at this point in my life, I understand more about what that is.”
The title: It comes from Macbeth’s Act V soliloquy. “It is one of the bleakest speeches in all of Shakespeare,” Zevin says, “but Marx, the character who invokes it in my book finds great hope in it — the idea that we might start again every day of our lives — and a metaphor for playing video games with their infinite restarts, extra lives and chances for redemption.”
What if I don’t care about video games? Margaret Wappler addresses the issue in a Times interview with Zevin: “After appearing on numerous best-of lists in December, Zevin says, ‘It effectively wore down people who were like, ‘I don’t want to read a video game novel. What does that have to do with me?’ Everything, it turns out, but especially if you’ve ever felt the seductive pull of the creative process, or the ache of potentially losing a lifelong friendship, or the hardships of disability or marginalization, to name a few of the strands that tangle in captivating ways in ‘Tomorrow.’”
Book club meetup: Zevins joins book club readers April 22 for an in-person conversation with Times Assistant Managing Editor Samantha Melbourneweaver at the Festival of Books at USC. Ticket info and the full festival schedule are online. I look forward to seeing everyone there.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts while reading “Tomorrow?” There’s so much to discuss, including how the novel changes during the story to assume the structure of games. Tell us about your experience with the book in an email to email@example.com and we’ll share your comments in the newsletter.
The Festival of Books returns to USC April 22 and 23 with an incredible lineup of more than 500 authors, poets, artists, celebrities, musicians and journalists.
Reservations open on Sunday, April 16 at 6 a.m. For early access to panel reservations, register as a Friend of the Festival.
And here’s a special offer for book club newsletter readers: Use the code LATBookClub for $10 off VIP tickets to the April 21 L.A. Times Book Prizes and Friday night after-party with the nominated authors and other festival guests.
Blockbuster deal: Los Angeles author Leigh Bardugo, who appears at the Festival of Books on April 22, has signed an eight-figure deal with Macmillan Publishers for a dozen books across several imprints. Bardugo’s fantasy novel “Shadow and Bone” is the basis for the Netflix series of the same name. She also is the author of “Ninth House” and its recently released sequel “Hell Bent.”
Book awards: This week Los Angeles writer Caribbean Fragosa, author of the short story collection “Eat the Mouth That Feeds You,” received the prestigious Whiting Award. On March 23 Ling Ma, Morgan Talty, Boris Dralyuk and Isaac Butler were among the winners of the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Awards.
10 books to read in April. This month’s new releases involve high stakes: mutiny and trauma, transcendence and growth. Among them: Don Winslow offers a new installment in his “City” trilogy. Nicole Chung’s second memoir triumphs over grief. February book club guest Brendan Slocumb returns with a new mystery, “Symphony of Secrets.”
The odd couple that saved Yosemite: John Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson were unlikely allies in the war to preserve Yosemite. Nonfiction writer Dean King tells their story in “Guardians of the Valley: John Muir and the Friendship That Saved Yosemite.”
Hollywood hangout: Writer Anita Felicelli explores the literary history of Musso & Frank and the famous writers past and present who socialized and sipped martinis in the restaurant’s red leather booths, via Alta magazine.
ICYMI: Annalee Newitz
Sci-fi author and science journalist Annalee Newitz joined the L.A. Times Book Club March 28 to discuss “The Terraformers.”
Newitz talked with columnist Carolina A. Miranda about flying moose, sentient technology and growing up in the Orange County planned community of Irvine. “I’ve always thought that Irvine was a pretty science fictional place,” Newitz said.
“It was like being on a ‘Star Trek’ planet where they land and like everything is a mall and it’s all predesigned and very plastic. So it definitely got me thinking about weird, prefab terraformed spaces and also all the dark social forces that lurk beneath it.”
Newitz cited Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Octavia E. Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood” trilogy as inspiration for “The Terraformers,” the author’s third novel.
Watch the entire conversationhere.
On April 23 you can meet Newitz in person at the Festival of Books at the “Science Fiction: Alternate Worlds” panel with Henry Thomas, S.B. Divya, John Scalzi and Maryelizabeth Yturralde.
Since the start of the pandemic, The Times has offered many book club events for free and virtual to make it easy for readers to join us from home. We’ve met world-class authors and newsmakers such as President Obama, Jane Goodall, Ann Patchett, Billie Jean King, Amanda Gorman, Celeste Ng, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ibraham X. Kendi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Tracy Kidder.
There’s nothing quite like the L.A. Times Book Club anywhere, but we need your help. If you’d like to see our community book club keep going and growing, please make a tax deductible contribution today to the Los Angeles Times Community Fund.