Kitty Corner: Stocking my bookshelf at the Festival of Books

The Festival of Books provided USC students and the public with a chance to discover new books and engage with some of their favorite authors. (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times)

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books descended upon the USC campus, lining Trousdale Parkway with a parade of white tents. It was a heartening sight: Attendees of all ages came together to celebrate the power of the written word, proving that print, while perhaps on its last legs, is not dead yet.

As a book columnist, I consider the Festival of Books my personal paradise. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Before I headed over to the festival, I gave myself a stern talking-to; I would only allow myself to pick up one or two new books, and anything else that caught my eye I would check out from the public library. And no trinkets!

Needless to say, by the time the festival ended, I was the proud owner of four new books, a couple of cute cat pins and a marimekko-print pencil bag. Here are some books I haven’t read yet but am very, very excited to get started on:

“Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style”

I won’t lie; I really enjoy books about how to write. I’ve read both Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” and John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process” purely recreationally. I realize not everyone shares my proclivities, but even the most reluctant English student should have fun with “Dreyer’s English,” written by Benjamin Dreyer, the vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House. Dreyer peppers his grammar guide with witticisms and funny anecdotes. I’m not sure if this says more about me or him, but I can’t wait for him to lecture me more on the Oxford comma.  


The cover of Weike Wang’s “Chemistry” demanded my attention — it was a bright, buttercup yellow, featuring the universal restroom symbol for “female” with an atomic structure hovering around her head. “Chemistry” follows a 20-something Chinese American student working toward her Ph.D. in chemistry at a prestigious university in Boston, while simultaneously grappling with whether or not she should accept her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. I have no desire to go to grad school, nor am I planning on announcing my engagement anytime soon. But what captured my interest was the description of the narrator’s attempt to live life on her own terms, rather than on her immigrant parents’ — and I’m still working on that.

“Normal People”

On the Los Angeles Public Library website, 215 people, including me, have placed a hold on an e-book copy of Sally Rooney’s “Normal People.” So when I saw the physical books on display, I figured I might as well grab one, unless I wanted to wait until 2020 to finally read it. Rooney is what one might call a prodigy. At the tender age of 28, she has already published two novels, and her first, “Conversations with Friends,” was lauded as critics and audiences everywhere. It’s only April, and Vox just called “Normal People” “the book of the year.” Whether it’ll live up to the hype remains to be seen, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will.

“The New Me”

The New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino is my #girlcrush, and when she published a review of Halle Butler’s “The New Me,” I knew it was more a question of when rather than if I would read the book. “The New Me” follows 30-year-old protagonist Millie, who bounces from temp job to temp job and struggles to find stability, fulfillment, meaning  — all the things that she was promised growing up. I’m no stranger to office novels — two books I’ve written about for this column in the past, “Adult Gummies” and “Severance,” both followed disaffected millennial women whose soul and spirits were slowly sapped by the artificial contrivances endemic among the white-collar workers. But since I’ve only got one more year in college before I, too, enter the workforce for the next 50 years of my life, I figure I should be as prepared as possible.

Kitty Guo is a junior writing about contemporary literature. Her column, “Kitty Corner,” ran every other Wednesday.