Arizona PBS’ original production “Books & Co.” returns for its 21st season, offering book lovers an intimate book club experience through thought-provoking conversations with authors both new and renowned.
The new season of “Books & Co.” premieres Friday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m., marking its return to prime time. Over the course of thirteen episodes, host Alberto Ríos welcomes a variety of authors to discuss their latest works and the craft of writing. Ríos is an award-winning author and poet, an ASU Regents’ Professor of English, and was the first “Books & Co.” guest in 1993. He has hosted the program since 2009.
Ríos’ own experience as a writer brings an added depth to his interviews. “‘Books & Co.’ is a really unique place for authors to get to come and spend 25 uninterrupted minutes discussing their work with someone who understands,” said series producer Suzanne Guery. And while Ríos reads each book discussed on the show, he leads the conversation in a way that gives viewers a taste for the author’s work without having read it themselves.
Highlights from Season 21 of “Books & Co.” include:
James Patterson, “Fifty Fifty”
Patterson has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. His Alex Cross series is on “The Great American Read” list of America’s 100 favorite books. He is also a dedicated supporter of initiatives that encourage kids to read: among other projects, Patterson has donated more than one million books to students and has founded ReadKiddoRead.com, a site designed to help ignite a new generation’s excitement for reading.
Kristin Hannah, “The Great Alone”
Perhaps best known for her 2015 bestseller “The Nightingale,” Hannah is the author of more than 20 novels. Her latest book, “The Great Alone,” follows a thirteen-year-old girl and her parents as they cope with the isolation of life in a remote yet tight-knit community in 1970s Alaska.
Hanif Abdurraqib, “They Can’t Kill Us Till They Kill Us”
Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. In addition to writing a column for MTV News and serving as poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine, his work has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Pitchfork and The Fader. “They Can’t Kill Us Till They Kill Us” is Abdurraqib’s first collection of essays.
K Arsenault Rivera, “The Tiger’s Daughter”
Rivera, a first-time author, drew on her love of tabletop gaming for her debut novel. “The Tiger’s Daughter” tells the story of two young warriors, one the taciturn daughter of a nomadic tribe, one the brash heir to an empire. Raised together across borders, these young women must save their world from encroaching demons.
Peng Shepherd, “The Book of M”
Born and raised in Phoenix, Shepherd has lived in Beijing, London, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York, where she earned her M.F.A. in creative writing from New York University. Her first novel, “The Book of M,” tells the fantastic story of ordinary people caught up in a catastrophe in which people lose their shadows — and their memories.
Charles Soules, “The Oracle Year”
Soule is a Brooklyn-based novelist, comic book writer, musician, and attorney. While he is best known for writing Daredevil, She-Hulk, Death of Wolverine, and various Star Wars comics from Marvel Comics, he also produces two creator-owned series, Curse Words and Letter 44. His first novel, “The Oracle Year,” follows a man who can see the future and how his ability changes the world.
Laird Barron, “Blood Standard”
A native of Alaska, Laird Barron raced the Iditarod three times in the early 1990s. He currently lives in the Rondout Valley of New York state where he crafts tales about the evil that men do. While “Blood Standard” is his third novel, Barron has also published five collections of short stories. He has been nominated for multiple Locus, World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, and has won the Shirley Jackson Award three times.
Tom Papa, “Your Dad Stole My Rake (and other family dilemmas)”
With more than 20 years of experience as a stand-up comedian, Tom Papa is one of the top comedic voices in the country finding success in film, TV, radio and podcasts as well as on the live stage. Papa is host of the hit podcast and SiriusXM show, “Come to Papa,” a weekly, hour-long show featuring Papa exploring the funny side of life.
Cara Black, “Murder on the Left Bank”
A dying man drags his oxygen machine into the office of Éric Besson, a lawyer in Paris’s 13th arrondissement. The old man, an accountant, is carrying a dilapidated notebook full of meticulous investment records. For decades, he has been helping a cadre of dirty cops launder stolen money. The notebook contains his full confession—he’s waited 50 years to make it, and now it can’t wait another day.
Kelly deVos, “Fat Girl on a Plane”
High school senior Cookie Vonn’s post-graduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother—and named after a dessert.
Cristina Alger, “The Banker’s Wife”
On an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, Switzerland, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar, and its wreckage is later uncovered in the Alps. Among the disappeared is Matthew Lerner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind, including an encrypted laptop and a shady client list. As she begins a desperate search for answers, she determines that Matthew’s death was no accident, and that she is now in the cross hairs of his powerful enemies.
In past years, “Books & Co.” has welcomed authors from all literary genres, including Bill Bryson, Sue Monk Kidd, Cory Doctorow, Sandra Day O’Connor, Stuart Woods, Diana Gabaldon, Yann Martel and Diane Rehm. The full archive, including online-only content, is available for book lovers to peruse at azpbs.org/books.
This year, “Books & Co.” is part of a summer-long celebration of reading called “The Great American Read.” The initiative kicks off May 22 at 7 p.m. with a two-hour program on Arizona PBS exploring some of America’s best-loved books. Local and digital events will continue through the summer, including a kids’ writing contest for grades K-5, library events and a book-related scavenger hunt at the end of the summer.