Book Worms Unearth 'Flowers, Bees, Words' at Literary Orange

April 5 celebration of authors and books features notable speakers, panels, and a bookstore

That girl is coming to town. Actress-author Marlo Thomas and writer Ann Hood (“Comfort: A Journey Through Grief”) headline the eighth annual Literary Orange festival—Orange County’s April 5 celebration of authors and books. More than 30 local writers also will participate, with 15 panels scheduled about food writing, travel, fiction, memoir, mystery, nonfiction, crime, and more. Peggy Hesketh, who gave Orange Coast readers book recommendations in our November Hot Pop column (reprinted below!), will talk about “flowers, bees, words”—among other things—with Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Andrew Tonkovich.

One of Orange County’s premiere book festivals, Literary Orange attracts about 500 book lovers. Of course, no literary event is complete without a bookstore. “Part of the fun is buying the books and getting them signed,” says Sherry Toth, programs coordinator for the OC Public Libraries, which stages the event. Toth said the committee that oversees the day selects as diverse a group of authors as possible, excluding authors of self-published and digital-only books. Registration is $60 and includes the two keynote speakers, admission to three discussion panels, plus continental breakfast and lunch. The festival is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Irvine Marriott. Online registration continues through March 31 at literaryorange.org.

THE WRITER RECOMMENDS: Peggy Hesketh
The Anaheim author’s first novel, “Telling the Bees,” is about an octogenarian beekeeper’s discovery of the bodies of two neighbors, elderly sisters with whom he hasn’t spoken in years. More than a murder mystery, the novel is a meditation on memory, secrets, and regrets. Elizabeth George, who mentored the novelist, calls it “an American classic.” Hesketh selects her favorite books about natural history.

Heresies by Robert T. Bakker
I was booted from my Sunday school class when I was 7 for disputing the missing day in Genesis between the fish and mammals. I was 32 when I read Bob Bakker’s book, which transformed our notion of dinosaurs as lumbering, cold-blooded leviathans into vibrant, warm-blooded species of fast-moving predators and prey. Twenty years later, I was digging up fossils and sharing pizza with Bakker as we talked dinosaur theory.

The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould
I loved the way Gould could tell a compellingly accessible story about the hows and whys of a revolutionary discovery in science to those of us who did not aspire to be scientists, but were nonetheless profoundly interested and even challenged by the world. A particular story caught my eye in this volume of essays: “Adam’s Navel.” It presents the conundrum of the first man, from a biblical and scientific perspective.

Father and Son by Edmund Gosse
“Father and Son” was heartbreaking. Gosse became a famous literary critic who wrote the book trying to reconcile his father’s faith and reason. Philip Gosse was a respected naturalist on the cusp of the Darwinian age who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible, yet he couldn’t deny what Darwin was positing. He came up with a solution for Adam’s navel that turned him into a pariah in both the religious and scientific camps.