Abrams' latest thriller, Rogue Justice, is out May 23.

Stacey Abrams is a bibliophile.

The politician and activist is also a dedicated writer and reader, who has written over 10 books, including 2022's children's book Stacey's Remarkable Books and her latest thriller, Rogue Justice, which hits shelves May 23 and continues the Avery Keene saga that began with 2021's While Justice Sleeps.

Still reeling from the international conspiracy in While Justice Sleeps, Avery is drawn into a new mystery when a fellow law clerk approaches her about his suspicions that his late boss, Judge Francesca Whitner, was being blackmailed. Another murder leads her to a list of names of federal judges who all serve on the FISA Court (the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), which grants the government permission to spy on those suspected of terrorism. Avery uncovers the possibility of something far more sinister at foot in the judicial branch, but it's a race against the clock to find answers.

Stacey Abrams and her book Rogue Justice
Stacey Abrams and her book Rogue Justice
| Credit: Lynsey Weatherspoon for EW / Doubleday

Abrams says that once she started thinking about what Avery might get up to next that it only made sense to pick up at the start of a new court session, having concluded the previous Avery Keene novel with the end of a previous session. "From there, things just unfolded," she says. "I found myself researching and learning about cyber crimes and energy grids and dove in."

She was also inspired by her sister, who is a judge, and brought home a catalog from a legal conference that had an entry about the FISA court. "I was like, 'Ooh, what if someone were blackmailing the FISA court? Who would know? Because they're not supposed to tell anybody what's happening to them."

Rogue Justice by Stacey Abrams
Rogue Justice by Stacey Abrams
| Credit: Doubleday

Abrams says her books are first and foremost about engaging readers, but she also hopes to open their eyes to issues around them. In this case, it's the FISA court. "The FISA court is an important part of who we are as Americans, especially as we become more global," she says. "I was trying to think of topics that people really should know more about, and that's why I thought about cybersecurity issues. The complexity of our energy grid and just how fragile it is was a revelation . We should know that nobody's actually in charge of our power."

While you awaken to this new anxiety, remember that books can be a great refuge. They have been for Abrams her whole life, and she walked us through some of the stories that have shaped her most.

My favorite book as a child

My very first favorite was Make Way for Ducklings because there are many of us, and my mom would read it to us all the time. As we walked across the street, I always loved how we were just like, "Make way for ducklings!" When I went to the Democratic Convention in Boston, everyone else was going to look at Paul Revere's house and I went to the Make Way for Ducklings statue.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
| Credit: Viking Books for Young Readers

A book I read in secret as a teenager

I didn't. My mom was a librarian, and she was really good about letting us read pretty broadly. Most of our books came from the library she was in charge of, so there weren't things that were so risque, but she was really cool about if you could reach it, you could read it.

The book I enjoyed most in school

When we got to read Little Women — that was the one that I was told I had to read that I actually enjoyed. I had a whole library at my disposal, so often my reading was not quite in line with my schooling. That was one of those nice moments of juxtaposition and conflation. 

Little Women (8/28/14)Louisa May Alcott
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
| Credit: Puffin Books

A book that changed my life

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. As a kid who loved reading, but also loved math and science, the fact that there was a whole world about the battle between words and numbers was just amazing. I also loved Milo being vaguely bored with the world. It was a perfect encapsulation of all of the things happening in my head at that moment.

A book I've read over and over

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I know he comes with his own complications, but that book is fabulous. 

The book that cemented me as a writer

It's not in a genre that I write in, but the first time I read Richard Wright, just the ability to wring emotion out of a reader in that way was revelatory. And his willingness to so raw. Native Son j was transformative for me. 

A classic that I've never read

I have never read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I saw a documentary about him, and I'm like, "I don't wanna read this." He seemed like such a mean person, and I never wanted to read his work. I'm good.

A book I've pretended to have read

None. I'm very comfortable admitting what I don't do.

The Wind-Up-Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
| Credit: Vintage

A book people would be surprised to know I love

One of my favorite books, like when you ask me for a book recommendation, is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. It's often at the top of my mind. I love that book on so many levels. I know Murakami's beloved by so many. I don't necessarily think that people would think that's my favorite book to recommend, but it is.

A book I wish I'd written

I just read A Portrait of A Thief by Grace Li. I certainly couldn't write her book, but her conceit is so resonant. It's about these five college students who steal art from five major museums to return it to China. It's a commentary on colonialism and the theft of art and how entire cultures have had their history stolen. It's a little Ocean's 11, and it's about art history and about culture, and it's beautiful and thoughtful and I wish I'd written it.

Portrait of a Thief: A Novel Hardcover by Grace D. Li
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
| Credit: Tiny Reparations Books

The first thriller I ever read

The Firm by John Grisham. That did it. Plus, he's from Mississippi, which is where I grew up.

The gold standard in thrillers

The Firm. That and then the Reacher books written by Lee Child. In two very different ways, they write such perfect "capture you and not let you go" stories. The person I would stick in the middle of that is Karin Slaughter. Because she makes you actually like everyone in her books. You're going to be disappointed by half of them by the time you get to the end, but she does a great job of making you feel like you know these people as you're watching them destroy their lives and destroy the lives around them. 

The Firm by John Grisham
| Credit: Doubleday

The last book that made me laugh out loud

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. It's basically this guy who's trying to find his dad. They realize that that time travel is not just about chronology, it's also about linguistics. So he lives in the present, indefinite. He has a dog that never existed because it was in the first season of a show, but the main character in the show, when he got a second season, decided the dog was getting too much attention. The main character rescues the dog that doesn't really exist. It's this really clever conflation of two of my favorite things — language and science fiction.

My literary hero

A writer who I adore and will always adore because she just shattered what we expected is Nora Roberts. She's an extraordinarily prolific, remarkable writer, and incredibly thoughtful. Sitting right beside her is Octavia Butler for the same reason. 

My literary crush

He does terrible things, but for the right reasons. I love Jason Bourne.

The last book I gave as a gift

I'm not just doing this as a plug, but I just gave my sister's book as a gift. My older sister Andrea Abrams is an anthropologist by training and she wrote a book called God and Blackness that looks at the intersection of religion, race, and politics in the south. I have a dear friend whose daughter is finishing college and going on to study race and politics. I had just bought a copy of God and Blackness. It's a fantastic book, and so it was lovely to be able to give my sister's book as the gift. 

Paul Newman, The Long, Hot Summer
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 'The Long Hot Summer'
| Credit: Everett Collection

My favorite screen adaptation of a novel

It's not the novel itself, but it is probably one of the best interpretations — The Long Hot Summer. It is one of the best versions of being able to take a story and make it so much fun and resonant.

The book I'm reading now

I am reading Poverty by Matthew Desmond. I read two books at once, so I'm reading that one and I'm reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. 

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