No matter what some may say, this year has already been a great one for literature — and from where we’re sitting, it’s only getting better. This fall promises to be a doozy, with September in particular filled with some serious literary heavy hitters, and enough great reads piled up through the autumn months to get you fat and happy just in time for winter. There’s a little something for everyone: essays, memoir, novels, short story collections, and one beyond-the-borders graphic novel. After the jump, read through our list of the fifteen books we’re most excited about this fall, and then be sure to let us know which reads you’re most excited about tackling in the comments.
NW , Zadie Smith (September 4)
We’ve waited a whole impatient seven years since Smith’s last novel, the Orange Prize-winning On Beauty, and luckily, her newest effort, a story of the intertwined lives of four Londoners, linked by their childhood, all trying to negotiate life and adulthood in the modern world, somehow makes us feel like it was all worth it. Rendered in Smith’s playful, engaging prose, the novel is as good as a weekend away, as mercurial and lush as any city.
Telegraph Avenue , Michael Chabon (September 11)
In another sweeping-but-specific American epic (think High Fidelity mixed with Middlemarch), Chabon tells the story of two families in Oakland — Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are clinging to a failing record store, and their wives, Gwen and Aviva, scrambling to keep their midwifery practice together. Enter ex–NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, and Luther Stallings, one-time blaxploitation action star, and a pair of teenagers variously in love and not in love, and blood, inevitably, begins to boil.
This is How You Lose Her , Junot Díaz (September 11)
We told you September was going to be a month of heavy hitters. Díaz blew the literary world away with his first novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and his newest collection of short stories is packed with the same visceral, tender, pumping heart. The love he writes about in each of these stories may not always be clean, may not always be romantic, but each complex situation and unforgettable character (Yunior!) shines with truth.
Joseph Anton: A Memoir , Salman Rushdie (September 18)
We waffle on Salman Rushdie — sometimes his fiction blows us away, and sometimes it leaves us cold — but there’s no denying that the man has a fascinating story to tell. This new memoir details the fatwa set against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini and Rushdie’s subsequent retreat underground, living and writing with a murder contract always on his head. And you thought writing was hard for you.
The Casual Vacancy , J.K. Rowling (September 27)
J.K. Rowling’s first book for grown ups (well, it depends on who you’re asking — we know a lot of adult Harry Potter devotees) is a black comedy about a seemingly idyllic British town in turmoil. And if there’s anything Rowling excels at, it’s British people in turmoil.
Building Stories , Chris Ware (October 2)
One of our favorite graphic novelists of all time, Ware’s newest effort is what Publishers Weekly calls “one of the year’s best arguments for the survival of print.” Indeed, Ware’s gorgeous, complex treasure chest of a book — actually 14 separate printed works that can be read in any order — tells the complex, interconnected story of a lonely woman and the building she inhabits, and demands to be handled with care, each component studied and cradled and touched. You might be touched, too.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore , Robin Sloan (October 2)
A mysterious bookstore, puzzles, adventure, secret societies, quirky humor, new knowledge, old knowledge, and old-old knowledge. What else could you want in a book? Seriously.
Luminous Chaos , Jean-Christophe Valtat (October 23)
We were huge fans of Valtat’s strange, steampunky 2012 novel Aurorarama , so it’s a no-brainer that we’d be itching to get our paws on its sequel. Set in the icy city of New Venice in the early 20th century, Brentford Orsini, Gabriel d’Allier and Lillian Lake reunite for a diplomatic mission to Paris — in 1895. Time travel and tracking down anarchists, plus partying with Mallarmé and drinking absinthe with Proust? We’ll take it.
The Middlesteins , Jami Attenberg (October 23)
In the illustrious Attenberg’s newest novel, Edie is slowly eating herself to death. Her daughter, Robin, is angry. Her son, Benny, starts losing his hair. Her daughter-in-law is determined to fix her. This sloppy and wonderful portrait of three generations of a highly dysfunctional, highly human Midwestern family is a delight for anyone that has ever obsessed, fought, or eaten a Big Mac.
Hush Hush: Stories , Steven Barthelme (October 23)
We admit: we’d try anything from a Barthelme. But the youngest brother of the first family in short fiction isn’t just resting on his surname — this collection of linked short stories is honest, insightful and often painfully funny, the characters mucking about in the dirt, covering their hands and clothes and matting their hair, but never losing their humanity.
Astray , Emma Donoghue (October 30)
In 2010’s Room , we were blown away by Donoghue’s imaginative prose and stunning characters, even as we were rather upset by the whole thing. In this new collection of short stories, Donoghue applies her talents for characterization and depth of feeling over and over again as she documents restless wanderers and lost souls across four generations, each in a world as strange and real as the last.
Magnificence , Lydia Millet (November 5)
In the third book in Millet’s gorgeous and much loved cycle of novels, which began with How the Dead Dream , Susan Lindley inherits a mansion filled with a vast collection of crumbling taxidermied animals, which she sets out to restore. But Susan isn’t the only member of the family to descend on the house, and the mansion itself has many mysterious ways.
Both Flesh and Not: Essays , David Foster Wallace (November 6)
Wallace may be creeping up on Bolaño in his posthumous publications, but we’re happy to gobble up every drop. We’ve always loved Wallace’s essays more than his fiction (excepting Infinite Jest, perhaps), so we’re obviously psyched for these 15 essays, published for the first time in book form. After all, you can never have too much of a good thing, right?
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version , Philip Pullman (November 8)
Can you believe that the first edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales (then entitled Children’s and Household Tales) came out 200 years ago? Well, fairy tales haven’t gotten any less popular, that’s for sure (how many film adaptations of Snow White came out this year?). In this completely awesome collection, Philip Pullman, retells the classic tales in all their horror and shimmering vitality. And really, who better?
Dear Life: Stories , Alice Munro (November 13)
Alice Munro is the queen of the short story: her works are miraculous, sharp, beautiful, endlessly poignant. We will read anything she writes, and you should too. End of, you know, story.