A Literary Preview: The 14 Books You Need to Read This Fall



So many great books come out in the fall, a literary Oscars season for the titles publishers hope will make it onto year-end Best Of lists and into wrapping paper. It’s a wonderfully crowded field these next few months with new books coming out from Denis Johnson, Colm McCann, Sloane Crosley, Mindy Kaling, Marilynne Robinson, Edward St. Aubyn, and Joyce Carol Oates (though at her rate of productivity her name should just be assumed). Here are the 14 books by both new and established writers—most but not all are novels—that we think you should keep a close eye on.

1. The Blue Between Sky and Water
by Susan Abulhawa (Bloomsbury)
In this novel set in a Gaza refugee camp, Susan Abulhawa, author of Mornings in Jenin, follows Nazmiyeh, the matriarch of a sprawling and fractured Palestinian family, and her niece Nur, who grows up in foster care in the US—a story of extraordinary resilience and, eventually, reunion.

2. Between the World and Me
by Ta Nehisi Coates (Random House)
Ok, yes: This book came out this past summer. But if you haven’t read it yet, here’s another reminder to do so immediately. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s bestselling book-length essay takes the form of a letter to his son, à la James Baldwin’s “A Letter to My Nephew.”

3. Half an Inch of Water
by Percival Everett (Graywolf)
Percival Everett is so good I’m not sure we deserve him. His first book of short fiction since 2004’s Damned if I Do, this collection of western stories follows sheriffs and vets and trout and rattlesnakes along winding, sometimes fantastical paths. As sharp as you should expect from Everett, now with horses.

4. The Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrante (Europa)
If you haven’t yet started Elena Ferrante’s quartet of Neapolitan novels, now is a good time to start. At once generous and unyielding, mundane and melodramatic, Ferrante’s latest is the capstone to one of the greatest works of literature I’ve ever read. It’s heartbreaking—and not just because it’s all over.

5. Purity
by Jonathan Franzen (FSG)
A new novel by Jonathan Franzen is a big deal any way you measure it. With Purity he serves up a book that’s both fun and funny, genuinely entertaining if sometimes also odd-sounding. (The book’s much pilloried opening line? “Oh pussycat.”)

6. Mare
by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon)
Gaitskill’s first novel since the National Book Award finalist Veronica trades perspectives between an 11-year-old girl from Brooklyn and a middle-aged painter and recovering alcoholic from upstate New York. It’s a love story, both between a Dominican girl and a white woman but also, especially, between a girl and her horse.

7. Fates and Furies
by Lauren Groff (Riverhead)
I’ve loved Lauren Groff since “L. Debard and Aliette,” a retelling of Abelard and Eloise for the Atlantic’s 2006 fiction issue. Her third novel, Fates and Furies, is another love story (and another book told in two perspectives)—following a marriage over the course of 24 years and framed by Greek myth.

8. City on Fire
by Garth Risk Hallberg (Knopf)
City on Fire
is a big book—almost a thousand pages. (Purity, the second longest on this list, runs in the middle five hundreds.) A large cast of characters moves through 1970s New York—punks, heirs, reporters, detectives—and find themselves transformed by the 1977 black out.

9. The Art of Memoir
by Mary Karr (Harper)
I would listen to Mary Karr talk about paint drying. Lucky for us, she’s written a personalized (and very personable) manifesto on the art and meaning of memoir, a subject very much in her wheelhouse. It is, like so much of her writing, delightful.

10. The Story of My Teeth
by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House)
Luiselli, commissioned to write a work of fiction for Galería Jumex, sent pages to Jumex factory workers to read and discuss, and modified the text according to their input. The result is a fragmentary and pleasingly strange book about Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez, auctioneer and serial collector.

11. Eileen
by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin)
A plainspoken and magnetic debut novel from Ottessa Moshfegh, Plimpton Prize winner and former Stegner Fellow, Eileen moves between the unhealthy home she shares with her alcoholic father to the dismal boys’ prison where she works, that is until the prison’s elegant new head of education appears and pulls her into A WEB OF CRIME.

12. Death by Water
by Kenzaburo Oe (Grove)
The 80-year-old Nobel laureate writes a novel about an aging novelist: his alter-ego (a la Roth’s Zuckerman) Kogito Choko. When after many decades he’s given a suitcase whose contents he long-thought would reveal the secret of his father’s death, Choko decides to embark on the novel he always wanted to write.

13. A Strangeness in my Mind
by Orhan Pamuk (Random House)
Melvut Karataş is a good man who has a hard time making good—he elopes by accident with the sister of the woman he proposed to and, after he marries her, struggles to make ends meet as a wandering street vendor of yogurt and boza (a traditional, mildly alcoholic Turkish drink) as his friends and family grow rich in Istanbul.

14. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
by Salman Rushdie (Random House)
A broad and fantastic novel about the abundant and supernatural offspring of Averroes—the Andalusian scholar who reintroduced Christian Europe to Aristotle—and a jinn princess. That Averroes is a Latinized version of the Arabic name Ibn Rushd (or Rushdie) is an additional flourish.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here