From Jesmyn Ward's 'Let Us Descend' to Barbra Streisand's long-awaited memoir, these are the best new books to read this fall. Credit -
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Say goodbye to your beach reads and hello to a new batch of books that will help you embrace the change of seasons. The most anticipated books of the fall include Jesmyn Ward’s imaginative novel about an enslaved woman in the American South, Michael Lewis’ exploration of cryptocurrency, and Zadie Smith’s first work of historical fiction.
As the temperatures start to drop, snuggle up with piping hot memoirs from Britney Spears, Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Barbra Streisand. Understand the psyche of Elon Musk or find happiness with Oprah Winfrey. Get lost in novels about a mysterious beauty cult, a spirited parrot, and an illicit love affair with political ramifications, or catch up with new works by award-winning authors Viet Thanh Nguyen, Tracy K. Smith, and Annie Ernaux.
Desertion, Abdulrazak Gurnah (Sept. 5)
The previously out-of-print 2005 novel from Abdulrazak Gurnah, the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, looks at an illicit love affair between an Englishman and an East African woman who nurses him back to health after he mysteriously wanders into her coastal village in 1899. The consequences of their star-crossed romance during the era of British colonialism ripple out, leading to unforeseen personal and political repercussions for the Africans seeking independence long after the colonizers leave.
The Fraud, Zadie Smith (Sept. 5)
Zadie Smith’s sixth novel—and first historical one—is inspired by the Tichborne Trial, a controversial case of imposture that divided Victorian England. The book is less interested in the defendant, a lowly butcher from Australia who claims he is the rightful heir to a notable English estate, than in those on the periphery: Mrs. Eliza Touchet, a widowed Scottish housekeeper and skeptic who becomes obsessed with the case, and Andrew Bogle, a formerly enslaved Jamaican plantation worker who becomes the trial’s star witness. In a world full of deception, The Fraud shows how complicated the truth can be.
Wednesday’s Child, Yiyun Li (Sept. 5)
In her latest collection of short stories, The Book of Goose author Yiyun Li writes of isolation, alienation, and devastation: a grieving mother who creates a spreadsheet of everyone she’s ever lost, a professor who embarks on an unsettling relationship with her hairdresser, and the aging lone survivor of a teenage suicide pact who is still haunted by the friends who died. These 11 tales of woe, many of which were previously published in the New Yorker and elsewhere, are as relatable as they are heartbreaking.
Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier, Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey (Sept. 12)
Family, friendship, work, and faith are the four pillars of living a happier life, according to Arthur C. Brooks, a social scientist and writer who has focused extensively on the study of happiness, and the Queen of All Media herself, Oprah Winfrey. With Build the Life You Want, the two offer science-backed solutions that they say will help anyone, no matter their circumstances, build those pillars and change their life for the better.
Elon Musk, Walter Isaacson (Sept. 12)
After delving into the lives of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci, former TIME editor Walter Isaacson has set his sights on another pioneer: Elon Musk. For two years, Isaacson shadowed the Tesla and SpaceX founder’s day-to-day life. He spent hours interviewing Musk, as well as his family, friends, coworkers, and adversaries, in hopes of understanding how the South African boy who was bullied by his classmates became one of the world’s greatest tech disruptors. The result is a 688-page tome that promises to be the most complete profile of Musk yet. Even Musk seems excited to read it.
Rouge, Mona Awad (Sept. 12)
Mona Awad’s seductive fourth novel looks at the complicated relationships between mothers, daughters, and their mirrors. When the skin-care obsessed Belle’s estranged mother mysteriously dies, she searches for answers at the enigmatic spa her mom used to frequent. There, Belle is promised a transformative experience, but she soon finds herself descending deeper into self-care madness in this surreal gothic tale.
The Vaster Wilds, Lauren Groff (Sept. 12)
A servant girl escapes a colonial settlement in Virginia only to find herself lost in the wilderness with nothing but her wits and her faith. In order to survive, she must find a way to adapt to an unfamiliar world. The Vaster Wilds is a thrilling historical adventure set in the past, but the existential themes at the heart of Lauren Groff’s fifth novel—the rawness of life, the precious inner-workings of nature, the drive to continue on in the face of challenges—are as timely as they come.
The Young Man, Annie Ernaux (Sept. 12)
When French author and 2022 Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux was in her 50s, she embarked on a brief but passionate love affair with a man nearly 30 years her junior. Her trim, 64-page book The Young Man, first published in France last year and newly translated by Alison Strayer, is a meditation on a dalliance that made her think differently about love, time, and aging.
The Book of (More) Delights, Ross Gay (Sept. 19)
Four years after releasing The Book of Delights, poet Ross Gay is back with another collection of short essays dedicated to life’s little surprises. Written in the span of one year, The Book of (More) Delights revels in the nostalgic rush Gay feels when hearing a familiar song from a passing car, spotting a sunflower growing out of a cemetery wall, and watching his mother bake dozens of cookies for her grandkids. His delightful observations of everyday life are a reminder that joy is all around us, we just have to be willing to look for it.
Bright Young Women, Jessica Knoll (Sept. 19)
Luckiest Girl Alive author Jessica Knoll is back with a new thriller loosely inspired by serial killer Ted Bundy’s attack on the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University in 1978. However, Bundy’s name is nowhere to be found in Knoll’s fictionalized take on the horrific events that left two young women dead and two others badly injured. (FSU survivors Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler would later testify at Bundy’s trial.) Bright Young Women doesn’t put its focus on the murderer. It’s more interested in his victims—and the survivors who are on a mission to catch him before he kills again.
The Wren, the Wren, Anne Enright (Sept. 19)
Anne Enright’s eighth novel deals with the complicated legacy of Phil McDaragh, a respected Irish poet who abandoned his young children and cancer-stricken wife to pursue his dreams. Decades later, when his daughter, Carmel, begins to see shades of her late father in her own daughter, Nell, she is forced to unearth the pain she buried long ago. Enright’s latest book is a generational tale about the trauma we inherit without even realizing it.
My Work, Olga Ravn (Sept. 26)
Olga Ravn’s follow-up to last year’s sci-fi satire The Employees is a radically funny and ruthless look at motherhood. After giving birth, Anna finds herself in an unfamiliar city, consumed by online shopping and doom scrolling. To get out of her funk, she forces herself to start writing. The novel, originally published in 2020 and newly translated from Danish by Sophia Hersi Smith and Jennifer Russell, mixes different literary forms—fiction, essay, poetry, memoir, and letters—to explore the complex nature of women’s work.
Shadow Speaker, Nnedi Okorafor (Sept. 26)
It is 2070 and the whole world is on the brink of nuclear destruction. Fourteen-year-old Ejii, a Muslim half-Wodaabe, half-Igbo girl, has left her West African village on a mission to find her dad’s killer. She’s not exactly looking for revenge—her dad was a reviled politician. Instead, Ejii is hoping to understand the mysterious abilities she has been given. Or did she inherit them? Nnedi Okorafor’s previously out-of-print 2007 Africanfuturistic novel gets an expanded reissue, complete with a new introduction from the Nigerian American writer.
Thicker Than Water, Kerry Washington (Sept. 26)
Actor and activist Kerry Washington mines her history in an attempt to understand who she is after her entire identity is suddenly thrown into question. The result is an intimate memoir that delves into the once-hidden truths and traumas that have shaped the private Scandal star, from her upbringing in the Bronx to her rise to fame.
The Unsettled, Ayana Mathis (Sept. 26)
Ava Carson struggles to provide for her 10-year-old son Toussaint in Philadelphia, which lands her in the communal home of Toussaint’s controlling father. At the same time, her estranged mother Dutchess is watching her community in the small historically Black town of Bonaparte, Ala., disappear due to gentrification. As political and racial tensions rise around them, the two women reunite and reckon with their shared past in this multigenerational tale about heartbreak, self-determination, and survival from the author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.
A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, A History, A Memorial, Viet Thanh Nguyen (Oct. 3)
Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen returns with a deeply personal and political memoir that uses the defining moments of his own life to explore his conflicted relationship with America. “This is a war story,” the Vietnamese American author writes in A Man of Two Faces, and the recollections from his youth reveal deep battle wounds. He recalls how, at 9 years old, he learned that his parents had been shot while working at the grocery store they owned, where he also helped out. He details the existential crisis he had while watching the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now as a teenager, realizing the ways in which his own identity positioned him as both the killer and the victim in the deadly conflict. The follow-up to his 2021 novel The Committed, A Man of Two Faces is a witty and scathing look at what it means to be a refugee, an immigrant, and an American in a world that doesn’t see you as you see yourself.
Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of the New Tycoon, Michael Lewis (Oct. 3)
With 2010’s The Big Short, Michael Lewis explained how the housing market bubble led to the 2008 financial crisis. Now, with Going Infinite, he’s making sense of the wild world of cryptocurrency. Specifically, he’s focused on Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced former CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, who gained the trust of CEOs, athletes, and celebrities before his 2022 arrest on charges of wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering. Lewis believes Bankman-Fried is emblematic of a new tycoon, one who may become all too common in a vulnerable financial market.
How to Say Babylon, Safiya Sinclair (Oct. 3)
Poet Safiya Sinclair’s debut memoir offers a harrowing look at how she escaped a strict Rastafarian upbringing in Jamaica to find her voice as a woman and a writer in the U.S. Sinclair details a chaotic childhood filled with abuse at the hands of a volatile father who adhered to a militant form of the religious and political movement. He believed in purity and obedience, and feared that “Babylon,” the Rasta term for Western society, would corrupt his daughters. How to Say Babylon gives Sinclair the chance to reckon with the man and the culture that threatened to silence her all those years ago—and to reclaim the traumatic past she spent years trying to forget.
Our Strangers, Lydia Davis (Oct. 3)
With her seventh short-story collection, Lydia Davis leans into the irreverent and ignores the conventions of the form. She waxes poetic on the differences between adding caramel syrup or caramel drizzle to a coffee drink. A series of stories titled “Claim to Fame,” some of which are only one line long, poke fun at minute celebrity connections, while the prose in “A Matter of Perspective,” a story about a mysterious white object, reads more like poetry. Davis also abstains from other preconceived publishing norms with Our Strangers; at the author’s request, the book is only available to buy through independent online retailers and bookstores, not Amazon.
Buy Now: Our Strangers on Bookshop
Family Meal, Bryan Washington (Oct. 10)
Bryan Washington’s third novel has it all: delicious food, tender sex scenes, and a jealous ghost. Cam is struggling to grieve the love of his life. It doesn’t help that the spirit of his late partner won’t leave him alone. When he returns to his hometown of Houston seeking solace, he finds himself reconnecting with a (living) ghost from his past: TJ, his estranged childhood bestie, who may be the only person who can help him find closure.
The Hive and the Honey, Paul Yoon (Oct. 10)
Spanning 500 years of the Korean diaspora, Paul Yoon’s third short-story collection offers a complex look at alienation, identity, and the lasting effects of war. The Hive and the Honey is not technically a work of nonfiction, but Yoon told Publisher’s Weekly that he was “careful not to go into the fictional space with it, to put the blindfold on.” From a story following a feudal samurai who embarks on a diplomatic mission to return an orphaned child in 1608 to one about a North Korean defector who is tasked with spying on a Russian boxer for her home country amid the Cold War, Yoon’s attention to historic detail makes these tales of displaced people all the more affecting.
Madonna: A Rebel Life, Mary Gabriel (Oct. 10)
The author of 2018’s Ninth Street Women takes stock of Madonna’s 40-year career in a new biography that highlights the achievements, controversies, and boundary-pushing moments that made the Material Girl one of the greatest artists of our time.
Roman Stories, Jhumpa Lahiri (Oct. 10)
Rome is not just the setting for Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s first book of short stories since her 2008 best-seller Unaccustomed Earth, it’s also the protagonist. In one story, a Roman couple crosses a line at a birthday party full of foreigners. In another, a family’s Roman holiday is captured through the eyes of the vacation home caretaker’s daughter. Lahiri, who lived in Rome from 2012 to 2015, wrote these stories in her adopted language of Italian before translating them herself into English with help from her editor Todd Portnowitz. Roman Stories is her ode to a city in flux.
Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant, Curtis Chin (Oct. 17)
Filmmaker and activist Curtis Chin’s coming-of-age memoir looks at how Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine in Detroit became his home away from home. As a gay, Chinese American kid growing up in the 1980s, Chin found solace in the restaurant, which closed in 2000 after 60 years of business, where local drag queens, the city’s Black mayor, and elderly Jewish couples came together for meals, describing the many ways in which the diverse patrons helped him feel secure in his own identity. Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant is Chin’s story, but it’s also a love letter to the communal spaces that shape us.
Worthy, Jada Pinkett Smith (Oct. 17)
With her memoir, Jada Pinkett Smith wants to set the record straight about her life, career, and relationship with husband Will Smith. “I think people have made a lot of assumptions,” Smith told People in June. “And you know what? Rightfully so. I have to take ownership of that, in regards to the narrative that I've participated in, the falsehoods about myself.” Anyone who has seen an episode of Red Table Talk knows that she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, which means readers should expect her to clear the air about a lot of things over the span of Worthy’s 416 pages.
Let Us Descend, Jesmyn Ward (Oct. 24)
Combining magical realism with historical fiction, two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward’s fourth novel tells the story of Annis, an enslaved girl in the antebellum South. Let Us Descend follows her harrowing trek from the Carolinas to Louisiana after she is sold to a sugar plantation by the white enslaver who fathered her. To survive, she must tap into the mystical in this heart-wrenching narrative of the American South in the age of slavery.
The Woman in Me, Britney Spears (Oct. 24)
Two years ago, a court ended Britney Spears’ conservatorship, which, for 13 years, had given her father Jamie Spears control of her financial and medical affairs. Now, for the first time, she is telling the story of her distressing experience. Titled The Woman In Me, a nod to a line in her 2001 song “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” the book promises a no-holds-barred look at the pop star’s life, career, and the conservatorship that nearly stifled her.
Absolution, Alice McDermott (Oct. 31)
The forgotten American women of the Vietnam War—the wives of those who served—are at the center of Alice McDermott’s new novel that looks at the obligation, sacrifice, and regret that comes with living on the margins of an unwinnable conflict.
The Future, Naomi Alderman (Nov. 7)
The author of the 2016 sci-fi thriller The Power returns with a gripping new futuristic novel about a group of unlikely allies who band together to take down the corrupt tech billionaires threatening to destroy the world.
My Name Is Barbra, Barbra Streisand (Nov. 7)
With her long-awaited memoir, Barbra Streisand offers a funny and frank look at her career, six decades in. At a whopping 992 pages, it appears that the Hollywood and Broadway legend (and EGOT winner) isn’t skimping on the details of her rarefied life.
To Free the Captives: A Plea For the American Soul, Tracy K. Smith (Nov. 7)
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the protests that followed, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith dug into America’s history and her own to understand what united the country even at times of great division. Free the Captives is her manifesto, offering insight as to how the nation could address its shameful past in hopes of creating a more unified future.
The Vulnerables, Sigrid Nunez (Nov. 7)
A Gen Z-er struggling to connect with their peers and a vivacious parrot named Eureka are the unlikely protagonists of Sigrid Nunez’s hilarious and deeply reflective ninth novel. The National Book Award winner’s latest work is about the importance of friendship—even the strange ones.
The Little Liar, Mitch Albom (Nov. 14)
The Tuesdays With Morrie author’s latest novel, set during the Holocaust, looks at how Nico, a young Greek boy known for his incredible honesty, becomes a pathological liar after unwittingly helping the Nazis. The Little Liar is a parable that shows the high cost of dishonesty.
The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation, Raquel Willis (Nov. 14)
Raquel Willis’s powerful new memoir shows how she became the trailblazing Black transgender activist she is today. But The Risk it Takes to Bloom isn’t just about her own transformation, it’s also a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community that inspired her fight for collective liberation.
So Late in the Day: Stories of Women and Men, Claire Keegan (Nov. 14)
Over the course of three stories, Claire Keegan explores the gender dynamics at play in the workplace, in the bedroom, and in a past relationship. In the titular short story, a man agonizes over the mistakes he made with a woman he believes was his soul mate. In “The Long and Painful Death,” a female writer is bombarded with the misogynistic musings of an overly opinionated man, while a married woman embarks on an affair with a guy who quickly turns possessive in “Antarctica.” In its entirety, So Late in the Day, a collection of newly revised and expanded works, looks at what seem like small misunderstandings between men and women to underline the power dynamics that are constantly at play.
Buy Now: So Late in the Day on Bookshop
Critical Hits: Writers Playing Video Games, J. Robert Lennon and Carmen Maria Machado (ed.) (Nov. 21)
Alexander Chee, Charlie Jane Anders, Hanif Abdurraqib, and other writers who love gaming wax poetic about the lasting emotional impact that comes with playing some of the most popular video games on the market: The Last of Us, Call of Duty, and Disco Elysium.
Correction, August 24:
The original version of this story mistakenly described the genre of Nnedi Okorafor's Shadow Speaker. The novel is Africanfuturist, not Afrofuturist.
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