After a disappointing summer, a new season brings new hopes — and new books. This fall offers a particularly rich bounty of big-name releases and debuts by future favorites. Here are some selections, across a variety of genres, to add to your list.
‘Cloud Cuckoo Land,’ by Anthony Doerr (Scribner Book Co., Sept. 28)
This is Doerr’s first novel since 2014’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” and it’s ambitious and complex. “Cloud Cuckoo Land” transports readers to 15th-century Constantinople, present-day Idaho, the Korean War and the future, as experienced in outer space. He weaves it all together beautifully.
‘Smile: The Story of a Face,’ by Sarah Ruhl (Simon & Schuster, Oct. 5)
Ruhl is a MacArthur genius and playwright known for such works as “The Clean House” and “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play),” both Pulitzer finalists. In this intimate memoir, she describes living with Bell’s palsy — a sudden weakening of facial muscles that occurred after her high-risk pregnancy, causing an asymmetrical smile.
‘What Storm, What Thunder,’ by Myriam J. A. Chancy (Tin House Books, Oct. 5)
Chancy — whose novels include “The Loneliness of Angels” — has crafted a fictional account of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. It’s told by 10 people affected by the disaster, including a drug trafficker, an emigrant musician and an old woman selling produce in a market. It’s a stunning commentary on racism, sexual violence, capitalism and the resilience required to rebuild a life.
‘The Brides of Maracoor,’ by Gregory Maguire (William Morrow, Oct. 12)
It’s just the time of year to crave a return to the world of “Wicked.” Maguire’s new trilogy, a spinoff of his Wicked Years series, centers on Elphaba’s green-skinned granddaughter, Rain, who is marooned on an island of women — or “brides.” Accompanied by her broom and a talking goose, she learns about the island’s culture, and gets caught up in its political tensions.
‘The Donut Trap,’ by Julie Tieu (Avon, Nov. 2)
Talk about a sweet romance: In Tieu’s debut novel, a young woman returns home to work at her immigrant parents’ doughnut shop. As she struggles with post-college malaise — and the weight of her family’s expectations — an old crush reappears.
‘Win Me Something,’ by Kyle Lucia Wu (Tin House Books, Nov. 2)
Wu’s debut novel is about Willa Chen, a half-Chinese, half-White young woman. When she begins nannying for a wealthy family in New York, she feels unmoored — neither a participant in this unfamiliar glamorous new world, nor fully an outsider. It’s a lovely coming-of-age story that will resonate with anyone who’s felt separate, or questioned where they belong.
‘We Are All Whalers: The Plight of Whales and Our Responsibility,’ by Michael J. Moore (University of Chicago Press, Nov. 5)
Moore, a marine scientist and veterinarian, makes a compelling argument that whales’ survival depends on each of us — not just on those who venture out on ships, hunting whales for meat and blubber. It’s sobering to grapple with the ways we might unwittingly contribute to the mammals’ demise, like by eating commercially caught seafood. But Moore also offers reason to be hopeful, including new technologies for ropeless fishing.
‘Five Tuesdays in Winter,’ by Lily King (Grove Atlantic, Nov. 9)
King’s “Writers & Lovers” was a balm during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. She returns with a collection of 10 short stories — half of which have not been previously published. All feature relatable protagonists, like the single father afraid to confess his feelings for his daughter’s Spanish tutor and the teenage boy who bonds with a pair of college students.
‘The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,’ by Nikole Hannah-Jones (One World, Nov. 16)
The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project” fueled a debate about the legacy of slavery — and snagged creator Hannah-Jones a Pulitzer Prize. This expansion is a combination of essays, poems and fiction featuring such thinkers as Ibram X. Kendi, Matthew Desmond and Jesmyn Ward. “Born on the Water,” an illustrated edition for children, will be released the same day.
‘These Precious Days,’ by Ann Patchett (Harper, Nov. 23)
This new collection is named for an essay Patchett published in Harper’s Magazine in late 2020 about her friendship with Tom Hanks’s assistant, Sooki Raphael, who died of cancer. It includes more than 20 additional essays packed with insight and emotion. One is about the lightness Patchett felt as she parted ways with old belongings; another examines what she’s learned from Snoopy.
‘Wish You Were Here,’ by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine Books, Nov. 30)
If you’re ready for pandemic-inspired fiction, perhaps you’ll enjoy Picoult’s new novel. It’s about a young surgical resident in New York, Finn, and his soon-to-be fiancee, Diana, who are preparing for an island vacation. When a dangerous virus engulfs the city and Finn is called in to work, he urges her to take the trip without him. Diana’s sea turtles are juxtaposed with Finn’s ventilators, as the world — and maybe their future — changes rapidly.
‘Dava Shastri’s Last Day,’ by Kirthana Ramisetti (Grand Central Publishing, Nov. 30)
After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Dava — one of the world’s richest women — decides to take her legacy into her own hands. She leaks the news of her “death” so that she can sit back, relax and enjoy the glowing obituaries. Presumably, anyone could have told her that this was a poor idea: Her scheme ends up revealing major secrets Dava thought she had buried long ago.
‘Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home,’ by Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen (Knopf, Dec. 7)
Warzel and Petersen — who write the must-read Substack newsletters Galaxy Brain and Culture Study, respectively — tease apart the big lessons from this past year-plus spent working from home. If you believe there’s a better way to live than refreshing your work email until you close your eyes at night, you’ll appreciate this deep dive into how workers relate to the office.
‘Call Us What We Carry,’ by Amanda Gorman (Viking Books, Dec. 7)
Gorman’s new collection includes “The Hill We Climb,” the poem she read at President Biden’s inauguration — hypnotizing audiences and turning skeptics into poetry lovers. Expect similarly stirring works that reckon with hope and healing, and explore timely themes such as identity and grief.
Angela Haupt is a freelance writer and health editor.
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