It may reveal too much about my teenage years to confess that I craved the annual arrival of the Burpee seed catalogue. For weeks, I would live in those glossy pages of rainbow coleus and bursting zinnias. Something about those visions of future glory made me drunk with hope. I was not, perhaps, the coolest high school kid.
I’ve long since abandoned gardening, as my neighbors will attest, but the thrill of the seed catalogue has been replaced by the blurb-filled optimism of book publishers’ catalogues. And the analogy is more apt than you might think. Some of these authors are familiar standbys, like hardy geraniums, whose work will be just as beautiful as expected. Others are exciting debuts, like some exotic new snapdragon, that could dazzle — or droop.
With that warning, here’s a list of books I’m looking forward to this fall season. Not all of them will rise to the level of the hype, but it’s a bumper crop.
“Home After Dark,” by David Small (Liveright, Sept. 11)
In 2009, Small published a celebrated graphic memoir called “Stitches.” Now the Caldecott Medal winner is back with a graphic novel about a motherless 13-year-old boy growing up in an unhappy home in California. This is a tale told in few words and many striking images. On Sept. 11 at 7 p.m., Small will be at Politics & Prose at Union Market.
“Washington Black,” by Esi Edugyan (Knopf, Sept. 18)
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this novel by Edugyan, who lives in British Columbia, follows the travails of an 11-year-old slave on a plantation in Barbados. Assigned to assist a naturalist, the boy learns to read and draw scientific illustrations. Soon, he and his master begin a series of explorations that take them as far as the Arctic. On Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., Edugyan will be at Politics & Prose at Union Market.
“Waiting for Eden,” by Elliot Ackerman (Knopf, Sept. 25)
This brief novel — fewer than 200 pages — is narrated by a dead soldier who is watching over a horribly burned comrade in a Texas hospital. That sounds cringingly maudlin, but Ackerman, who served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, is one of the best soldier-writers of his generation. On Sept. 27 at 7 p.m., Ackerman and Ben Fountain will be in conversation with Andy Kroll at Politics & Prose.
“Your Duck Is My Duck,” by Deborah Eisenberg (Ecco, Sept. 25)
In 2011, I saw Eisenberg accept the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction at the Folger Library in Washington and realized I’d been missing one of the great short fiction writers. Her new collection contains six substantial stories, one of which won an O. Henry Award.
“All You Can Ever Know,” by Nicole Chung (Catapult, Oct. 2)
Chung, the editor of the literary magazine Catapult, was adopted as a baby by a white family in Oregon. In this memoir, she writes about her childhood, her Asian American identity and her search for the Korean parents who gave her up. On Oct. 16 at 7 p.m., Chung will be at Politics & Prose.
“Virgil Wander,” by Leif Enger (Grove, Oct. 2)
I fell in love with Enger’s work almost two decades ago when he wrote “Peace Like a River,” a coming-of-age Western tinged with New Age energy. But since that phenomenal debut, he’s published little, which makes this new novel all the more enticing. It’s about a movie house owner in a Midwestern town who survives a car accident and must rebuild his life.
“Bridge of Clay,” by Markus Zusak (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Oct. 9)
Zusak’s 2005 historical novel “The Book Thief” was a bestseller for years and is still widely recommended for young (and old) readers. The Australian author’s new novel is about five brothers, one of whom is determined to build an impressive bridge. On Oct. 12 at 7 p.m., Zusak will be at Cleveland Park Public Library. Contact Politics & Prose for tickets.
“Killing Commendatore,” by Haruki Murakami, trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen (Knopf, Oct. 9)
The Japanese novelist — a perennial favorite for the Nobel Prize in literature — has written a wide-ranging story involving an artist and a mysterious painting. Fans of classic American literature will be tantalized by an allusion to “The Great Gatsby.”
“The Library Book,” by Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster, Oct. 16)
Orlean, a longtime New Yorker staff writer, investigates a devastating fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. But her scope expands to include the role that libraries have played in our lives — and will continue to play in a changing world. Sounds irresistible for bookworms. On Oct. 25 at 7 p.m., Orlean will be at Politics & Prose.
“Melmoth,” by Sarah Perry (Custom House, Oct. 16)
I was so delighted by Perry’s 2017 novel, “The Essex Serpent,” that I’m excited to see she’s already back with this gothic mystery about a translator in Prague investigating a terrifying legend.
“Unsheltered,” by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper, Oct. 16)
Alternating between past and present, this novel tells the story of a woman investigating a late-19th-century science teacher who was caught up in the controversy over Darwinism. Like her other novels, this one promises to explore social and scientific issues. On Oct. 17, Kingsolver will be at Sidwell Friends Meeting House. Visit politics-prose.com for tickets.
“Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce,” by Colm Tóibín (Scribner, Oct. 23)
My wife and I visited Dublin for the first time this summer, which has whetted my appetite for Tóibín’s study of Irish literature. A masterful Irish writer himself, Tóibín focuses on three of the nation’s greatest writers and their remarkable fathers.
“Little,” by Edward Carey (Riverhead, Oct. 23)
This historical novel about the wax-sculptor who would become the world-renowned Madame Tussaud looks uncannily like a real-life classic.
“Family Trust,” by Kathy Wang (Morrow, Oct. 30)
An old plot device gets a fresh life in this debut novel about a family gathering around the impending death of its patriarch in Silicon Valley. Stanley Huang was supposed to leave his heirs a fortune, but now they’re growing nervous about the lives they’ve made and the expectations they’ve nursed.
“The Feral Detective,” by Jonathan Lethem (Ecco, Nov. 6)
In this highbrow mystery set in California, a woman searches for a friend’s missing daughter with the help of a private detective. Fans of “Motherless Brooklyn” take note. On Nov. 13 at 7 p.m., Lethem will be at Politics & Prose.
“Monument,” by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov. 6)
This collection of old and new poems by the former poet laureate of the United States includes Trethewey’s powerful reflections on the way our nation contends with its diversity and memorializes its past. Think you’re not a poetry person? Think again. Trethewey’s verse is as accessible as it is brilliant.
“God in the Qur’an,” by Jack Miles (Knopf, Nov. 13)
The feeling that settled over me as I finished Miles’s 2001 book, “Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God,” was nothing short of awe. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning religion scholar is back with a study of Allah. For many Americans who know little about the Muslim faith, reading this book could be a crucial step out of ignorance at a time of rising Islamophobia.
“All the Lives We Never Lived,” by Anuradha Roy (Atria, Nov. 20)
The author of “An Atlas of Impossible Longing” (2011) returns with a novel that shifts between the present-day and World War II and mingles real and fictional characters. The narrator is a horticulturalist struggling to understand why his mother abandoned him as a child in a small Indian town.
“North of Dawn,” by Nuruddin Farah (Riverhead, Dec. 4)
This Somali writer and frequently named contender for the Nobel Prize in literature has published more than a dozen novels. In “North of Dawn,” he tells the story of a couple in Oslo whose son dies in a suicide bombing in Somalia. Their efforts to assist his widow and children stir up fresh conflicts.
Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post and hosts TotallyHipVideoBookReview.com.