Last month, the New York Times published an article called “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print is Far From Dead”.  The article’s main point was that the predicted “digital apocalypse” hasn’t occurred — sales of e-books are declining and independent bookstores are more robust than ever. Some industry “experts” have taken issue with the article, noting that the e-books referred to in the story are only those published by major publishers, not the gazillions of very cheap e-books available online. Fortune magazine says: “What’s really been happening is that the market share of established publishers has been declining, while sales of independently published e-books have been growing. In particular, sales of books that don’t even have industry standard ISBN numbers have increased.”

A number of authors have been very successful selling their own e-books. John Locke (the 21st century self-published author, not the 18th century philosopher) has published dozens of books since 2010, including How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months, and receives rave reviews from his fans. In fact, 83% of Amazon reviewers gave Locke’s The Love You Crave 4 or 5 stars; in contrast, 62% of reviewers awarded Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch 4 or 5 stars. Are readers deciding to buy The Love You Crave instead of The Goldfinch? No, but as traditional publishers have raised the prices of e-books, more readers are buying the paperback version of The Goldfinch instead of the e-book.

The Association of American Publishers reported that paperback sales increased by 8.4% in the first half of 2015. In many cases, the price of a paperback is nearly the same as the price of an e-book. The Strand Bookstore in New York City has a large table stacked with paperbacks, strategically located by the store’s entrance, with a sign reading “Cheaper than the E-Book”.

Here are 10 recent paperback releases (five fiction, five nonfiction) to pick up this fall:

9781555977207-1On Immunity by Eula Biss
At first glance, On Immunity is an examination of the anti-vaccination movement, but this fascinating book can’t be easily categorized. The online magazine Salon describes it well:  “Part memoir, part cultural criticism and part science journalism . . . an elegant reflection on a very contemporary flavor of fear.” Book clubs will find plenty to discuss.

9780547939414_hres 2The Best American Short Stories 2015 edited by T.C. Boyle and Heidi Pitlor
Every year, I look forward to the new edition of The Best American Short Stories — along with its companions, The Best American EssaysThe Best American Food Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and more. They are perfect for keeping on your nightstand  or in your car and picking up when you have 15 minutes or so to read.

9780143108399The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Ebershoff is executive editor and vice president of Penguin Random House, where he’s edited dozens of well-known books, including several Pulitzer Prize winners. He’s also written several three novels and a book of short stories. I loved The 19th Wife, a  bestselling double narrative about the Mormon Church in the 19th century and today. Now I’m reading The Danish Girl, Ebershoff’s first novel, which is based on the true story of the first transgendered woman. The movie version, starring Eddie Remayne, will be released next month and I want to read the book first — I’m really enjoying it so far.

9780062359940An Uncomplicated Life: A Father’s Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter by Paul Daugherty
Daugherty, career sports writer and father of an adult daughter with Down’s Syndrome, has written a wonderful book for any parent. Through the story of the first 25 years of his daughter Jillian’s life, Daugherty reminds us of the precious gifts our children are, “exceptional” or not. That sounds hokey, but the book isn’t. For my full review, click here.

9780143127314Last Night’s Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors by Kate Gavino
The author, like me, loves to attend author readings. Unlike me, every time she goes to a reading she draws a portrait of the author and writes down her favorite quote. She’s been to more than 100 readings in the New York area, and she keeps a map of all the events, adding a pin every time she goes to a reading. Everything about this book, from the drawings to the hand-lettered quotes, is absolutely charming.

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
Macallister’s debut is a historical novel about a young, female magician (the “Amazing Arden”) at the turn of the 20th century, who is accused of murder. She is captured and interrogated by a country sheriff who has problems of his own, and during the course of one long night in a rural police station, we learn about the magician’s past. How did an aspiring dancer, born into a wealthy family, end up running a successful traveling magic show — and running for her life? It’s a terrific period piece, with a murder mystery and just a touch of the supernatural. If you enjoyed Water for Elephants, you’ll love this book.

9780544570405_hresWhen Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
Between 1943 and 1947, the government distributed 120 million paperback books (called Armed Services Editions, or ASEs) to millions of United States servicemen. Special favorites were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Great Gatsby. Manning’s stirring book illustrates the power these books had to combat Nazi propaganda,  “soothe an aching heart, renew hope for the future, and provide a respite when there was no escape” and to “build a new literate middle class” after the war.

9780143127789The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books by Azar Nafisi
In this insightful follow-up to Reading Lolita in Tehran, Nafisi explores three seminal American novels — Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. These novels, and others, “link us to our past, provide us with critical insight into the present, and enable us to envision our lives not just as they are but as they should be or might become.” Interwoven with Nafisi’s literary analysis is the story of her journey to become an American citizen. The book “is a priceless gift to readers who revel in literary fiction”, according to the Chicago Tribune. (Interestingly, the original subtitle of the book was America in Three Books.)

white-collar-girl_brown_Page_1-copyWhite Collar Girl by Renee Rosen (due November 3)
Rosen is carving out a nice niche for herself — historical page-turners set in Chicago. She’s written about Al Capone and organized crime (Dollface) and Marshall Field and the Gilded Age (What the Lady Wants); her new book, a paperback original, focuses on a young woman trying to break into journalism in the 1950s at the Chicago Tribune. (The newspaper column she writes is called “White Collar Girl”.) Like her other books, Rosen’s latest is full of well-known figures — from Mayor Daley to Mike Royko to Ernest Hemingway.

9780142426296Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
One of my favorite authors ventures into YA literature with this  imaginative novel about a   traumatized young girl who is sent to a boarding school for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers.” After she and several other students are hand-picked for a special English class (based on Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar), they find that writing in their journals enables them to re-experience life before their traumas occurred. I’m looking forward to talking about the book with our store’s YA book group.

What paperbacks are you planning on reading this fall?


14 thoughts on “10 Fall Paperback Picks

  1. Thanks for sharing that bit of publishing industry info! I’ve heard the slowdown in e-book sales discussed a bit on various podcasts, as well as the success of independent bookstores. I read 100% on my e-reader (and they are the books with ISBN numbers!), but it’s really for convenience (I have young children and have to read whenever and wherever I can…usually in very small snippets) and I realize I’m probably an anomaly.

    1. My hunch is that it’s mostly cost-related. As the price of e-books has gone up, readership has gone down. I love reading on my e-reader, because I can load so many ARCs on it, and also because I like to read in bed when my husband is trying to sleep. I’d have loved to have had one when my kids were little!


  2. Oh no, here you go again making me want all the books! These all sound terrific, but I’m especially interested in An Uncomplicated Life, since I work with several wonderful individuals with Down Syndrome. I never cease to be grateful for the lessons I have learned and the joy they have given me.

  3. Quite a few good books! I’m curious about Nafisi’s book b/c I really liked Lolita in Tehran. I think this one got mixed reviews but I still sort of want to read it. But maybe it helps to reread the 3 books in her Title first b/c it’s been a long while since I read those. Also TC Boyle is a master so I’m curious which stories he likes and includes in the collection. thanks!

    1. Yes, Nafisi’s book got some so-so reviews but I really enjoyed it. It reminded me to read more closely and think harder about what I’m reading. I didn’t go back and reread Huck Finn, etc. but that would definitely be a good project.

  4. I’ve heard When Books Went to War is phenomenal and I’ll probably tuck it into my husband’s Christmas stocking (my sneaky way of getting more books than I should since it’s ostensibly for him). I also want to read White Collar Girl.

  5. An interesting post on e-books versus paperbacks; if it comes down to cost I would rather have a ‘real’ book than the e-book as much because I can share it with friends, the major downside for me of e-books. I have a kindle and use it extensively but have purchased far fewer books on it this year than ever before.

    1. Yes, from what I’m hearing and reading you are not alone — fewer e-books are being sold as their prices have gone up. People want to own a book and have the option of passing it along to friends and family.

  6. I tend to use the e-reader only for ARC copies or the free versions of classics. The reason I don’t buy more e-books is the cost – even though the publishers don’t have pay for the paper, printing, distribution they seem to think they can still charge the same price as the ‘real version’.

    1. I’m the same — I read plenty of ARCs on my e-reader, but I don’t buy e-books. I have to say, I’ve wondered in the past, when e-books were available for very low prices, how this benefited the author. Even if the book isn’t printed, distributed, etc., the author and editor should still be compensated fairly for their creative efforts.

  7. Great list of books here! I love that you have included so many different genres. I read certain books depending on the mood I’m in 🙂 I have a fantastic recommendation for a paperback book that covers a wide range of genres (fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, thriller, philosophy). It’s called “The Question” by R. Breuer Stearns ( and it is a heavy read with lots of existential questions and ideas. If you are feeling philosophical and looking to confront the unknown than this is the book for you! The main character, Nate, and his fellow group of scientists are studying a phenomenon related to the possibilities and powers of group thinking. This group thinking may be able to answer some of our biggest life’s questions; Is there a God? Why are we here? And of course, there are many who are very opposed to studying these topics (especially those from a religious background). This book is perfect for a cold and dark day! Get ready to have your mind blown! Hope you will check it out 🙂

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