That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.
Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
Stegner eloquently phrased what I’ve always believed — September is the true beginning of the year. January is just another long, cold month of hibernation and diets. Fall is traditionally when the major publishers come out with their “big books”. According to the Boston Globe, “The fall book publishing season mirrors the movie industry’s Oscar-jockeying season. Publishers typically use the last few weeks running up to the holiday buying season to release their most prestigious, and commercially promising, new titles”.
Some of the books I’m looking forward to reading this fall are “prestigious” and some may be “commercially promising”, but those aren’t qualities that are important to me as a reader, or even as a bookseller. On the other hand, I don’t like to engage in reverse snobbery either — I don’t avoid a book just because it’s popular.
The 10 books on my list sound like what I’ll want to read this fall while curled up with a blanket on my favorite reading chair.
Published in the U.K. earlier this year, Baily’s second novel tells the story of Chiara, a young woman who impulsively saves the life of a young Jewish boy, whom she names “Daniele”, during the Nazi occupation of Italy. Her decision reverberates a generation later, when a teenage girl contacts her, claiming to be Daniele’s daughter. The Guardian calls the book “highly original” noting that “The book works because it gives itself fully to its characters and their relationships, from which its ample plot spirals outwards with a confidently handled complexity and depth.”
Brooks, who’s written four previous novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning March, is one of my favorite authors. The Secret Chord imagines the life of the biblical King David. In a Publishers Weekly interview, Brooks explains her fascination with King David, describing his story as “encompassing most of human experience: there’s love and loss, triumph and despair, victory and defeat. ‘Everything happens to him,’ she says, pointing out that the biblical account is the ‘first piece of history writing that we have,’ predating Herodotus by 500 years.”
I know this probably isn’t another Boys in the Boat (what could be?), but I can’t resist an underdog sports story — and this one sounds terrific. The “Three-Year Swim Club” was a group of poor Japanese-American children who started their swimming careers training in irrigation ditches in the 1930s and later became world champions. Checkoway focuses on the team’s innovative and inspirational coach, Soichi Sakomoto, an unsung hero whose accomplishments have gone relatively unnoticed.
This is one of the big “buzz” books of the season, so I think I should have an opinion. The first section of the book, “Fates”, chronicles a marriage from the husband’s point of view of ; the second section, “Furies”, provides the wife’s version. I’m slightly worried that Fates and Furies is going to be too self-consciously literary for my taste, but we’ll see. Longlisted for the National Book Award.
I love narrative nonfiction about quirky topics! This account of the rivalry between Harry Houdini, crusader against charlatans and the spiritualism movement, and Margery Crandon, self-proclaimed spirit medium, is right up my alley.
Clementine came to me on the recommendation of my friend and coworker Kathy, who always picks terrific nonfiction. Published earlier this year in the U.K. to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Winston Churchill becoming Prime Minister, The Independent says that Sonia Purnell’s “compellingly readable” biography of Churchill’s wife “brings her out from behind the shadow cast by the Great Man and argues for her historical importance.”
I’m not crazy about football, but I am intrigued by the sport as an American cultural phenomenon. (The best book I’ve read on the subject — so far — is Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip Into the Heart of Fan Mania, by Warren St. John.) Roberts, an English professor at Florida State, says she’s a “conflicted” football fan:”I’m like those people who aren’t sure they believe in the Virgin Birth and the literal Resurrection but still show up for church because they like the music and take solace in the liturgy.”
I’m absolutely fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials, and for good reason — I was born in Salem, along with many of my ancestors. Pulitzer Prize winner Schiff says that we have a “completely skewed idea of what happened” in Salem; “it’s something we all know about, but we actually are relatively misinformed.”
First in the new Hogarth Shakespeare series, The Gap of Time is a “cover” version of The Winter’s Tale. The publisher’s website explains that Hogarth has commissioned well-known authors “to write prose ‘retellings’ of Shakespeare’s plays for the modern reader.” These new versions will be true to the spirit of the original dramas and their popular appeal, while giving authors an exciting opportunity to reinvent these seminal works of English literature.” What a great idea!
Ann Kingman recommended this YA novel on my favorite podcast, Books on the Nightstand: “I don’t want to say too much about it, because you really should go into this book without knowing too much about it. All I’ll say is that the main character is a teenage girl who suffers from debilitating allergies that require her to stay inside of her home.” Ann hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I’m going to add it to my list.