Men of Many Words: We read fall's weighty blockbusters so you don't have to
A slew of publishing's most boldfaced, best-selling names are releasing highly anticipated books this fall. But between the daunting word counts and epic story lines, it might be tough to plow through all that the season has to offer in this category — so we created this handy guide to help whittle it all down.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Following 2014's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr stretches his world-building to the outer limits of the imagination. Across three intricate story lines — Constantinople before the wall came down in the 15th century, present-day Idaho, and on board an interstellar ship hurtling toward a new planet — and spanning 640 pages, Doerr traces the life of a text across history. Cloud (Sept. 28) is worth your while: Despite the ostentatious premise, it remains as accessible as his last novel, and even more sentimental.
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
There's something intoxicating about a hefty family novel — at least for certain readers. If that sentiment doesn't ring true to you, run from Crossroads immediately. For the Franzenheads among us, he's given up pretty much everything we've come to expect: marital dysfunction (it's extreme here), individual dysfunction (it's most extreme in the Hildebrandts' matriarch, Marion, an element ripe for thinkpiece dissection), drug use, a bit of counterculture, and a page count that stretches well beyond 500. Out Oct. 5, this is the first volume in a planned trilogy, which means it won't be your only chance to wade into this particular Franzenian discourse.
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
Calling all masochists! If you're still picking up all the tiny pieces of your broken heart after The Overstory, that impassioned homage to the coniferous world, Powers' 13th book will grind those pieces into oblivion. Here he looks to the sky: Narrator Theo Byrne is an astro-biologist whose job is to search for signs of life on distant planets. He's also recently widowed and struggling to care for his troubled young son. How devastating is it? There's a recurring description of Theo's now-dead wife reading Keats to their now-dead dog, and that might be the happiest portion. Bewilderment (Sept. 21) may be the shortest of the author's novels at 288 pages, but it packs the emotional weight of an epic.
The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard
It should surprise no one that after the six autobiographical (and deeply confessional) books that made up the My Struggle series, Knausgaard created a completely fictionalized world for the literary follow-up that the publishing world wasn't sure would ever come. Like Powers' novel, it's also celestial in nature: A star appears in the sky over Norway, baffling the crew of protagonists. But whereas Bewilderment feels almost nihilistic in its somberness, Morning Star (Sept. 28) — and its nearly 700 pages — retains the possibility that it's actually just inquisitive.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
What A Gentleman in Moscow — about an aristocrat sentenced to house arrest in an upscale hotel — did inside the Metropol, Lincoln (Oct. 5) attempts with a Studebaker Land Cruiser. Towles, who's quickly cornering the market on the literary equivalent of the bottle episode, shifts his setting from 1920s Bolshevik Russia to 1950s America, where several boys who met at a correctional facility are making their way cross-country in search of their own specific treasures. Moscow sold over 2.5 million copies, so there's an audience for Towles' brand of carefully meandering plotting. But at 592 pages, you'll need a lot of free time for Lincoln.
The Every by Dave Eggers
Pitched as something between a spiritual and a literal sequel to his 2013 tome The Circle, The Every (Oct. 5) brings back the tech company of our collective nightmares, this time in a vaguely futuristic setting. Narrator and new employee Delaney plans to sabotage the firm, but not before Eggers blasts us with a blistering analysis of the dystopian horrors that lie on the other side of our digital addictions. Plot, not prose, reigns here, but then again how else would you persuade people to plow through 45 chapters?
A version of this story appears in the October issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.