Fall 2016's Best Books
It’s a season of surprises: an unlikely memoir (by the Boss!), follow-ups from the likes of Zadie Smith and Jay Asher (finally!), and even a graphic novel from Margaret Atwood (for real!). Read on for the rest of autumn’s best bets.
The Fortunes, Peter Ho Davies (Sept. 6)
Davies, a master storyteller, blends fact with fiction in this saga of immigration, acclimation, and Chinese culture, which he tells through the experiences of Chinese-Americans at different points in history.
A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles (Sept. 6)
The same gorgeous, layered richness that marked Towles’ debut, Rules of Civility, shapes this novel about an early-20th-century Russian count sentenced by a Bolshevik tribunal to spend the rest of his life in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel.
Mischling, Affinity Konar (Sept. 6)
Twins Pearl and Stasha are imprisoned in Auschwitz as part of Mengele’s Zoo. When Pearl disappears shortly before the camp is liberated, Stasha searches through the ruins of Poland to find her.
Angel Catbird, Margaret Atwood art by Johnni Christmas (Sept. 6)
The celebrated author of The Handmaid’s Tale brings her delightfully peculiar sensibility to another genre with this story of a genetic engineer who accidentally adds owl and cat DNA to his own.
Swimming in the Sink, Lynne Cox (Sept. 6)
Cox, an open-water swimmer who famously crossed the Bering Strait without a wet suit, covers a period in her life marred by grief and illness.
Commonwealth, Ann Patchett (Sept. 13)
This deeply pleasurable novel about a big blended family meanders through five decades, shedding light on secrets, tragedies, and relationships.
Jerusalem, Alan Moore (Sept. 13)
Ten years in the making, this world-building 1,184-page epic from the creator of Watchmen tells the fantastical story of Moore’s hometown: Northampton, England.
Ghosts, Raina Telgemeier (Sept. 13)
In Telgemeier’s novel, Catrina’s family moves to Northern California to help her sister Maya’s cystic fibrosis. Catrina soon realizes their new town may be haunted—and to her horror, Maya wants to meet a ghost.
Where I Am Now?, Mara Wilson (Sept. 13)
After starring in beloved films like Matilda as a child, Wilson left the spotlight. She returns as a talented writer with Where Am I Now?
In the Mountains of Madness, W Scott Poole (Sept. 13)
This H.P. Lovecraft bio delves into the writer’s life and influence on pop culture.
The Wonder, Emma Donoghue (Sept. 20)
In the new novel from the author of Room, a nurse visits a remote Irish village to determine whether a young girl who has apparently survived without food for months is a miracle or a dangerous hoax.
Home, Harlan Coben (Sept. 20)
After a five-year break, Coben is bringing back Myron Bolitar, his beloved basketball star–turned–sports agent who dabbles in detective work.
The Arab of the Future 2, Riad Sattouf (Sept. 20)
Sattouf picks up where his successful 2015 graphic memoir left off in 1984. Now settled in Syria after an unstable early childhood, he and his family must learn to live amid a terrifying regime.
Kids of Appetite, David Arnold (Sept. 20)
In Arnold’s funny, sweet, utterly heart-wrenching novel—his first since Mosquitoland—a kid with a rare brain disorder enlists his friends to help him scatter his father’s ashes in a meaningful place.
The Fortress, Danielle Trussoni (Sept. 20)
Trussoni has already written a remarkable coming-of-age memoir, Falling Through the Earth—largely about her relationship with her dad, a Vietnam vet—and now delivers a scorching account of her marriage.
Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo (Sept. 27)
Bardugo’s Six of Crows, a 2015 fantasy-heist novel set in an alternative Dutch underworld, introduced readers to the six badass teenagers whose adventures continue in this second novel.
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen (Sept. 27)
Is the notoriously private rock star finally going to spill all? He’s been writing Born to Run—easily this fall’s most anticipated book—for the past seven years.
Darling Days, iO Tillett Wright (Sept. 27)
In what looks to be a groundbreaking work, the gender revolutionary and artist reminisces about his East Village upbringing and early life.
Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin (Sept. 27)
The “Lottery” author finally gets the critical biography she deserves.
Nicotine, Nell Zink (Oct. 4)
When everyone in your family is a bit unconventional, the only way to rebel is to be square—so that’s what Penny Baker does. That is, until she inherits her father’s childhood home in New Jersey and becomes enthralled by the squatters she finds living there.
Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple (Oct. 4)
This all-in-one-day narrative about a Seattle mom may not have the raffish, slapsticky charm of Semple’s best-seller Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but it’s every bit as quirky and blade-sharp.
The Wangs vs. the World, Jade Chang (Oct. 4)
In this wacky road-trip novel, the fractured Wang family embark on a cross-country journey after the 2008 stock-market crash decimates their fortune.
The Trespasser, Tana French (Oct. 4)
The books in French’s loosely connected Dublin Murder Squad series, technically classified as police procedurals, also happen to be beautifully crafted literary novels. This one, starring the bitter, cynical Det. Antoinette Conway, may be her best yet.
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol. 1, MR James (Oct. 4)
Two artists illustrate classic tales from the macabre British writer.
Our Chemical Hearts, Krystal Sutherland (Oct. 4)
Grace is enigmatic (and doesn’t shower as often as she should); Henry is cute but hopeless around girls. This much-buzzed-about debut captures the messy, awkward, all-consuming emotions of a teen’s first love.
We Know It Was You, Maggie Thrash (Oct. 4)
Thrash’s Twin Peaks-esque whodunit—the first in a new series—starts off with a bang, when a gorgeous cheerleader throws herself off a bridge into the roiling river below. Or did she? The story unspools from the points of view of other kids at the school.
Another Day in the Death of America, Gary Younge (Oct. 4)
At a time when gun control (or the lack of it) is hotly debated, Younge’s book, which profiles 10 children killed by gun violence on Nov. 23, 2013, is particularly prescient.
Mary Astor’s Purple Diary, Edward Sorel (Oct. 4)
The golden age of Hollywood wasn’t all glitz and glamor, as Sorel shows in this copiously illustrated examination of “the great American sex scandal of 1936,” which revolved around the dirty laundry aired at actress Mary Astor’s child-custody trial.
Rogue Heroes, Ben Macintyre (Oct. 4)
Macintyre, the great chronicler of World War II (Agent Zigzag; Double Cross), investigates the backstory of Britain’s secret fighting force, the SAS.
Something in the Blood, David J. Skal (Oct. 4)
Skal plumbs the intriguing mysteries of Bram Stoker’s life.
Tetris, Box Brown (Oct. 11)
Brown takes us into the fascinating world of Tetris, from the story of its Russian inventor, Alexey Pajitnov, and the bidding war it sparked to what happens in your brain when you play the videogame.
The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost (Oct. 18)
Prepare for the cult-favorite TV show’s 2017 revival with co-creator Frost’s deep dive into his creepy town.
The Fall Guy, James Lasdun (Oct. 18)
As the pages turn, the nervous tension ticks ever higher in Lasdun’s combustible psychological thriller, which involves an affluent banker and his wife, a ne’er-do-well cousin, a hot summer, and an upstate vacation house.
IQ, Joe Ide (Oct. 18)
Ide’s crackling page-turner of a debut follows a brilliant loner, IQ, who tackles cases the LAPD won’t touch.
What Light, Jay Asher (Oct. 18)
Fans have been clamoring for another Asher novel ever since the publication of Thirteen Reasons Why, and this romance—starring a girl who grew up on a Christmas-tree farm—won’t disappoint.
A Life in Parts, Bryan Cranston (Oct. 18)
By turns gritty, funny, and sad, this fiercely intelligent book from the Breaking Bad star defies celebrity-memoir tropes.
The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher (Oct. 18)
The diary she kept while filming the original Star Wars inspired Fisher’s latest memoir.
Knives and Ink, Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton (Oct. 18)
One of the fall’s most unusual books is a gorgeous look at the tattoos (and the stories behind them) of 65 chefs, some famous, some not.
Truevine, Beth Macy (Oct. 18)
Would that it were fiction. But Macy’s impeccably reported tale—about albino African-American brothers snatched from a Virginia tobacco field in 1899 and forced to work in a circus sideshow—is all too true.
Fields Where They Lay, Timothy Hallinan (Oct. 25)
Burglar Junior Bender might be our favorite literary PI: When he’s not committing crimes himself, he’s a self-professed “detective for crooks” in some of L.A.’s seediest neighborhoods.
The Whistler, John Grisham (Oct. 25)
Grisham, who just keeps getting better and better, likes to delve into hot-button issues in his fiction: This time, he takes on corrupt judges.
The Lottery, Miles Hyman (Oct. 25)
Shirley Jackson’s dreadful small-town tale comes alive in the hands of her grandson, Miles Hyman.
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch Vol 2, Daniel Kraus (Oct. 25)
In Vol. 1, Finch—a 17-year-old gangster known as “the Black Hand”—met his demise in 19th-century Chicago. Sort of. His ability to move, think, and speak remained intact as his body disintegrated, and he began roaming through time and countries trying to make sense of his predicament. Now the curiously appealing, globe-trotting dead kid is back for a second installment.
Not Dead Yet, Phil Collins (Oct. 25)
The musician has promised an unvarnished “warts-and-all” look back at his life and career.
The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar, Matt Simon (Oct. 25)
Simon, a science journalist at Wired who writes the Absurd Creatures column, likes animal stories—the weirder, the better—and here he’s amassed a bizarre collection of evolution tales.
The Beach at Night, Elena Ferrante (Nov. 1)
Famous for her violent Neapolitan novels, the pseudonymous author isn’t necessarily lightening things up for her forthcoming children’s book. Dark and eerie, The Beach at Night follows a doll who is abandoned on a sandy shore and must face scary figures on her own—like the Mean Beach Attendant and his Big Rake.
Night School, Lee Child (Nov. 7)
Child recently told EW that his new Jack Reacher book is “a prequel set in 1996—Reacher is still in the Army, and he’s moved to an emergency task force because the intelligence services in Europe have plucked a menacing phrase from the air: ‘The American wants a hundred million dollars.'”
Heartless, Marissa Meyer (Nov. 8)
The Lunar Chronicles author knows how to breathe new life into old tales, and Heartless imagines Alice in Wonderland‘s Queen of Hearts long before she set heads rolling—here, she’s just a lovesick teen who wants to be a baker.
Swing Time, Zadie Smith (Nov. 15)
The author of White Teeth and On Beauty returns with a novel that spans decades and continents as it plumbs the friendship of two young women who dream of being dancers.
Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick (Nov. 15)
The Pitch Perfect star can sing, act, and write hilarious tweets. Fortunately she’s imbued the pieces in Scrappy Little Nobody with that same humor.
Bellevue, David Oshinsky (Nov. 15)
The professor who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of polio here recounts the tumultuous history of America’s oldest hospital, New York City’s Bellevue.
Moonglow, Michael Chabon (Nov. 22)
Chabon renders the emotional story of his maternal grandfather as a novel, albeit one heavily spiked with memoir.
Beyond the Truth, Anne Holt (Dec. 6)
Jo Nesbø has called Holt “the godmother of Norwegian crime fiction.” If you aren’t familiar with her Hanne Wilhelmsen novels, it’s okay to dive in with this one—No. 7—but then do yourself a favor and binge-read the first six.
The Wood for the Trees, Richard Fortey (Dec. 6)
It’s rare to find nature writing as precise and elegant as Fortey’s, which follows the changes in a few acres of English woodland through all four seasons.