There are tons of great books coming out this fall. We’ve rounded up a preliminary list of what we’ve read and loved, what we can’t wait to read, and what we’re excited to share with you over the coming months. It’s a big season, y’all. Start making your TBR lists now.
All books mentioned in this blog post are available to pre-order in-store and via bookpeople.com. Thanks for supporting an independent bookstore!
Raul: “This great work encompasses the vast emotional range brought on by considerations of mortality and a a hopeful awareness: we are stories that live on in others. We are aware of some of them but not all, and Bill Clegg has created a beautiful novel about what it is to become a human being again after great tragedy. Eloquent and emotive, his powerful writing evokes such vivid portraits that it is impossible to be unaffected by these characters – you will shudder, weep, laugh, and sigh at the deep insights they uncover for themselves. Mortality touches us all, but it is our ability to accept it and incorporate it into our being that gives meaning to all the little worlds we create for ourselves, and he illustrates how sometimes it is other people, unseen and unacknowledged, who can fit the broken pieces back together in unique and wondrous ways. A magnificent debut novel highlighting the arrival of a brilliant author.”
Scott: “Austin author Mark Pryor goes down a much darker path than usual with this Austin-set stand alone featuring Dominic, charismatic lawyer, musician, and sociopath. When Dominic gets pulled into a crime that goes wrong, he has to depend on his skill and lack of scruples to pull him out. Cross Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley with Richard Stark’s Parker and you’ll get some idea of how good this book about a bad man is.”
A new novel from Salman Rushdie is always a major literary event. Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review: “In his latest novel, Rushdie invents his own cultural narrative one that blends elements of One Thousand and One Nights, Homeric epics, and sci-fi and action/adventure comic books. . . . Referencing Henry James, Mel Brooks, Mickey Mouse, Gracian, Bravo TV, and Aristotle, among others, Rushdie provides readers with an intellectual treasure chest cleverly disguised as a comic pop-culture apocalyptic caprice. ”
Julie: “This book is perfect for writers of all stripes, not just those interested in memoir. Karr is a poet and a no-nonsense Texan who delivers exactly the kind of writing advice you need – thoughtful, honest, and leaving room for no excuses. Of course, for those of us who are fans of her memoirs The Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit, this book provides terrific insight into the process that created some of the most memorable modern memoirs on our shelves. If you can’t get yourself into the MFA program at Syracuse, you can at least sit in your own living room, read this book, and learn more than a thing or two from the incomparable Mary Karr.”
Julie: “I was completely absorbed by this novel. Groff’s linguistic rhythm is entrancing. Her sentences beat like waves, pulling the reader deep into Mathilde and Lotto’s complicated, passionate relationship. Sweeping across decades of their marriage, told first from the husband’s perspective, then the wife’s, this story sinks the reader into the shifting romance, nuanced loyalty, bold secrets, private masks, and willful misconceptions that make up a long time union. The lives of her characters are rich mysteries uncovered in surprising turns. How well can you ever know your beloved? In Fates and Furies, we are lucky to be voyeurs to both versions of Mathilde and Lotto’s life together. Fans of Claire Messud and Ann Beattie will enjoy the dark, literary arches of this engrossing tale.”
“Six weeks before sex reassignment surgery (SRS), I am obliged to stop taking my hormones. I suddenly feel very differently about my forthcoming operation.” At age thirty, writer Juliet Jacques underwent gender reassignment surgery. She serialized her experience in the British newspaper The Guardian. With an epilogue by Sheila Heti, Trans gathers her experience up to present day to discuss issues of gender identity, trans politics, and what it means to be alive.
Joe T.: “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a novel about the adventures of a young Mycroft Holmes set in Trinidad. How cool is that? Turns out Kareem read all the Sherlock Holmes stories during his downtime playing basketball and developed a fondness for Homes’s older, smarter brother. Now he’s taken that fondness and written his own Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Is there nothing this man can’t do????”
Emily: “Margaret Atwood’s new novel, The Heart Goes Last, is a strange roller coaster of a story, taking us through gritty dystopian futures, 1950s-style suburbias, dank prison systems, plastic entertainments and throughout, the joy and subsequent doubt of human connection and love. I once read that true horror lies not in the unknown, but in the distortion of the familiar, and this is Atwood’s true gift. She has the ability to twist reality to its terrifyingly logical conclusions, creating surreal, dissociative worlds that seem strangely like mirror images of our own. In addition, she is able to anchor these worlds in true human emotion and experience, and this is what drew me to The Heart Goes Last. More than a dystopian landscape, this novel explores the ache of love, the heartbreak and doubt that come with not knowing the true mind of those closest to us. And these familiar fears of ours, set in a context just enough removed from our lives to see their troubles a bit more clearly, is where Atwood’s talent truly lies.”
We’ve been eagerly anticipating this novel since we first sped through Watkins’s multi-award winning, highly acclaimed first collection of stories, Battleborn. In a version of southern California we can imagine all too well – ravaged by drought, its aquifers drained, facing the spread of an unrelenting desert – two lovers build a life in a strange new landscape. Eerie, dystopic, and all too real, Gold Fame Citrus is at the very top of our piles this fall.
Easily the most reviewed and recommended book by our booksellers this year. We have many blurbs to choose from here, but we’ll go with this one here (you’ll be hearing plenty more from us about this one):
Emily: “Being a newcomer to the work and words of Kristin Hersh, I was unprepared and instantly drawn in to the off-kilter lyricism with which she is able effortlessly to plunge her readers into the grimy hotel rooms and unlit backstages of her time on tour with Vic Chesnutt. In reading Don’t Suck, Don’t Die, one feels rather uncomfortably the voyeur, glancing through nearly-closed doors, spying through gritty blinds at the inexplicable contradiction of closeness and “lonelyfyingness” between these two artists. And it is true that we’ve stumbled on a love letter we perhaps were never meant to see, as Hersh writes directly to Chesnutt’s ghost, a man who was somehow a ghost even when he was alive. Or alive in a different way than most. This book is a strange time capsule, one that captures the small, humid details of life shared with Chesnutt, and somehow in so doing captures the fullness of the man himself.”
Joe: “From Ace of Base through Backstreet Boys to Rihanna and Katy Perry, The Song Machine chronicles the story of how a bunch of Swedish DJs and musicians conquered the American and world charts for 20 years. It’s an utterly compelling and fascinating read that opens the door and shines a spotlight upon how hits are written and the anonymous people who write them.”
Raul: “A most imaginative book – ambitious in design and presentation! Dodson’s literary creation is a fantastic amalgam of historical fiction, mystery and science fiction that is enhanced by illustrations to forward a story about a taut political struggle in the far future that is uncannily linked to events in the past. In 1843 in Texas, Zadock Thomas falls in love with the daughter of his employer; while an unsuitable suitor for his daughter, Joseph Gray, engages Zadock on a quest to deliver a secret letter to a rogue Texian general somewhere in the Republic of Texas. 300 years in the future Republic of Texas, Zeke Thomas must fill the Senate seat left empty after the death of his grandfather, but he is held back by the appearance of an unknown secret letter that may devastate his bloodline. Dodson includes a fictional book in his story – a book about the Gray family and their uncanny connection to a secretive group of women who dream about the future. Fans of David Mitchell and Mark Z. Danielewski will rejoice at this wondrous work of imaginative fiction!”
Julie: “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was my absolute favorite book last year. I’ve been very eager to get my hands on a copy of The Tsar of Love and Techno. Marra does not disappoint. His ability to impart political and cultural history through characters who are never cardboard stand-ins, who are fully formed humans bound by family, heart, time and fate, makes his work satisfying, edifying and impossible to put down. I want everyone to read these stories and am so glad to have another Marra book to put in readers’ hands.”
The long-awaited follow-up to Smith’s poetic, National Book Award-winning memoir about her life with Robert Mapplethorpe, M Train picks up where Just Kids left off. Kirkus Reviews says, “No matter the distance life may take her, Smith always recovers some semblance of normalcy with the simple pleasures of a deli coffee on her stoop, her mind constantly buoyed by humanity, art, and memory…An atmospheric, moody, and bittersweet memoir, to be savored and pondered.”
Sarah H.: “From the late ’70s punk scene to the penthouses of Park Avenue, City on Fire tells the story of one death and how it affects all the people connected to it. It flows through the inner lives of these complex and somewhat damaged characters, slowly and methodically revealing how they all will, eventually, intersect with one another. It’s hard to imagine a setting more rich than that of New York in the ’70s. But the way Hallberg tells it, the landscape of these people’s lives is just as compelling, and as intricately linked to the city in which they live as they are to each other.”
Elvis. Costello. If you love his music, then you know he has a way with words. This is one of the most anticipated books of the season. Music memoirs come along every year, but not music memoirs written by Elvis Costello.
Julie: “This novel is funny, dark, weird and addictive. I love the way the group dialogue merges the characters’ voices and becomes a chorus; the rhythm in these sections in particular is spot on. I thought this was a unique, engaging way to tell a story and a fresh way of looking at American culture, youth and class. At turns I was reminded of Christopher Moore and Chuck Palahniuk, but really, Kirk’s voice is all his own.”
Leonard Pitts, Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004. His new novel moves from the 1960s civil rights movement to the 2008 presidential election. Booklist gave it a starred review: “The state of US race relations in 1968 and 2008 is seen through the eyes of two veteran Chicago newsmen, one black and one white, in this opportune novel. . . . Pitts adroitly blends history with fiction and actual figures (King, Obama) with characters in a plot that builds suspense around the supremacists’ plans as anger between the races gives way to understanding. A novel as significant as it is engrossing.”
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
On Sale 10/20/15
EVENT HERE: Monday, November 9 at 7PM
If you’ve never enjoyed history, you’ve never read Sarah Vowell. Assassination Vacation and Take the Cannoli are modern classics. We love her witty takes on everything we should have remembered from our history classes. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States returns us to the early years of our nation, highlighting, through the lens of General Lafayette, the ideals of the American Revolution and the founding of America. As always, Vowell tells it like it is, humanizing the names in our history books and reminding us that, for better or worse, this country was built not by legends, but by real, actual men and women plagued by the same hubris and blessed with the same vision as the people who continue their work today.
Julie: “Feminist activist and icon Gloria Steinem has logged thousands of hours traveling the globe as a journalist, speaker and organizer. Her story is the story of modern American feminism. If you want to be inspired, if you want to be reminded of how far we’ve come in so few years (and how much further there is to go), read this book. As a thirty-something woman, it’s been both edifying and galvanizing to read about the incredible effort so many have put forth to make sure women’s voices are heard, recognized and accepted as equal. This book put the movement and my place in it into perspective for me. As an event organizer, it also humbled me to read about the lengths people went to to spread the word about an event or idea in an age before hashtags and tweets. Thank you, Gloria Steinem.”
Sleater Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein wrote a book about her life. CARRIE BROWNSTEIN wrote a BOOK about her LIFE.
Joe T.: “Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff follows up her 2010 biography Cleopatra: A Life with this fascinating portrait of one of the foundational moments in American History. Placing the Salem Witch Trials in its proper historical context, Schiff explores the personalities. events, and societal pressures that created a perfect storm for a paranoid outbreak to spread across the population. This is a fascinating read that’s perfect for the Halloween season.”
Megan: “This is the first Gaitskill book I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. The writing is strong and compelling, so you don’t want to put it down. The language drags you in. The story is about motherhood and women’s relationships with their mothers and daughters, as well as the story of a girl’s coming of age. A woman in upstate New York takes on an inner city girl as part of the Fresh Air Fund program. The way the woman interacts with this girl, who has a difficult relationship with her mother and a troubled life in the city, as well as the way the girl starts connecting with the woman as a maternal figure, hooked me. What it says bout maternal relationships and the relationships women have with each other and their families is really interesting. The girl’s experience learning to ride horses and connecting with a difficult horse adds another level of suspense and hope to the story. Great read, I highly recommend it.”