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12 Must-Read Books This Fall

A call-it-like-we-see-it roundup of the best books to come this fall.
A call-it-like-we-see-it roundup of the best books to come this fall.

Carrie Brownstein and Gary Indiana narrate their comings-of-age, while Patti Smith takes us on a cemetery-hopping tour around the world, and Umberto Eco, Jonathan Franzen and Garth Risk Hallberg wow us with big, ambitious novels. This is our call-it-like-we-see-it roundup of what to read this fall.


Purity” by Jonathan Franzen, out Sept. 1:

"Purity" by Jonathan Franzen. (Courtesy)
"Purity" by Jonathan Franzen. (Courtesy)

In her New York Times review, Michiko Kakutani, in a rare display of generosity and praise (especially in regards to Franzen), called this his “most fleet-footed, least self-conscious and most intimate novel yet.”

The book tells the story of Pip, a young woman looking for her father who embarks on an internship in South America. A Julian Assange-type figure and two investigative journalists complicate matters. Like Franzen’s earlier works, the novel is broken into richly detailed character narratives that plunge backward and forward in time.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” by Salman Rushdie, out Sept. 8:

Myth, magic and realism intersect in Salman Rushdie’s highly anticipated new novel. Set after a storm in a “near-future” New York City, strange things start happening to a cast of characters who are linked together by an unknown force.

Rushdie will be at the Harvard Book Store on Sept. 21.

I Can Give You Anything But Love” by Gary Indiana, out Sept. 8:

Cultural critic and radical downtown spirit Gary Indiana writes in this memoir of his early days growing up gay in rural New Hampshire, to his escape to San Francisco and later New York City. Here’s hoping (and guessing) the book will be as unique and irreverent as the writer himself.

The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr, out Sept. 15:

Speaking of memoir, Mary Karr is here to teach us something about the craft in her latest book. Like a master class from the prolific writer (sometimes credited with sparking the modern memoir movement), Karr delves into the art of mining our own lives for stories — sharing her process as well as those of other writers.

Karr will be at the Harvard Book Store on Sept. 14.

The Story of My Teeth” by Valeria Luiselli, out Sept. 15:

"The Story of My Teeth" by Valeria Luiselli (Courtesy)
"The Story of My Teeth" by Valeria Luiselli (Courtesy)

Translated from Spanish, this new novel by internationally acclaimed author Valeria Luiselli tells the story of Highway, a legendary auctioneer, and his most precious possessions: the teeth of famous dead people. Highway’s exploits takes us on an adventure through modern-day Mexico City.

M Train” by Patti Smith, out Oct. 6: 

Following her 2010 memoir “Just Kids” (which won the National Book Award), rock goddess, writer and visual artist Patti Smith returns with another thoughtful rumination on the past and present.

This time we follow her on her travels across the world — from Berlin to Mexico to the Far Rockaways — and the cemeteries, hotels and train stations along the way.

The Clasp” by Sloane Crosley, out Oct. 6:

Crosley, who has been called a voice of her generation for her two humorous essay collections, “I Was Told There’d Be Cake” and “How Did You Get This Number,” is testing the waters of fiction with her debut novel.

“The Clasp” follows a group of post-grad college friends on a somewhat madcap journey to retrieve a precious necklace in France. Knowing Crosley, the book promises a signature blend of snark and insight.

Crosley will be at the Brookline Booksmith on Oct. 20. 

City on Fire” by Garth Risk Hallberg, out Oct. 13:

"City on Fire" by Garth Risk Hallberg. (Courtesy)
"City on Fire" by Garth Risk Hallberg. (Courtesy)

This 944-page debut novel by Hallberg, a former editor at The Millions, caused a publishing frenzy two years ago when it was rumored to have fetched him a nearly $2 million advance and movie deal (both highly unusual for a debut work by a relatively unknown writer). Hotly anticipated since, the behemoth novel takes place in New York City around the time of the 1977 blackout and features a large and eccentric cast of characters.

Witches of America” by Alex Mar, out Oct. 20:

Here, Alex Mar documents her five-year exploration into the world of present-day witchcraft. In her travels, she meets with some of the over one million Americans who practice Paganism, from a priesthood dedicated to a Celtic goddess of war to second-wave feminist Wiccans. Just in time for Halloween.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” by Carrie Brownstein, out Oct. 27: 

Sleater-Kinney guitarist and “Portlandia” star Carrie Brownstein charts her rise from underground punk-rocker to music icon in her memoir — the title taken from one of her band’s songs.

"Numero Zero" by Umberto Eco. (Courtesy)
"Numero Zero" by Umberto Eco. (Courtesy)

Numero Zero” by Umberto Eco, out Nov. 3:

Set in early 1990s Milan, Italian novelist Umberto Eco's newest novel interweaves a love story, terrorism, blackmail and a murder. The cadaver of Mussolini's body-double also makes an appearance.

City of Clowns” by Daniel Alarcón and Sheila Alvarado, out Nov. 3:

Daniel Alarcón’s short story “City of Clowns” first appeared in his 2006 collection “War by Candlelight.” Now, in collaboration with artist Sheila Alvarado, it’s become a graphic novel, telling the story of a young Peruvian journalist who chronicles the lives of street clowns in Lima.

Matt Mullen studies at Emerson College and is an editorial assistant at Ploughshares, the literary journal. 

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