Of the hundreds of books publishing this fall that we've reviewed, these are the stand-outs. Some are by authors you're probably more than a little familiar with and others will be new to you. We've got books for every age, from Suzanne Collins's illustrated book for kids to journalist Katy Butler's memoir/reportage about end-of-life medical care, and also books for everyone from mystery lovers to graphic novel aficionados.
But this is not an exhaustive list of big fall books. To make the cut for inclusion here, a book had to publish between September and November, and it had to be excellent. For a bigger picture of the season's books, check out our fall 2013 announcements features -- we have one for adult titles, and one for children's titles. You can also peruse the full PW Announcements database, powered by Edelweiss.
And be sure to check back -- we'll be adding new titles in the coming weeks.
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Doubleday/Talese). The final entry in Atwood’s brilliant MaddAddam trilogy roils with spectacular and furious satire. The novel begins where Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood end, just after most of the human species has been eradicated by a man-made plague.
Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country by Andrew J. Bacevich (Metropolitan). In the post-Vietnam era, war — and protest — are no longer everyone's responsibility. Boston University history professor and Army vet Bacevich lays out the consequences of a draft-free military service with devastating clarity.
Levels of Life by Julian Barnes (Knopf). After The Sense of an Ending, his beautiful take on the shape of a person's life after they've died, Barnes offers a memoir that charts the years following his wife's sudden death in 2008. The book is as much about his own experience as about grief itself, and by facing tough questions about how to move on he invites us to share in the meditation.
Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry (Graywolf). With inventive language and unflinching character portraits, Barry's short stories find warmth and wit in Ireland's shadowy underbelly and excitement in the most ordinary circumstances. As in "Fjord of Killary" and other stories, Barry proves himself a master at finding levity in the voice of ill-fated characters.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (Little, Brown). Does the world need another vampire novel? Yes, if this it’s this one. Derived from a short story of the same name, Black’s YA novel is a dark and deep con-tribution to the genre that addresses contemporary obsessions with celeb-rity culture and online insta-fame, to boot.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Little, Brown). Brown delightfully skewers a Victorian sense of propriety in this picture book about a tiger who sheds the drab grayness of the city—not to mention his coat, top hat, and the rest of his clothing—as he heeds the call of the wild.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Katy Butler (Scribner). Illuminated by the experience of waching her own parents face death, journalist Butler examines the issues around life-prolonging medical intervention. This honest, articluate book can be helpful to those near the end of life as well as those at their side.
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (DC). In a new twist on the relationship between art and life, this first entry in Carey's comic book series finds an unwitting hero in the son of a Potter-esque fantasy author. When Tom Taylor realizes his father's stories may not be made up, he is called into action and the story takes off.
Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins, illus. by James Proimos (Scholastic Press). In her wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy, Collins explored the consequences of combat and war, and the meaning of bravery; she does the same for a younger audience in this picture book based on her own child-hood, when her father was sent to fight in Vietnam.
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly (Grove). This emotionally complex tale of teenage abduction takes place in England's Lake District, where economic hardship persists amid the striking landscape. Protagonist Lisa Kallisto balances her need to support her friend, whose daughter is missing, with a scrupulous sense of culpability in Daly's distinctive first novel.
The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer (S&S/Atheneum). Farmer’s 2002 novel The House of the Scorpion won the National Book Award (and received Newbery and Printz Honors); at last, readers can discover the fate of 14-year-old clone Matt, who has be-come the Lord of Opium following the death of the drug lord El Patrón.
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow). Newly independent readers will find it easy to identify and empathize with the second-grade hero of Henkes’s story, which examines, in turn, Billy’s relationships with four key figures in his life: his teacher, his father, his three-year-old sister, and his mother.
Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance by Carla Kaplan (Harper). The acclaimed Zora Neale Hurston biographer is the first to tell the story of Miss Anne, a collectively named group of white women who supported the Harlem Rennaisance. Kaplan shows how Miss Anne set the stage for contemporary ideas about race, class, and gender.
The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation by Mollie Katzen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Rux Martin). Even more than Katzen's innovative Moosewood Cookbook, this fresh bunch of recipes illuminates the potential and importance of vegetables. Whether considering one of Katzen's vegan or meat-accompanied dishes, it is vegetables that will capture the imagination.
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf). Lahiri follows up The Namesake with a generations-spanning novel of revolution, family secrets, and arranged marriage. The author's talent for layered stories comes out in her deft handling of chronology and memory, as Subhash learns of his missing brother through his love-match wife Udayan.
Then We Take Berlin by John Lawton (Atlantic Monthly). Lawton kicks off a crafty new series of spy novels centered on Joe Wilderness, a former British airman sent to Berlin after WWII to find former Nazis. From Kennedy's 1963 Berlin visit to the nitty gritty of the divided city's black market, this thriller is chock full of early Cold War history and rich fictional characters.
Alex by Pierre Lemaitre (Quercus/MacLehose). Lemaitre's first installment in a trilogy begins with a kidnapping of a beautiful woman in Paris. Despite a lack of clues, a short but wily investigator volunteers for the case in order to reckon with his wife's death. Ingenious (if insubordinate) police work ensues, along with genuine suspense and plot twists.
Someone by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The latest novel from National Book Award winner McDermott (Charming Billy) takes us on a seemingly ordinary woman's journey of self-discovery. We first see Marie Commeford as a seven-year-old squinting through glasses, and as her life takes its course we share her insight into what she had so often failed to see.
The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton (Minotaur). Known for her true crime writing (Perfect Victim, Disturbed Ground), Norton's first novel is not only a gripping thriller but an insightful tale on the lives of kidnapping victims in the media-fueled aftermath. Surviver Reeve LeClaire helps to counsel a rescued 13-year-old girl while her kidnapper remains at large.
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press). A new book from Pynchon is a reason to celebrate. Bleeding Edge situates a fable of increasingly sentient computers in, naturally, 2001. Of course, the year 2001 means something besides HAL and Dave now, and Pynchon spirits us through “that terrible morning” in September--and its “infantilizing” aftermath--with unhysterical grace.
How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean). This ingenious and erudite collection of speculative fiction includes stories ranging from meditation on deep time and metamorphosis to the mechanics of revenge and back-from-the-dead schemer who won't go away. Swirsky's artfully written tales are a joy to read, and there is much to ponder beneath the surface.
Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy by Sudhir Venkatesh (Penguin Press). Sociologist Venkatesh's richly reported profiles of sex workers, johns, and drug dealers are novelistic in the best way. Like a classic New York novel, this book combines cool distance with empathy, bringing the author's subjects closer to home than one might expect.
Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident by William Ayers (Beacon). At times in Weather Underground cofounder Ayer's new life as a socially-integrated college professor, his name has carried just as much notoriety as it did when he was on the lam. This lively, sometimes mischievous follow-up to Fugitive Days sets the record straight in the wake of Palin and other opponents.
Longbourn by Jo Baker (Knopf). The servants of the Bennett estate manage their own set of dramas in this vivid re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice. While the marriage prospects of the Bennett girls preoccupy the family upstairs, downstairs the housekeeper Mrs. Hill has her hands full managing the staff that keeps Longbourn running smoothly: the young housemaids, Sarah and Polly; the butler, Mr. Hill; and the mysterious new footman, James Smith, who bears a secret connection to Longbourn
Daniel: My French Cuisine by Daniel Boulud and Sylvie Bigar, photos by Thomas Schauer, essays by Bill Buford (Grand Central). Boulud's book of 87 recipes defines his take on French cuisine in America. The merciful "How to Use This Book" guide, which includes tips on where to find the many esoteric tools and ingredients and a glossary of terms, is a daunting point of entry for even the most serious of aspiring chefs.
Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Sarah Crichton Books). Finkel's new book follows up with veterans of the 2-16 battalion, some of whom were profiled in his 2009 Iraq War chronicle The Good Soldiers. This unflinching take on the realities of returning to civilian life is supplemented with soldiers' diaries and communications, and the medical reports that are too often caught in a web of bureaucracy.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking). Travel and self-discovery, central themes in Gilbert's memoir work, are now brought to historical fiction. Narrated by a botanist who comes of age the early 19th century, the novel moves through many settings and points in time, with much to delight in along the way.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Scribner). In this long-awaited sequel to The Shining, Danny Torrance has become a middle-aged alcoholic, but he lands a job in a hospice in a small New England town. He remains unaware of the True Knot--a caravan of human parasites crisscrossing the map in search of children with "the shining," upon whom they feed--but that changes when he meets Abra Stone.
Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (Twelve). Co-authored by two Texans, this book marks the 50h anniversary of JFK's assassination by rendering the climate of hate in Dallas and the pressures Kennedy faced in Washington with a new level of intensity. Minutaglio and Davis craft a thrilling and unnerving story from events that took place in Dallas in the three years before the assassination.
The Abominable by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown). Lovers of Simmons’s blend of alternate history, mystery, and myth will appreciate this three-act thriller set in the interwar years. Young American alpine climber Jake is invited on a “recovery” mission to find Percival Bromley, a British lord who vanished on Mt. Everest.
Rasl by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books). This compendium of RASL comics brings the once black-and-white adventure series into color without losing any of the grit or subtlety of the originals. Smith's vibrant characters and imaginative, high-stakes serial narrative make us care deeply for the antihero's fate.
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner (Clarion). Aliens invade Earth in this inventive picture book fantasy from Caldecott Medalist Wiesner, not that humans take any notice. That’s because these little green men are very little. Instead, it’s the menacing housecat of the title and a crew of helpful insects that are left to make first contact.
White Girls by Hilton Als (McSweeney’s). Als follows up The Women with an even more sweeping examination of art and culture through race, gender, and sexuality. The essays collected here from the prominent New Yorker critic are as unifying as they are challenging, such as his take on Virginia Woolf through the voice of Richard Pryor's sister.