If you’re a reader, you’re in for an autumn of deep riches, with best-selling masters (John Le Carré, Ken Follett), hotter-than-summer stars (Jesmyn Ward, Celeste Ng), and literary debuts from stars in other skies (Tom Hanks, Bill McKibben). In nonfiction, you’ll learn about hidden Philly, Joni Mitchell, Adam and Eve, and much more. And notice something else: Many of these are new faces, more diverse than ever, signaling changes in U.S. society, culture, and the literary world.
A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré (Viking, September). Smiley’s back — MI6 spymaster George Smiley, that is, beloved creation of the ever-fertile le Carré imagination. Also along for the wild ride is Peter Guillam, his assistant.
A Column of Fire by Ken Follett (Viking, September). Master of the sweeping, readable epic follows The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End with the third installment of the Kingsbridge series, set in an English town during the Middle Ages.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Scribner, September). After winning the National Book Award for Salvage the Bones, Ward is back, with an epic family saga, an odyssey through rural Mississippi’s past and present.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin, September). Mia and daughter Pearl rent a house in Shaker Heights, Ohio. They are people very different from their landlords, the Richardson family. Soon, everyone will face issues of race, conformity, motherhood, surrogacy, adoption, and much more.
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Mulholland Books, September). Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger in East Texas, is faced with the killing of a white woman and a black lawyer. To solve the murder, he drives to Lark, a little town where everybody’s scary-mad about it.
The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson (Ecco, September). This is one of the most beautiful books, as an object, I’ve ever held. What’s inside is even more beautiful: beautifully told, beautifully written, a story that penetrates to the American heart, and all the light and darkness therein.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf, October). This Allentown-born artist-in-residence at Penn offers stories about women, their physical selves, and the threats to both from social preconceptions and misconceptions.
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster, October). In this sequel to her career-making 1995 novel, Practical Magic, Hoffman renders the real magical and vice versa, as the three Owen children go out into the world and conjure with an ancient family curse.
Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (Knopf, October). OK, he’s, like, this star, right? But he also collects typewriters (no, really, he does), and this is a nice, fat bunch of short stories that in some way involve typewriters. Yay, Tom.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Simon & Schuster, October). She’s a diver who repairs ships in the Brooklyn Naval Yard during World War II. And she runs into a man who might be able to help her solve an old family mystery.
Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance by Bill McKibben (Blue Rider, November). The famed environmentalist invests his debut novel with themes and values his audience will know. Two radicals start an underground radio show to attract supporters to a secession movement. Here we go.
At the Strangers’ Gate: Arrivals in New York by Adam Gopnik (Knopf, September). Gopnik is such a celebrated fixture at the New Yorker you might forget he first had to get to New York. He and his spouse got there in the 1980s. This stylish memoir depicts the New York City of those days, the people they met, the rat-infested lofts they lived in.
The Best of Us by Joyce Maynard (Bloomsbury, September). The famed novelist and memoirist on meeting the love of her life, marrying, and facing loss.
The Origin of Others (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) by Toni Morrison (Harvard University Press, September). The Nobel laureate and Princeton professor gave the prestigious Norton lectures in 2015-16. Here are her thoughts on race, art, and how we “other” other people, that is, regard them as separate, other, less, worse, unreachable.
Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter, September). What a fascinating American life: from New Jersey suburbs to Berkeley activism, and from there to a career as a trailblazing cook, restaurateur, and entrepreneur. This memoir shows how Waters’ values suffused the influential Chez Panisse Restaurant & Cafe which she opened in 1971, when she was 27. Memoir, manifesto, and mirror of a wacky place and time.
The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt (Norton, September). The man who pretty much invented the crossover literary scholarship/general audience smash hit with Will in the World takes a look at the tantalizing history and meanings of he and she and God and Garden.
The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick edited by Darryl Pinckney (New York Review Books, October). Novelist, reporter, literary critic, cultural force, tastemaker, leading intellect of her age, and consummate stylist, Hardwick blazed an illustrious 20th-century path. Here are 50 milestones.
We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union (Dey Street, October). The movie and TV star (Being Mary Jane) turned social commentator offers a collection of essays and true-life tales of men, women, society, sexuality, and more. She’s set to appear Oct. 19 at the Free Library.
Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe (Sarah Crichton, October). As time goes by, Mitchell starts to rise above the rest, looking like a true original and innovator among the company of geniuses who made music in the 1960s and 1970s. Yaffe’s bio is thoroughly researched, with tons of interviews, including with Mitchell herself.
Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe by Cullen Murphy. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, November). Something a little different. What if you grew up with a famous cartoonist dad, in a community of famous cartoonists, artists, humorists, and illustrators? Crazy, right? Here’s that story, richly illustrated by the scion of the Prince Valiant family.
Avedon: Something Personal by Norma Stevens & Steven M.L. Aronson (Spiegel & Grau, November). An intimate look at the famed photographer’s life and art, by his business partner and confidant Stevens and journalist Aronson. With plenty of Avedon photos.
Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City by Joseph E.B. Elliott, Nathaniel Popkin, and Peter Woodall (Temple University Press, November). This book is Very. Cool. Delving into great abandoned factories, churches, and public buildings, plumbing the underground city (tremendous, atmospheric photographs), this is a brainy tour of a town hidden from itself.