30 books we can't wait for this fall

Art for the top of the digital books listings for the fall preview/
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times; Manuel Muñoz; Todd Cooper / For The Times. Lettering by Angela Southern / For The Times)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.



The Marriage Portrait

By Maggie O’Farrell

Knopf: 352 pages, $28

Lucrezia di Medici, young and beautiful, sits for her marriage portrait, contemplating the twists of fate that have brought her into a luxurious, corrupt court. Like O’Farrell’s 2020 “Hamnet,” this novel focuses less on period detail (though, as needed, it is superb) and more on the ways women were used politically throughout history. (BP)

If I Survive You

By Jonathan Escoffery

MCD: 272 pages, $27

Escoffery’s striking debut novel-in-stories shuttles between Jamaica and America, where a young man receives direct and indirect lessons about his identity. He’s as existentially storm-ravaged as the Miami neighborhood where he spends much of his time, and Escoffery is canny at shifting styles and tones to capture the variety of classes and communities his hero struggles to navigate. (MA)

On the Rooftop

By Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Ecco: 304 pages, $29

Sisterly singers the Salvations (Ruth, Esther and Chloe) have gotten their big break: A talent manager wants them to go national. That is their mother’s goal, but it might not be something any of the siblings want. Wilkerson (“The Revisioners”) spins “Fiddler on the Roof” into 1950s Black San Francisco, and the result is irresistible. (BP)

SEPT. 13


By Meghan Gilliss

Catapult, 320 pages, $26

A family lives illegally on a Maine island, barely surviving, while a father endures recovery; Gilliss imbues every page with the ache and uncertainty of trying to give a child small pockets of joy under near impossible circumstances. The story is told balletically, compulsively, in short spurts of image and sensation, while also managing to immerse the reader fully in the textures, tastes and sounds of the Maine coast. (LSS)

Bliss Montage: Stories

By Ling Ma

FSG: 240 pages, $26

Ma’s debut novel, 2018’s “Severance,” brought a wry sensibility to the apocalyptic novel, and the stories in her first collection are similarly offbeat. She has a knack for out-there premises — a woman living with all her past boyfriends, an invisibility pill, a hook-up with a yeti — and is just as talented at connecting them to realistic identity crises. (MA)

All That’s Left Unsaid

By Tracey Lien

Morrow: 304 pages, $28

The Vietnamese Australian author sets her debut novel largely in Cabramatta, a refugee enclave with Sydney’s worst heroin problem. Protagonist Ky Tran comes home after her 17-year-old brother Denny is beaten to death in a restaurant. As she uses her training as a journalist to investigate, layers of cultural and bureaucratic miscommunication rise to the surface. (BP)

My Phantoms

By Gwendoline Riley

New York Review Books: 208 pages, $17

A sensation in her native England, Riley is relatively unknown in the United States. But stateside fans of Rachel Cusk and Sally Rooney's flinty, straight-talking women narrators will find a kindred spirit in the narrator of Riley’s latest, who’s reckoning with difficult parents, one impossibly arrogant (dad) and the other crushingly indecisive (mum). (New York Review Books is also reissuing her 2017 novel, “First Love.”) (MA)

SEPT. 20

The Book of Goose

By Yiyun Li

FSG: 368 pages, $28

Meet Agnès and Fabienne, whose adolescent storytelling game launches one into publishing success while the other remains behind in their small French village. Come for the writerly scheming, stay for the exquisitely calibrated examination of how our most tender and important bonds involve the manipulation of power and devotion. (BP)

SEPT. 27

The Logos

By Mark de Silva

Clash: 720 pages, $35

With Wolfe-ian scope and Franzen-y swagger, De Silva’s second novel aspires to be an epic commentary on 21st century life. De Silva’s big themes — money, art, virality and race among them — are packed into the story of an up-and-coming New York artist who’s commissioned to work on a product launch for a sports drink. Post-capitalist anxiety ensues. (MA)

Best of Friends

By Kamila Shamsie

Riverhead: 320 pages, $27

An intense, discordant and particularly haunted decades-long friendship might now be on the brink of rupture. The author of "Home Fire," Shamsie is wonderful at the way tensions build, dissipate and re-form with sometimes greater depth and intensity over the course of long intimacies, and it’s exciting to see her shift her focus this time from family to friendship. (LSS)

Lark Ascending

By Silas House

Algonquin: 288 pages, $27

The narrator of House’s seventh novel is a young gay man who’s escaped a near-future America knocked sideways by climate change and right-wing militias. His destination is Ireland, working off little more than a rumor that an Edenic safe haven isn’t far over the horizon. House works with some familiar dystopian tropes, but the book is distinguished by his lyrical, earthy tone. (MA)

The Furrows

By Namwali Serpell

Hogarth: 288 pages, $27

The magnitude of Serpell’s genius is well established. Her debut novel, “The Old Drift,” was widely celebrated for its polyvocal depiction of Zambian history, and she has been writing astounding criticism for years. “The Furrows” is a more intimate project, the story (in part) of Cassandra Williams, who was 12 and alone with her brother when he died. What follows is a miasmic journey through grief and identity, terror and uncertainty, that is finely and compellingly wrought. (LSS)

OCT. 4

Life Is Everywhere

By Lucy Ives

Graywolf: 400 pages, $18

Locked out of her apartment and at odds with her husband, PhD student Erin decides to spend the night in the library. She’s brought with her a bag of papers that contains both her own writings and those of her advisor. Ives possesses an enthralling emotional and psychological acuity, a seemingly bottomless store of knowledge and a thrilling wit, all of which she applies to the systems under which we live — and how we manage to live within or outside them. (LSS)

Our Missing Hearts

By Celeste Ng

Penguin Press: 352 pages, $29

Ng (“Little Fires Everywhere”) turns from modern-day realism to near-future dystopia in this stark and stunning fable. Bird Gardner, 12, lives with his heartbroken father in a world where “American culture” is paramount, other races suspect. Bird receives a drawing from his mother, a poet in hiding, and his quest to decipher it will change everyone’s lives. (BP)

The Hero of This Book

By Elizabeth McCracken

Ecco: 192 pages, $27

I have long been a fan of McCracken’s fiction: her imagination! Her endlessly stellar and impressive sentences. But “The Hero of This Book” is a world all its own. McCracken hews closely to her own life, tracking the loss of her beloved mother and allowing the reader access to an extraordinary mind grappling in real time with what both a story and real lasting love might be. It’s funny as hell, brilliantly built, deeply felt, and the sentences remain incredible throughout. (LSS)

OCT. 18

The Last Chairlift

By John Irving

Simon & Schuster: 912 pages, $35

Early references to “Moby-Dick” and “Great Expectations” set the stage for Irving’s widescreen, hubris-soaked tale of a writer’s quirky upbringing and dark past, set amid New England and Colorado’s ski slopes. The 80-year-old Irving promises that this is his final big novel. If so, he’s going out demonstrating the same command and provocations that made him a household name with “The World According to Garp.” (MA)

Signal Fires

By Dani Shapiro

Knopf: 240 pages, $28

The exquisite memoirist’s first novel in 15 years concerns the living nature of the past and the way buried secrets have a tendency to fester. Dr. Ben Wilf makes a decision in 1985 that haunts him, but it’s not until the neighbor’s son he delivers turns 11 that the good doctor is able to face the consequences of his actions. (BP)

Seven Empty Houses

By Samanta Schweblin

Riverhead: 208 pages, $25

The first of Schweblin’s books, though only now translated into English, includes seven stories about seven empty houses, each haunted and some eventually infiltrated in different ways — by trespassers, a ghost, a list of things to do before you die — over the course of each telling. Schweblin seems capable above all else of helping us reconsider what stories can be while always making them feel tense, uncomfortable, exhilarating. (LSS)

OCT. 25

Is Mother Dead

By Vigdis Hjorth

Verso: 352 pages, $27

A master of familial estrangement and obsession, Hjorth tells the story of Johanna, an artist living abroad who returns to Oslo for a retrospective of her work. After initial attempts to get in touch with her estranged mother fail, she begins stalking her, hiding out in her building and rummaging through her trash. Hjorth’s piercing writing captures the torment and mania that roils under the surface of most all of us. (LSS)

NOV. 8

The Magic Kingdom

By Russell Banks

Knopf: 352 pages, $30

Banks dazzles in this story of a Floridian Shaker community torn apart from within and without, in both cases because of the human desires Shakers sought to eliminate through their doctrine of hard work and nonprocreation. The author uses himself as a narrator, a metafictional device that throws the fictional past into stark relief. (BP)


By Lynn Steger Strong

Mariner: 240 pages, $28

It’s fall, season of Big Family Sagas, and Strong (“Want”) delivers with the story of siblings Henry, Kate and Martin, who convene in upstate New York at Henry’s house to celebrate their first Christmas after their mother’s death. Different “flights” are involved, including a mesmerizing art project and a little girl in peril, as well as pages flying quickly by as the story takes off. (BP)



Solito: A Memoir

By Javier Zamora

Hogarth, 400 pages, $28

Nine years old and on a 3,000-mile journey from El Salvador across the U.S. border, Zamora recounts the story of his terrifying two-month trek to be reconnected with his mother and father after years apart. Also a poet, Zamora’s storytelling is crafted with stunning intimacy, and you'll feel so close to the boy he was then that you’ll think about him long after the book is done. It’s impossible not to feel both immersed in and changed by this extraordinary book. (LSS)

SEPT. 13

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships

By Nina Totenberg

Simon & Schuster: 320 pages, $28

NPR legal correspondent Totenberg and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg first got to know each other in 1971. In the wake of Ginsburg’s death, Totenberg is out with a paean to the power of their friendship, one that carried them through not only momentous changes in the law and the appointment of Ginsburg to the Court but also the loss of husbands and the grief that followed. Between breezy, engaging stories, Totenberg incorporates lessons from other trailblazing women. (LB)

SEPT. 27

Runaway: Notes on the Myths that Made Me

By Erin Keane

Belt: 250 pages, $28

The editor in chief at Salon examines the family stories that shaped her life. But her memoir expands beyond the personal to cast that same piercing gaze on cultural myths, from the obsession with nymphets to the demonization of runaways. What results is a deeply felt family memoir that also functions as an exegesis of our social texts. (LB)

By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners

By Margaret Burnham

Norton: 352 pages, $30

Burnham opens her deep history with the story of Ollie Hunter, a Black woman in her 60s who was beaten to death with an ax handle by a young white shopkeeper after she left his store. No one was ever prosecuted. Harrington’s death was just one of thousands of undocumented racial killings between 1920 and 1960. Burnham illuminates a cultural system in which white civilians were instruments of state-sanctioned violence. (LB)

OCT. 4

American Midnight: The Great War, A Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis

By Adam Hochschild

Mariner: 432 pages, $30

At the end of the Great War, Europe was in tatters, its economies ruined and a generation of men lost. The postwar crumbling of European governments spooked American capitalism and its proponents. And as Hochschild skillfully demonstrates, the Wilson government made a sharp turn toward authoritarianism. During a brutal crackdown on opposition, dissent became a criminal offense and Reconstruction was dealt a death blow. American democracy almost didn’t survive its own war at home. (LB)

OCT. 25

The White Mosque

By Sofia Samatar

Catapult: 336 pages, $27

Samatar, the child of a Swiss German Mennonite mother and a Somali Muslim father, constructs a travel memoir out of acts of pilgrimage. In Uzbekistan she retraces the journey of 19th century Mennonites to Samarkand, where the “white mosque” of the title — a Mennonite church — leads her to unpack her own identity and sense of wanderlust. What begins as a “palimpsestic” journey becomes a stunning mosaic of history, memoir and reportage. (LB)

The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams

By Stacy Schiff

Little Brown: 432 pages, $35

Despite his accomplishments, founding father Samuel Adams is more obscure than his famous cousin John and even his namesake brewery. Schiff helps rectify this in a detailed biography of a patriot of deep moral standing, a newspaper publisher who was not above propaganda and questionable tactics but also a disciplined pragmatist in service of a higher mission. (LB)

NOV. 1

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story

By Bono

Knopf: 576 pages $34

People who equate U2’s frontman with eye-rolling earnestness and narcissism might be surprised by his memoir, which largely dwells on matters of duty, humility and faith. There’s the requisite dish about rock-star habits, triumphs and missteps. (Remember when the band inflicted an album on every iTunes user, unsolicited?) But mostly he relates how he's tried to put his fame and clout to meaningful use. (MA)

Requiem for the Massacre: A Black History on the Conflict, Hope, and Fallout of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

RJ Young

Counterpoint: 336 pages, $27

In recent years the horrors of the destruction of Greenwood, a thriving Black Tulsa neighborhood, have been resurrected by several authors, filmmakers and showrunners. Young’s account not only relies on survivors’ eyewitness testimony but adds the layer of his own upbringing in Oklahoma. Whether discussing his mother’s support for Trump, the traumas of systemic racism or his early career as a sports journalist, Young reclaims the story of Tulsa's aftermath from the outsiders who have dominated recent coverage. (LB)

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.