The 30 books we're most anticipating this fall

Last fall, readers were a little less fixated on which books they most anticipated (they were certainly reading plenty of them) than with more pressing concerns: When would they be able to visit a bookstore without waiting an hour in line? Where could they look to make sense of a state of permanent emergency? Which books were actually going to be published, rather than postponed for lack of promotional events or paper or interest in subjects other than Trump?

This year, Delta variant very much withstanding, looks like a return not just to normalcy but to blockbuster fiction, as well as more varied and nuanced nonfiction. The 30 books that follow — from big guns like Richard Powers, Lauren Groff, Jonathan Franzen and Sally Rooney and some brilliant up-and-comers too — represent a mere sampling of the bounty. Check them out at a local bookstore; just bring your mask and proof of vaccination.




By Lauren Groff

Riverhead: 272 pages, $28

Groff, a premier stylist (“Fates and Furies”), continues to grow, taking on a medieval foremother’s story in her latest novel. The voice she finds for Marie de France (whose lais, or love songs, are still with us) will hold readers fast as the exiled Angevin royal becomes abbess of a convent, leading her charges through historic upheavals. (BP)

Beautiful World, Where Are You

By Sally Rooney

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 368 pages, $28

Rooney remains the reigning queen of flat-affect millennial fiction. In her third novel, a successful young novelist and an aspiring writer are sorting out their careers and choices in men; Rooney has a knack for making their ambivalence energizing. Her riffs on capitalism, religion, fiction and death (“apocalypse in the first person”) are consistently biting. (MA)

When We Cease to Understand the World

By Benjamin Labatut, trans. by Adrian Nathan West

New York Review of Books: 192 pages, $19

Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize and Barack Obama’s summer reading list, Labatut’s book rattles the prevailing narrative of heroic scientific innovators. Its fictionalized case studies expose the inner torments of Erwin Schrödinger, hobbled by illness and romantic obsession, and mathematician Alexander Grothendieck. (MA)

SEPT. 14


By Joy Williams

Knopf: 224 pages, $26

The author’s first novel since 2011 lands a hapless teenager, Khristen, amid elderly eco-warriors living by a post-apocalyptic lake they call “Big Girl.” Along with 10-year-old Jeffrey, Khristen tries to figure out how best to take part in corporate sedition without losing all hope. (BP)


By Natasha Brown

Little, Brown: 112 pages, $23

A debut novel as slender and deadly as an adder, “Assembly” follows a young Black British woman preparing to attend a party at her boyfriend’s family estate. Realizing everything she has or does is tied to her race, the narrator makes decisions that will have deep repercussions. (BP)

SEPT. 21


By Richard Powers

Norton: 288 pages, $28

Following 2019’s hefty, many-tendriled, Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Overstory,” Powers’ new novel is more intimate, following a biologist mourning his wife while raising a violence-prone son with special needs. But Powers’ long-standing themes endure: neglect of the earth, technology’s consequences and the mysterious connections between humanism and science. (MA)

The Book of Form and Emptiness

By Ruth Ozeki

Viking: 560 pages, $30

Ozeki’s first novel since 2013’s “A Tale for the Time Being” (winner of a Times Book Prize) follows a 14-year-old boy grieving for his dead father who starts hearing voices from inanimate objects and advice from some odd mentors. "This is the rare work that will entertain teenagers, literary fiction readers, and academics alike," said Publishers Weekly. (MG)

SEPT. 28

The Morning Star

By Karl Ove Knausgaard, trans. by Martin Aitken

Penguin Press: 688 pages, $30

In his first major work of fiction since “My Struggle,” Knausgaard abandons autofiction: His new novel’s otherworldly premise (an inexplicable new light appears in the sky) introduces resurrections, a beheaded cat and murdered death-metal musicians. He’s still prone to overkill — 50-page meditation on myth and mortality, anyone? — but still uncannily engrossing. (MA)

Cloud Cuckoo Land

By Anthony Doerr

Scribner: 656 pages, $30

Anyone who read “All the Light We Cannot See,” Doerr’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winner, has been waiting long enough for this. It’s as extreme a departure as they come, yet so original you won’t care. From 15th-century Constantinople to present-day Iowa to a near-future starship, Doerr considers stewardship in many forms. (BP)

OCT. 5

Fight Night

By Miriam Toews

Bloomsbury: 272 pages, $24

The narrator of Toews’ eighth novel is a 9-year-old girl suspended from school for fighting. Dad’s gone, mom’s pregnant and grandma’s high spirits belie serious problems. Through non sequiturs and ironic observations (“don’t worry, everything is ridiculous!”), Toews steadily captures their weakening grip on reality, welding trauma to dark comedy. (MA)


By Jonathan Franzen

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 592 pages, $30

The much-read, much-debated novelist begins his new trilogy in 1971, as the Hildebrandt family commences its flameout in a Chicago suburb, the match lit in a church youth group called Crossroads. No contemporary novelist does fractured families like Franzen. (MG)

The Lincoln Highway

By Amor Towles

Viking: 592 pages, $30

The master storyteller (“Rules of Civility,” “A Gentleman in Moscow”) returns to America for his third novel, a tale of two brothers from 1950s Nebraska who flee their hometown, light out for San Francisco and stir up storms of trouble. “A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom,” said Kirkus in a starred review. (MG)

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness

By Claire Vaye Watkins

Riverhead: 304 pages, $27

Watkins’ debut novel, 2015’s “Gold Fame Citrus,” was a post-apocalyptic tale set in a parched future America. Her follow-up suggests there’s no time like the present for catastrophe. Returning to her native West, the narrator confronts postpartum depression, addiction, the Manson family and more, in ways both world-weary and archly funny. (MA)

OCT. 19

Oh, William!

By Elizabeth Strout

Random House: 256 pages, $27

Strout, a masterful anatomist of wandering souls, closes her Amgash Series (following “My Name Is Lucy Barton” and “Anything Is Possible”). In the finale, Lucy Barton accepts her ex-husband’s invitation to uncover a family secret. And in true Strout style, the book is actually about the secrets of the heart. (BP)


By Domenico Starnone, trans. by Jhumpa Lahiri

Europa: 144 pages, $17

The Italian author’s new novel asks what happens when you tell your deepest love your deepest secret. The answer, not surprisingly, is complicated and messy, but as Pietro and Teresa find out, it can also be life-changing. Lahiri, in her first Italian-to-English translation, conveys the themes of loss perfectly. (BP)

NOV. 2

The Island of Missing Trees

By Elif Shafak

Bloomsbury: 368 pages, $27

The British-Turkish writer, always adept at commingling the values of East and West, returns with a romance of war-ravaged Cyprus, in which young lovers (one Greek, one Turkish) meet in a garden. Years later, a fig tree from that bower flourishes in London, where a woman named Ada attempts to reconstruct her family’s difficult history before it’s too late. (BP)



On Freedom

By Maggie Nelson

Graywolf: 288 pages, $27

In her new collection, the acclaimed essayist and cultural critic takes up our 24/7 attention cycle, the complexities of the #MeToo movement and other topics, examining the ways our newfound “freedoms” create their own burdens, opportunities and expectations. (MG)

SEPT. 21

The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction 1948-1985

By James Baldwin

Beacon: 712 pages, $25

Baldwin’s appearance on antiracist reading lists in 2020 set the table for this reissue, which collects prescient essays like “The Fire Next Time.” But the book’s breadth also reveals Baldwin as a writer in full — journalist, critic, polemicist and personal essayist who shaped (and was shaped by) the civil rights movement. (MA)

OCT. 12

Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief 

By Victoria Chang

Milkweed: 136 pages, $25

“Obit,” the poet’s collection of invented obituaries, was published to great acclaim last year. “Dear Memory” continues the line of grief and questioning as it pertains to her known and unknowable family history, filled with photos, documents and letters — a collage of fragments constituting a moving portrait of the poet herself. (JF)

The Least of Us

By Sam Quinones

Bloomsbury: 432 pages, $28

Quinones, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, continues the story he began in 2015’s “Dreamland,” which exposed the meth epidemic and its enablers and won a National Book Critics Circle prize. Here, he chronicles how meth-ravaged communities have broken the cycle of drug abuse, violence and despair. (MG)

One Friday in April 

By Donald Antrim

Norton: 144 pages, $25

One April Friday, Antrim paces the roof of his apartment building, climbs down the ladder, hangs on by his hands, and thinks about letting go. In the hospital, amid ECT treatments, drug therapy and a phone call from David Foster Wallace, Antrim agonizes over what brought him so close to death in this painstaking account of his illness. (JF)

Oscar Wilde: A Life

By Matthew Sturgis

Knopf: 864 pages, $30

This expansive new biography, building on newly unearthed material, tells the improbable story of the gifted Irishman who leveraged his prodigious intellect and lightning wit to become the foremost celebrity of his day, until his affair with a feckless son of a British aristocrat brought it all crashing down. (MG)

OCT. 26

The Shattering: America in the 1960s

By Kevin Boyle

Norton: 480 pages, $32

Boyle, winner of the 2004 National Book Award for “Arc of Justice,” vividly resurrects the trauma of the ‘60s, focusing on the crusade to demolish the Jim Crow system, end the war in Vietnam and protect individual privacy (birth control, Roe v. Wade). (MG)

Burning Boy

By Paul Auster

Holt: 800 pages, $35

A biography of Stephen Crane seems odd for Auster, whose nonfiction is typically more personal. But he plainly found a kindred spirit in the author of “The Red Badge of Courage” as a New Yorker, baseball fan and writer. Through inspired close readings, Auster positions Crane as a proto-Modernist and “America’s answer to Keats and Shelley.” (MA)

NOV. 2

These Precious Days

By Ann Patchett

Harper: 336 pages, $27

The acclaimed novelist meditates on “what I needed, whom I loved, what I could let go,” in essays on shedding lifelong possessions, nursing a friend with cancer and the wisdom of Snoopy. Patchett has a gift for grasping what really matters. (MG)

NOV. 9


By Lucille Clifton

New York Review of Books: 104 pages, $15

The poet’s 1976 memoir, reissued with an introduction by Tracy K. Smith, is a song of self. All the defiant joy of her verse is present in this family history, beginning with the ancestor who walked cross-country only to be sold into slavery at age 8. For those whose histories were stolen through violence, this is a proclamation of power and resistance. (JF)

NOV. 16

A Splendid Intelligence: The Life of Elizabeth Hardwick

By Cathy Curtis

Norton: 400 pages, $35

One of the fiercest literary critics of her age and a brilliant novelist, Hardwick had her suffering exposed in ex-husband Robert Lowell’s “The Dolphin Letters.” She has always had her own say, but now there is a definitive biography to bring her to new readers and to fill in the gaps for hardcore fans. (JF)

Women in the Picture

By Catherine McCormack

Norton: 256 pages, $23

The curator and art historian explores the representation of women in art as sex objects, mothers, maidens, dead damsels and monsters, illuminating the enormous obstacles women faced in seeing themselves after thousands of years of misogyny before finally, thrillingly, taking up the paintbrush to tell their own stories. (JF)

DEC. 7

Mothers, Fathers, and Others

By Siri Hustvedt

Simon & Schuster: 320 pages, $26

“We think back through our mothers if we are women,” Virginia Woolf wrote in “A Room of One’s Own.” In this new essay collection, Hustvedt, the incisive novelist and critic, thinks back through her own family to deconstruct the maternal through the work of “artistic mothers” including Jane Austen, Emily Brontë and Louise Bourgeois. (JF)

Sea State

By Tabitha Lasley

Ecco: 176 pages, $28

Journalist Lasley leaves her life behind to pursue a book about North Sea oil rigs and their entrenched cultures of masculinity. But in the course of her work, her desire drives her to an unexpected, potentially dangerous place in this brutally honest account of need and loss. (BP)

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.