Fall 2019 Books Preview
This fall is shaping up to be a loaded few months of major book releases. As usual, publisher’s have their autumn lineups stacked with powerhouse titles: new books from Salman Rushdie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Margaret Atwood will all surely fight for spots on your to-be-read pile, but we’d like to take this time to highlight some of the other exciting books coming to shelves near you. Starting with some hotly-anticipated titles from this month, we’ve curated a selection of books we’re each particularly excited about that are hitting stores between now and November. Happy reading from all of us at Run Spot Run!
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, July 16)
After winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Underground Railroad, master Colson Whitehead returns to dramatize another challenging period of American history in The Nickel Boys. While Railroad infused its historical accuracy with some thrilling fantastical elements, Nickel Boys is firmly historical, based on the history of a Florida reform school that operated for over a century. This Nickel Academy supposedly makes wayward boys into honorable and honest men but instead abuses, tortures and kills its students. Dark and driven, the story shines a light on who we value, who benefits from racial inequity and racial terrorism, and who frames our history.
The Expectations by Alexander Tilney (Little, Brown, July 16)
Even boarding school legacies with insider knowledge and champion siblings can have a hard time living up to expectations, especially the ones they create for themselves. Ben Weeks and his new roommate Ahmed Al-Khaled do their best to prove themselves and follow the unspoken rules of New England blue bloods, yet it might not be enough. The Expectations “is at once a finely drawn portrait of American privilege and a subtle exploration of class, race, and tradition.” I’m excited to read and review a novel that promises to flip the script on a typical YA boarding school story.
Berta Isla by Javier Marías (Knopf, August 6)
Spanish powerhouse novelist Javier Marías has crafted a riveting spy novel in Berta Isla, which follows the titular protagonist as she navigates the uncomfortable changes exhibited by her soulmate, Tomás. While studying in Oxford, he was approached by British Intelligence, and now seems like a new person, mired in secrets and shadows. Marías is a terrific novelist and I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles such a page-turning premise. Early reviews report of plot twists and intrigue more typically seen in action thrillers. Color me intrigued.
Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman (Jimmy Patterson, August 6)
A one-night-stand turns into waking up next to a dead body, a mistaken identity, and Aiden going on the run from the FBI, his family, and a cyber-terrorist group. It soon becomes clear he must deliver the item everyone is after before he gets killed, but how can he when Aiden can’t even trust himself? Swipe Right for Murder looks to be a fast-paced teen murder mystery with modern technology.
Inland by Téa Obreht (Random House, August 13)
Eight years in the making, Inlandis Téa Obreht’s follow-up to her award-winning 2011 debut The Tiger’s Wife. I thoroughly enjoyed the Balkan magical realism of The Tiger’s Wife and am excited to see what Obreht has in store. Inland appears to be a bit of a departure: set in the Arizona Territory of 1893, it tells the story of a frontierswoman awaiting the return of her husband and sons, all of whom have left the homestead. Obreht is an astonishing mythmaker and this is sure to be a major novel this year.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (Pantheon, August 13)
Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa, author of The Housekeeper and The Professor, returns with a surreal and haunting dystopia, The Memory Police. Experimenting with themes of memory, trauma and loss, the fable is set on an unnamed island where things begin to disappear. First small objects and then larger and larger, and most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to the changes. Those who do remember live in fear of the Memory Police, whose mission is to keep the disappeared forgotten. With Ogawa’s talent and such a fascinating premise, The Memory Police could prove to be the next hit among speculative readers who enjoyed Station Eleven or The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Kindness for All Creatures: Buddhist Advice for Compassionate Animal Care by Sarah C. Beasley (Shambhala, August 20)
A must-read book for any spiritual pet-owner, Kindness for All Creatures approaches human relationships with animals from a Buddhist perspective, specifically using the Six Perfections of Buddhism. Steeping in compassion, the book grapples with our moral responsibility to protect and honor the lives of our pets — and also the wider animal world. Sarah Beasley shares practical advice, encourages advocacy, and challenges us to think more profoundly about caring for the creatures, both domestic and wild, with whom we share our world.
Everything Inside: Stories by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf, August 27)
The writing of Everything Inside—poignant, evocative yet sparse—is what you would expect from this internationally recognized author and National Book Award finalist. Everything Inside is set in Miami, Port-au-Prince, and elsewhere and tells the immigrant story of both Haitians and Haitian-Americans. According to Gabrielle Bellot, writing for The Millions, Danticat explains that the characters in Everything Inside can be thought of as the grandchildren of those in Krik? Krak! and others. With this perspective, the weight of Haiti’s past is not as heavy for some of the characters. Danticat continues her narrative of the Haitian diaspora, with stories of reunification, dreaming and survival, and consequence, and does so in a way where both the brutal and everyday are exposed.
We, the Survivors by Tash Aw (FSG, September 3)
Malaysian author of the Booker Prize longlisted novels The Harmony Silk Factory and Five Star Billionaire, Tash Aw is back with We, the Survivors. The novel follows a journalist as she travels to a Malaysian fishing village to cover a murder. The killer, having served time for the crime, attempts to explain the arduous path that led him to the fatal conflict. Aw’s a terrific author, and this seems to be as much of a psychological study as it is a sweeping portrait of class and power systems in an ever-evolving Asia.
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie (Random House, September 3)
The great Salman Rushdie’s take on Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote, Quichotte follows the life the “mediocre” thriller writer Sam DuChamp and his protagonist, a car-salesman named Quichotte. In DuChamp’s story, Quichotte falls in love with a television star and must adventure across America to prove to her his worth. Quichotte channels the satire of Cervantes’ original, and Rushdie’s picaresque lampoons our current sociopolitical climate. Although Rushdie has been hit-or-miss with his last few books, Quichotte sounds like a strange and brilliant experience.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, September 10)
In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell engages our thought processes while demonstrating that first impressions can be fatally wrong. He challenges our assumptions by analyzing the strategies we use to assess strangers. Examples from history and recent news stories personalize and bolster his analysis.
Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh (FSG, September 10)
Amitav Ghosh’s The Ibis Trilogy is one my favorite reads ever: written between 2008 and 2015, Ghosh’s trilogy chronicles the Opium Wars of the first half of the 19th century with the literary prowess of the finest adventure epics. Gun Island is his new (stand-alone) novel about a rare book dealer who finds himself of an adventure around the world and appears to be steeped in Bengali lore. I’m such a huge fan of The Ibis Trilogy (and think everyone should give book one, Sea of Poppies, a try) and have been eagerly awaiting this new novel.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, September 10)
September will see Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, a sequel to the nearly-35 year old classic The Handmaid’s Tale. It promises to explore some of the questions left hanging in the original novel’s ambiguous ending, which begs the question: Are we also going to get Inception 2 forty years after the original, outright telling us whether Leonardo DiCaprio was dreaming the whole time? And how might we feel about this in the first place, entertaining questions perhaps better left mysterious and open to interpretation, since that ambiguity makes a direct contribution to the thematic intent? Atwood hardly seems the sort to indulge in a cash grab, so perhaps recent favorable fan reaction to the Hulu series got her genuinely inspired to revisit that world in a substantive manner. Perhaps the show’s proceeding past the source book’s chronology (the Game of Thrones problem) compelled Atwood to issue her definitive continued iteration of the Handmaid universe, however much the show may stray. Either way, forthcoming reviews will be sure to take a stance on whether its existence is justified.
Coventry: Essays by Rachel Cusk (FSG, September 17)
The collection of essays Coventry showcases the nonfiction writing of Rachel Cusk, author of the highly acclaimed Outline Trilogy. Her writing is divided into memoir, cultural criticism, and literary criticism, with the topics of family life, art, and feminism. Long praised for her brilliance, Cusk’s insights are sure to add to the conversation. Per Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse, “Rachel Cusk sees the truth where the rest of us can only make out shadows. Coventry is Cusk’s theory of forms.”
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World/Penguin Random House, September 24)
The Water Dancer is Coates’ first traditional novel, but it’s not his first foray into fiction. Though he’s best known for his nonfiction, including his towering Between the World and Me and commentary at The Atlantic, Coates has also been diving into fictionalized storytelling as the author of several Black Panther graphic novels. The Water Dancer is the story of an enslaved boy who discovers he has powers he doesn’t quite understand. Early reviews are solid, but the well-regarded public intellectual has a lot to live up to — all of his previous work.
Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith (Knopf, September 24)
Following the National Book Award winning success of Just Kids and her follow-up M Train, veteran writer and rock star Patti Smith chronicles a year outside of New York City in Year of the Monkey. She travels the Western landscape with her inimitable prose, which blends poetic wisdom with unbridled artist passion. The book is also illustrated with her own Polaroids.
Rusty Brown by Chris Ware (Pantheon, September 24)
First appearing in Issue 15 of celebrated cartoonist Chris Ware’s self-published Acme Novelty Library, a young Nebraskan boy named Rusty Brown has popped up in the author’s stories for the past two decades. Now, he’s getting the same hardback treatment as Ware’s series Jimmy Corrigan, the serialized comics-masterwork that catapulted the author to fame in 2000. 350 pages of meticulous artistry and bleakly relatable prose, Rusty Brown is the first part of a new ongoing series. An Eisner Award waiting to happen.
Serotonin: A Novel by Michel Houellebecq (FSG, September 24)
Michel Houellebecq is a notorious figure in French fiction, known for his controversial fearlessness with political and sexual bluntness. The English translation of his next novel “Serotonin” is slated to hit American bookstores this September, the original French version having been released this past January to favorable reviews and best-selling numbers. Reviews out of France praise it as a timely critique of the European Union in the post-Brexit era, and I’m curious to experience what is hopefully an intimate, artful portrayal, ideally providing American readers something closer to true Euro-current experience than international news headlines may be capable of offering.
The Collapse Book One: Time Bomb by Penelope Wright (Self-Published, September 24)
Nuclear war has plunged humanity into a water world, but unlike the famous movie, Rosie Columbia, her family, and the other survivors cling to life at the top of Seattle’s skyscrapers. A secret time traveler, Rosie slips back to present day to steal medical supplies. When her stepmother pushes her down an elevator shaft, she’s forced to flee back to past, just before the collapse. I’m eager to read this unique take on time travel and a dystopian post-apocalyptic world.
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (FSG, October 1)
Award-winning author of Leaving the Atocha Station, 10:04, and the short, wonderful essay The Hatred of Poetry, Ben Lerner is back with The Topeka School, about a midwestern family in the late 1990s. Seeing as 10:04 was a metafictional take on his debut Atocha Station, I’m intrigued to see how Lerner manages an entirely new story. The novel follows high school senior Adam Gordon and his parents who both work at a psychiatric clinic. Despite being set in 1997, Lerner tackles the rise of the “New Right”, toxic masculinity, and the troll culture that’s become so sadly present in today’s society.
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (Simon & Schuster, October 8)
When an award-winning poet like Saeed Jones writes a part-prose, part-poetry book, we expect stunning, arresting lyricism, and it appears he delivers: Roxane Gay called this memoir “a rhapsody in the truest sense of the word.” How We Fight for Our Lives is the story of Jones coming of age as a black, gay man in the South that blends poetry into a narrative of race, sexuality, and power. If this isn’t a voice that’s represented in on your recent-reads list, you’re due for a powerhouse like this one.
Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, October 8)
Known for her incisive and ambitious novels, the first of which she published at age 22 in 1997, Zadie Smith has until now never published a collection of short stories, and so excitement is high to see one of the most respected and popular writers of her generation take on the form in Grand Union. The book includes eleven new, unpublished stories as well as a few favorites previous published in The New Yorker and elsewhere, and is said to jump genres from historical to contemporary to mildly speculative. Her fans cannot wait to see Smith’s experimentation, the results of which are sure to be fresh and relevant, as always.
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, October 15)
In 2009, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize in a surprise victory. It’s an unassuming little work of interlocking stories of a small Maine town, and the Pulitzer win elevated Strout and her novel to a place alongside modern classics like Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. To see an author go back to a discrete, celebrated work and declare it needs a sequel always gives me pause (looking at you, Atwood), but Strout’s a terrific writer and Olive’s a captivating enough crank to warrant another visit. Perhaps there might be more coming, too… I’d love to see an Olive tetralogy dethrone Updike’s Rabbit books.
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy (Bloomsbury, October 15)
Follow Deborah Levy as she pulls the reader into the world of a narcissistic historian whose story of then and now is sandwiched around the fall of the Berlin Wall. Levy treads the high wire between reality and perceived reality, and examines how personal history is affected by world history. We’ve featured a number of Levy’s books on Run Spot Run, including The Cost of Living, Beautiful Mutants and Swallowing Geography, and The Unloved.
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz (Algonquin, October 29)
This debut from a Pushcart Prize recipient is a memoir of her chaotic upbringing in Miami Beach and Puerto Rico. The family is torn apart by her mother’s schizophrenia; what’s more, Díaz gives voice to unspeakable violence she faced as a young girl. And yet, there is hope that her ordinary life can become extraordinarily beautiful. “Sometimes the repressed, oppressed girl, against all odds, goes back to get her own body and voice,” blurbed The Book of Joan author Lidia Yuknavitch for the cover of Ordinary Girls. “This book will save lives.” The publisher promises a triumphant tale along the lines of Tara Westover’s Educated. If the hype is real, sign me up.
When Wishes Bleed by Casey L. Bond (self-published, coming soon)
When a prince stumbles into a young witch’s houses and demands his fortune be read, she hands him and wishbone. When he snaps it, it bleeds. She knew his death was imminent and would not be natural. Knowing the witch could save his life, Prince Tauren summons her to join twelve other women in the competition to become his wife. Going would mean giving up her goal to resurrect the House of Fate, but staying would mean the blood of his wish would be on her hands. I can’t wait to read and review a story featuring “One Prince. One Witch. One Fate.”
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf, November 5)
Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir is wildly original, genre-dismantling, and bold, but do you even need to read this sentence if you’ve experienced Her Body and Other Parties? In the Dream House is an account of Machado’s experience in a queer relationship where she was eventually abused and her struggles with how this abuse later impacted her. This memoir is so important because of the absence of writing about domestic abuse in queer relationships. Machado propels her account toward the extraordinary: each chapter examines events of this relationship with a different trope, such as the haunted house and the bildungsroman. Finally, Roxane Gay gives praise: “Machado has already dazzled us with her brilliant fiction writing and she exceeds all expectations as she breaks new ground in what memoir can do.”
The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (Hachette, November 5)
The fiery and fired-up author of Shrill follows up her popular body-positive memoir with what promises to be a biting take on misogyny in Trump’s America. An early review at Esquire calls it a “funny, hyper-literate analysis of the link between meme culture and male mediocrity.” Sounds like fans of Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, and anyone who wants to smash the patriarchy, will want to devour this one.
Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung by Nina MacLaughlin (FSG, November 19)
As a classics major in college, I took a class entitled “Dangerous Women” that zeroed in on how women — seductresses, schemers, murderesses, with only a few “wholesome” exceptions — are portrayed in classical literature. Fast forward to this decade: a groundbreaking translation of The Odyssey by a woman, Emily Wilson, has made waves, and Madeline Miller’s Circe (among others) tells a classical myth, finally, from the woman’s perspective. Get ready for another classic oeuvre, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, told by an author who flips the narrative of rape-prone gods and seductive sisters to look at the story from a woman’s point of view in Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung.