Last fall, we were raving about their books. This fall, we’ve brought them on board to share the books they’re most excited about. Please welcome novelists Caroline Leavitt, Ruth Ware, Jade Chang, and Jeff Zentner as our guests on Musing today — and find out what books they’re anticipating most for the upcoming season. Who better to recommend a good read than the people who wrote some of your favorites?
Caroline Leavitt mesmerized readers last year with Cruel Beautiful World, the story of a missing 16-year-old girl set against the backdrop of upheaval and uneasiness in 1969 America. For fans of compelling literary fiction, she recommends:
This is Ward’s first novel since Salvage the Bones, which I reread so many times, I can practically recite it. I knew I would love this novel about an African-American boy, his younger sister, and his drug addicted mom, who go on a perilous road trip to meet the kids’ white father as he’s released from prison. This one promises to be a punch to the heart, a sensation I like in my books. (Available Sept. 5. Order yours before Ward’s visit to Nashville on Sept. 12, write “SIGNED” in the notes section at checkout, and we’ll gladly have her sign or personalize a copy for you. Or simply join the First Editions Club — this is the signed book we’re sending out for September!)
McDermott’s A Bigamist’s Daughter and That Night were books I inhaled and inhabited rather than read. They’ve haunted me for years, and I’ve actually taken them apart and studied them to try and figure out how she did such alchemy. Her new one promises to do the same, because it’s about bygone Catholic Brooklyn (I love Brooklyn) and a young Irish immigrant and his pregnant wife. Plus, I met the author at a book festival a few months ago and steeled my nerves to speak with her, and she was so gracious and warm I wanted to bake her pies. The encounter made me love her even more. (Available Sept. 19: pre-order here.)
I knew I wanted to read this novel as soon as I saw the story ingredients (never mind the fabulous title): a female Iraq War veteran and her blind daughter; a widowed, wounded doctor who fled Iraq; and a woman waiting out her brutal husband’s deployment in Afghanistan. They all come together when a hurricane devastates their town. Best of all, there are also WOLVES as pets! Come on — wolves! (Available Oct. 10: pre-order here.)
Ruth Ware (In a Dark, Dark Wood; The Woman in Cabin 10) writes the kind of scary-fun thrillers friends love to pass back and forth. (Case in point: Reese Witherspoon just picked Ware’s The Lying Game as the latest selection for her book club.) What should you be looking forward to if you love a suspenseful read that keeps you guessing? Ware picks:
I adored this book. If it seems unfair that someone can be both an excellent actress and a brilliant writer, prepare to go green with envy, because it’s really good. Protagonist Abby returns to the small town where she grew up, investigating chemical company Optimal Plastics (also the major employer for the area) for potential environmental violations. But as Abby digs into Optimal’s present, she finds herself colliding more and more with her own past. Are Optimal’s chemicals poisoning the town’s lake — or is it something closer to home? (Available Nov. 7: pre-order here.)
Jade Chang delighted readers last year with her debut novel The Wangs vs. The World, a smart, funny tale of a family road-trip, narrated by a multi-generational cast of contemporary characters. She recommends trying something new this fall with these books by rising stars:
Sometimes I forget that I love poetry. And then I’ll pick up a book like Silencer, stumble on some perfect, unexpected set of words that jerk me into a different consciousness — and that love, it wakes right back up. Wicker’s poems have a combination of urgency and beauty that will slam you in the heart. (Available Sept. 5: reserve your copy now.)
The first time I encountered Myriam Gurba was on a podcast, and I was immediately taken by the way she talked about things. It felt completely honest, funny and raw. I haven’t read this memoir yet, but it’s about her coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana in California and I can’t wait. (Available Nov. 14: pre-order now.)
Jeff Zentner followed up his wildly popular debut YA novel The Serpent King with another hit, Goodbye Days. He has a knack for not only making readers feel like they’re right there in the setting, but also getting into the heads of young adults and articulating their emotions in a way that feels utterly true and believable. So you can trust him when he recommends these two YA books:
Consider this Daniel Woodrell for YA readers. It tells a story of people living on the margins, in poverty, in rural Idaho. I don’t compare the writing in many YA novels to Jim Harrison and Ron Rash, but the shoe fits. (Available Sept. 12: pre-order now.)
Dear Martin is a timely and beautifully written exploration of race and justice, as told through the eyes of black teenage boy. It’s a short, urgent, powerful read. (Available Oct. 17: pre-order now.)
And just to bring us back to where we started: Zentner agrees with Leavitt about Sing, Unburied, Sing, saying “It firmly establishes Jesmyn Ward’s place as the best Southern writer. Her writing is so elegant,evocative, gritty, and sparse.”
Need more suggestions for what to read next? Don’t miss Ann Patchett’s round-up of the big books of fall (and their authors’ best backlist titles to read now). And coming up next week on Musing: Our booksellers name the books they’re loving most this month.