Boat Rocking, Religious Fasting, and a Deathbed Confession: Fall 2016 Fiction Preview

Boat Rocking, Religious Fasting, and a Deathbed Confession: Fall 2016 Fiction Preview

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas. Fall is here, and that means that big new books from big authors are plentiful. Whether you’re especially jazzed about Zadie Smith’s buzzy new novel, or Jonathan Safran Foer’s return (aptly named Here I Am), this season has something for everyone. From Ha Jin to Michael Chabon to Ann Patchett, there’s a novel for every reader, and we’re here to help you find your match. Read on for a preview of the season’s biggest fiction titles, and prepare to be starstruck.


A whole new world

If you need some exciting reading material and a new doorstop, then we’ve got the perfect solution. Alan Moore’s highly anticipated new novel weighs in at a hefty 1,280 pages, and each one of them packs a wallop. Here, Moore (whose name you’ll likely recognize from V for Vendetta and Watchmen) takes readers to England and the complex social world of Northampton (where Moore himself was born). This expansive work covers generations, with many linked characters and multiple storylines. The scale and form of this unusual work has earned Moore numerous comparisons to James Joyce. Kirkus describes Jerusalem as “Magisterial: an epic that outdoes Danielewski, Vollmann, Stephenson and other worldbuilders in vision and depth.”

On shelves: September 6

Here I Am

Major quake

Here he is. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of much-beloved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything Is Illuminated, is back with a new novel that fans have waited more than a decade for. Sweeping in its scope, it explores themes of Jewish identity while also portraying the intricacies of family dynamics—via the Bloch family—at the same time. A massive earthquake strikes the Middle East, with far-reaching implications for religious groups in the area and the world. What impact will this disaster have on the Blochs’ lives? What will it mean for the world’s Jewish population? Meanwhile, the Blochs are having struggles of their own: parents Julia and Jacob are seriously considering divorce, and worry about how that rift—between people, rather than tectonic plates—will play out. Fans of Safran Foer will not be disappointed.

On shelves: September 6

A Gentleman in Moscow

Room service

Amor Towles, author of the New York Times bestselling debut The Rules of Civility returns with a new novel about life inside one of Moscow’s most glamorous hotels: the Metropol. As readers of Towles already know, his books are hugely impressive time machines. His last novel took readers into the 1930s in New York City, and now, readers will travel to 1920s Moscow. In A Gentleman in Moscow, Count Alexander Rostov isn’t going anywhere. The Bolsheviks have decided to let him live, but in return, he needs to plant himself at the Metropol and stay put. Luckily, the hotel is full of fascinating characters who draw Rostov into their world. As Publishers Weekly puts it, “House arrest has never been so charming.”

On shelves: September 6


We are family

You already know who Ann Patchett is, and if you’ll pardon the joke, we think her new book will leave you in a state of wonder (see what we did there?). In Commonwealth, two families are in turmoil. Two couples divorce, and then one of the husbands marries the other wife. This is where things really start to get complicated from a domestic perspective. How do you blend two families? It’s a nearly impossible question, and Patchett draws on her own experiences in trying to answer it. Multiple points of view combine to form this novel about the relationships we build and the repercussions they can have over decades and generations. Readers fascinated by family dynamics won’t want to miss this.

On shelves: September 13

The Wonder

Hungry girl

Eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell hasn’t eaten in four months. Or that’s the story that Lib Wright is told when she is brought to Anna’s home in central Ireland to observe the girl. Lib, of course, is a skeptic: How could a child fast for four months and live to tell the tale? When Lib meets Anna, however, she finds her surprisingly sympathetic. What is going on? Is Anna actually accomplishing a miraculous fast, or is something else afoot? Is Anna behind the fasting, or is someone else putting pressure on her to do this? And if this is indeed a stunt, will the young girl survive it? This is an engaging and exciting piece of historical fiction set in the 1850s that is sure to please Emma Donoghue’s existing fans, and win her new followers as well.

On shelves: September 20

News of the World

Let me go home

Johanna Leonberger’s childhood in late 19th century Texas can be neatly divided into two phases: before and after. Before, she was living with her biological parents. After, she lives with the Kiowa—the same tribe that killed her family. Eventually, the Kiowa return her, and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is tasked with taking Johanna to her remaining family—an aunt and uncle who live just outside of San Antonio. On their trek, the two form a surprisingly close bond. They have come from different places, and lack even a shared language with which to communicate, but they confront challenges together on the road and, by the time they reach their destination, are quite close. This is an excellent piece of historical fiction, and packs a lot of adventure and heart at the same time.

On shelves: October 4

Today Will Be Different

No time like the present

From the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette this novel takes on the life of Eleanor Flood, who is just holding it together. Eleanor is a wife and mother, and also a famous cartoonist. The stresses of her home and professional life are mounting, and Eleanor begins to spin out of control. We all know the feeling of waking up in the morning and deciding that today will be different—that we’re going to stop making all of the same mistakes, and really live our lives better. This is the underlying premise in this endearing new novel, and readers will identify strongly with Eleanor’s desire to change. Kirkus raves, “This author is on her way to becoming a national treasure.”

On shelves: October 4

A Gambler’s Anatomy

Poker face

We think you’ll enjoy this novel from Jonathan Lethem that Publishers Weekly called “pleasantly bizarre.” Alexander Bruno is a telepathic backgammon hustler. Yes, you read that right. He also has a tumor on his face that needs to be removed. Alexander is traveling the world playing backgammon (as one does), when his health problems worsen in Berlin. He races home to Berkeley, California, a place he never thought he would set foot in again. There, his past threatens to catch up with him, and he has to come to grips with his gambling lifestyle and his telepathy. What’s to become of Alexander Bruno, who faces a major surgery and some serious soul-searching? It’s anyone’s guess.

On shelves: October 18

The Boat Rocker

Extra, extra, read all about it

Ha Jin has won more literary awards than most of us would know what to do with. Now, he’s back with a new novel about a New York-based Chinese journalist named Feng Danlin who has a large, worldwide, Chinese readership. Danlin is known for uncovering the truth no matter where it’s hiding, and has made a successful career that way. When his ex-wife publishes a bestselling novel, Danlin immediately challenges the book in the press, and writes multiple stories undermining her authority. As expected, Danlin’s readers eat this up. But what are the broader ramifications of exposing his ex-wife in this way, and what will it mean for his place in the world, as well as his wife’s, and his former country’s? Jin’s novel will ask these difficult questions, and provide a few laughs along the way.

On shelves: October 25


Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”

Sticks and stones

It pays to be picky about adaptations. Often, there’s nothing like the real thing. But we’re willing to make an exception for this exciting new graphic adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s mega-famous short story “The Lottery.” This story is retold and illustrated by Miles Hyman, who is Jackson’s own grandson. If you don’t remember what this story is about, we don’t want to ruin it for you, but we will say that there’s some serious dystopian strangeness about the lottery that is being conducted in this small town, and Hyman’s pictures bring it to life. This adaptation just may bring a new generation of readers to Jackson’s unnerving work, and we think that’s worth celebrating.

On shelves: October 25

Swing Time

Five six seven eight

You’d be hard-pressed to find a book as highly anticipated as this graceful new novel from Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth and NW. Two girls meet at a dance class in northwest London and become fast friends. Tracey is the better dancer of the two of them, and the other (whose name we never learn) takes a more cerebral view of the experience. Their friendship will evolve over time, and both girls—and subsequently, women—will think deeply about dance, art, and race. Fans of NW in particular are sure to enjoy this book, which we predict will show up on nearly everyone’s best of 2016 lists in a few months.

On shelves: November 15


When I was your age

Pulitzer-winning author Michael Chabon is back with a new novel that, at first, looks like a memoir about the deathbed confessions made by the narrator’s grandfather. Readers will step into the lives of the narrator’s grandparents, and encounter mental illness, violence in the workplace, the Holocaust, and literal rocket science. This book is bursting at the seams with anecdotes and details that give the narrative the warmth and texture of reality, and its personal roots only enhance its resonance. Moonglow blurs the line between autobiography and fiction in interesting ways, and manages to feel more artful than most memoirs and more true than most novels. We think you’ll love it.

On shelves: November 22



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