Fall 2019’s Must-Read Novels

Fall 2019’s Must-Read Novels

must-read novels

Ah, fall! It’s the time of year that so many of us associate with buying crisp new notebooks, packets of pens, and most importantly, lots of new books. Even if you’re not headed back to school this season, there’s no reason you can’t celebrate the arrival of fall with some new reading material. This season brings with it an impressive bunch of must-read novels from beloved authors including Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Jacqueline Woodson, and Ann Patchett. There’s a novel here for every reader, no homework required!

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Lara Prescott’s debut novel is an engrossing work of historical fiction based on the true story of Doctor Zhivago’s publication. During the Cold War, author Boris Pasternak’s political leanings put him at odds with the USSR, and as a result the now-famous book could not be published there. In The Secrets We Kept, Prescott introduces readers to two CIA secretaries who became spies to help get the manuscript out of the Soviet Union so that the rest of the world could read it. Readers will be riveted by Sally and Irina’s ingenuity in facilitating the publication of what is now a globally recognized love story. If you enjoy historical fiction and intrigue and believe that great stories conquer all, look no further for your next great read.

On shelves: September 3

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine

Laurel and Daphne Wolfe are identical twins, and their bond is unique from the very start. As young children they speak a language whose rules and vocabulary are known only to the two of them, and as they get older, they become absolute masters of the English language, too. They navigate their shifting relationship as sisters through marriages, professional triumphs, and deaths. They also feud over the fate of one of their most treasured items from their childhoods: their beloved dictionary. If you love wordplay and reading about sisters, The Grammarians will delight you. For more about The Grammarians, check out Bookish’s interview with Cathleen Schine here.

On shelves: September 3

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

In Quichotte, Salman Rushdie draws inspiration from Miguel de Cervantes’ enduring classic Don Quixote and puts his own spin on it. Sam DuChamp hasn’t had a ton of success in his writing career, but that doesn’t keep him from trying. He’s penning a story about a salesman named Quichotte who is absolutely head-over-heels for a famous television actress. Quichotte hops in his car and begins a journey to win her over, accompanied by his son (who isn’t real). If all of this sounds like an over-the-top, thought-provoking, slightly off-the-wall satirical romp, then you’ve got the gist. Rushdie’s latest is a lot of fun.

On shelves: September 3

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

This exciting new novel from Carolina De Robertis chronicles the lives of five women living in Uruguay under the civic-military dictatorship that would last from 1963 until 1985. The women refer to themselves as cantoras, which means “singing women,” and all five of them identify as queer during a time when Uruguay was not tolerant of the LGBTQ community. The five women establish a meeting place on a remote part of the coast where they can be their true selves, and they return to their spot repeatedly over the course of several decades. This sweeping story charts their lives, relationships, and country over that time.

On shelves: September 3

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments is easily 2019’s most highly anticipated novel, and here at Bookish, we’ve been waiting for Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale with bated breath. This story is set 15 years after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, and it has already been shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize. If you haven’t read the first book, this is a great time to catch up–you can even check out the television adaptation streaming on Hulu. We can’t wait to see how Atwood expands on themes of gender, society, and power. We know this wait is killing you (us, too!) but The Testaments is coming soon!

On shelves: September 10

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson is back, this time with a novel about what happens when two families with little in common are united by a baby. When the story begins, the year is 2001 and 16-year-old Melody’s grandparents are throwing her a party to celebrate that she is becoming an adult. Her family is gathered there with her, setting the stage for Woodson to delve into Melody’s mother’s personal history, her father’s experiences, and the unplanned pregnancy that changed everything. Woodson’s characters leap off of the page, giving readers a vivid look at an extended family in all of its wonder and complexity. 

On shelves: September 17

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Readers, you may be familiar with Ta-Nehisi Coates for his nonfiction. The Water Dancer is his first novel, and we’re predicting it will be one of the buzziest new releases this season. Hiram Walker was born into slavery in the American South, and his life took another devastating turn when a different slaveowner purchased his mother, separating the two of them. When he is older, Hiram plans to run away and join the Underground Railroad to fight the brutal system that he grew up under. This book is threaded with magical realism and evocative prose. The Water Dancer is an especially good pick for readers who loved Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad

On shelves: September 24

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

In Ann Patchett’s new novel, readers are ushered inside the titular Dutch House, a large and fancy home on the fringe of Philadelphia that was purchased by the newly wealthy Conroy family after World War II. Patchett’s novel tells the story of Cyril Conroy, who bought Dutch House, as well as his children, Maeve and Danny. When Cyril remarries, Maeve and Danny find themselves at odds with their new stepmother, and they’re compelled to leave their family home. Suddenly, they must fend for themselves and cannot rely on their family’s wealth to ensure their comfort and safety. This novel stretches across half a century and follows Maeve and Danny as they adapt to their new lives, grapple with the losses in their past, and move into their future. In short: Ann Patchett strikes again.

On shelves: September 24

A Tall History of Sugar by Curdella Forbes

Curdella Forbes’ fifth novel is one of the season’s most talked-about new releases. In it, readers will meet Moshe Fisher, a boy who is born with a skin condition in colonial Jamaica. Moshe’s skin did not form completely prior to his birth, meaning that he looks different from his peers and that it’s possible to see through his skin in places. He was abandoned as a child, but rescued by a kind woman named Rachel. This book picks up when Moshe is young in the 1950s and tracks his life up until the present. For readers interested in the history of Jamaica, the impact of colonialism, and the enduring power of relationships, this is a perfect book to pick up this fall. 

On shelves: October 1

Grand Union by Zadie Smith

She’s back! Celebrated writer Zadie Smith returns this fall with a collection of short stories that will thrill her fans and new readers alike. This collection contains stories from a variety of publications including The New Yorker and The Paris Review, and also features several new stories that have not been published elsewhere. Grand Union has already won starred rave reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and is certainly the most anticipated short story collection of the season. For readers who are curious about Smith’s work but haven’t had the time to dive all the way into a novel, this is an excellent way to get a feel for her fiction.

On shelves: October 8

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Have you been missing Olive Kitteridge and daydreaming about what she’s been up to since featuring in Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut? Reader, it’s your lucky season: Strout is back with the second installment in her Olive Kitteridge series, and you won’t want to miss it. This novel is set in Crosby, Maine and follows the lives of the townspeople there. In a starred review, Kirkus called this book: “Beautifully written and alive with compassion, at times almost unbearably poignant. A thrilling book in every way.” What are you waiting for?

On shelves: October 15

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

You likely know Erin Morgenstern as the author of The Night Circus. Morgenstern returns this fall with a new novel that opens on a Vermont college campus when a graduate student named Zachary makes an unexpected discovery. It’s a book, but it’s not like any book he’s ever seen before. It’s full of instructions which lead Zachary to places he never imagined he would go, including an underground library with many secrets of its own. It also contains information about Zachary’s past, which seems impossible and only heightens Zachary’s obsession with the book. Readers who love fiction with fantastical elements, vivid descriptions, and undeniable emotional power won’t want to miss out on The Starless Sea

On shelves: November 5

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