24 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Fall
Cozy up with these titles once sweater weather hits.
Fall is a time of colorful leaves, sweater weather, PSLs, and lugging piles of books around like you're a character on Gilmore Girls. Cozy season is nearly upon us, and what better time to check out all the upcoming lists of new releases to fill out your seasonally appropriate tote bags? All those lists can get a little overwhelming, so we've curated a collection of the books we're most excited for this fall, from climate change science fiction to sprawling intergenerational novels to poetry collections and everything in between. Strike a match, light that Anthropologie candle you've been saving for just this moment, and check out our literary picks for the next few months.
Miss summer already? Take a look at our 2021 Beach Reads. And while we're at it, here's what your friendly Thrillist librarians loved this year on our list of the Best Books of 2021 (So Far).
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
For his follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Nickel Boys, which was the follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Underground Railroad, creatively nimble writer Colson Whitehead takes on yet another new genre: the crime novel in the mode of writers like Donald Westlake and Chester Himes. Set in early '60s New York, Harlem Shuffle follows Ray Carney, a furniture salesman who also serves as a fence for thieves looking to unload stolen goods. Whitehead provided a thoughtful spin on the zombie novel with 2011's Zone One, so expect him to treat the crime genre with similar care and wit.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr, a Pulitzer Prize-winner for 2014's WWII novel All the Light We Cannot See, returns with a big-ass book that takes a few cues from another sprawling novel with "Cloud" right there in the title. (That'd be David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, folks.) Veering into fantasy territory, Cloud Cuckoo Land travels from Constantinople to check in a bookish 13-year-old girl, present-day Idaho, and an interstellar ship, all bound by an ancient Greek myth of a man who wishes to turn into a bird to fly away to a utopian paradise in the sky.
A Calling for Charlie Barnes by Joshua Ferris
In his 2007 debut Then We Came to the End, writer Joshua Ferris took you in the collective hive mind of a group of disgruntled, frustrated office drones at an ad agency. For his latest, the National Book Award finalist tells the story of Charlie Barnes, described as a "lifelong schemer and eternal romantic" who has pursued a number of failed business ventures throughout his long life. Few people write about work with the same level of wit and poignancy as Ferris, so this should be a good one.
Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka
Nobel Prize of Literature winner Wole Soyinka, the first Black man to be awarded the title in 1986, adds to his luminous canon of work for the first time since 1973 with this novel, set in an imagined version of Nigeria, where a man is stealing body parts from a surgeon specializing in amputations and selling them off for rituals. But that opens up the story to the bigger picture, one of war-torn violence, political greed, and clawing for survival.
Stones: Poems by Kevin Young
In this collection from the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Kevin Young brings his childhood memories of growing up with family in the South to lyrical life, sowing verses that explore intergenerational relationships, specific people from his past, and the too-temporary atmosphere of a long Louisiana summer night.
The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Need a new fantasy series to dig into? Well, you should already be acquainted with A Deadly Education, the first in Naomi Novik's Scholomance trilogy, about a talented sorceress attending a magic school where the students are under constant threat of attack. Now, you can follow the continuing adventures of El and Orion in The Last Graduate.
What Storm What Thunder by Myriam J. A. Chancy
Based on her years of research, Myriam J. A. Chancy's novel is a fictional account of the 2010 earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and left a trail of devastation in its wake. The book weaves together the lives of everyday citizens—a wealthy expat, his architect daughter, a lovesick drug trafficker, a couple who believe they're being followed by a vodou spirit of the dead—to paint a portrait of the city affected by one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory.
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen—one of the most praised authors of his generation, who also happens to be one of the most controversial—is back with another sprawling familial novel. His latest follows the Hildebrandt family in 1971 Chicago as they grapple with fracturing relationships and changing times.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Novelist Amor Towles (author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility) is back this fall with a tale of a young man who returns to his family's failing farm after serving 15 months in a workhouse for involuntary manslaughter in 1954. When he discovers that two other boys from the workhouse have stowed away in the warden's car, the three hatch a plan to travel across the country all the way to New York City on a fateful journey told from multiple points of view.
I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins
First of all: What a title! The latest from Claire Vaye Watkins, the author of 2015's California dystopian novel Gold Fame Citrus, sounds like a trip into tricky psychological terrain, tracking the adventures of a writer (also named Claire Vaye Watkins) who leaves her husband and baby daughter behind to grapple with her past deep in the Mojave Desert. If the evocative name of the book doesn't grab you, Vaye Watkins' stylish prose likely will.
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
In Jocelyn Nicole Johnson's debut collection of novellas and short stories, she imagines a near-future where a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings hides out with her friends inside Jefferson's historic Monticello home as white supremacists ransack their city; a professor clinically observes his own child to study the development of racism; a young mixed-race woman who changes her name and her language in order to escape rural Virginia, all conspiring to paint a narrative of American past, present, and possible futures.
Reprieve by James Han Mattson
In late '90s Nebraska, a murder takes place in a full-contact haunted house before the victim can shout the safe word, "reprieve." After the grisly homicide, James Han Mattson's novel retraces the incident from each perspective of the group that went through the haunted house, piecing together a horror story that touches on many of the nasty sociopolitical and racial thoughts that infect this country.
Silverview by John Le Carré
John Le Carré, the master of spy fiction, died in December of last year at the age of 89, but he was working right up until the end of his life and left behind one last completed novel. Is espionage involved? Of course! The book tells the tale of a man who retires to run a small bookshop in an English seaside town, but, what do you know, a mysterious figure from Poland shows up and disrupts everything.
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout returns to one of her familiar characters, the writer Lucy Barton, in Oh William!, which follows Lucy as she accompanies her husband William to unravel one of his family's secrets. Lucy has appeared in My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible, and we expect this to be another stunning work of fiction about her life.
Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon by Mark McGurl
In the last couple decades, Amazon fundamentally transformed the business of bookselling, changing how customers buy their favorite titles and disrupting supply chains around the world. But how has the company also impacted writing on an aesthetic level? That's one of the questions driving this study of modern literature from critic and professor Mark McGurl, who, according to the jacket copy, promises to look at high-brow literature and "Adult Baby Diaper Lover erotica."
The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu
If you're like, "Wait, don't I know this?" your tingly sci-fi senses are correct—in 2019, Netflix produced a film based on this short-story collection from politically controversial Chinese author Cixin Liu (whose most famous work, The Three Body Problem, is also being developed at the streaming service). Now, The Wandering Earth is coming to the US so English readers can get their hands on the source material for the big plan to leave behind the Earth for a new planet as the Sun is about to supernova.
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
The Turkish and Greek conflict over Cyprus in the mid-'70s is one we'd venture that most Americans have little to no idea about. British-Turkish writer Elif Shafak makes that the background of her decades-long forbidden love story of two teens from different sides in the country who rendezvous at a neutral tavern with a fig tree growing in the center of it, eventually uprooting to London though haunted by their generational trauma and sense of displacement.
1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir by Ai Weiwei
As is common for the prolific and provocative Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, his memoir isn't a traditional retelling of his life and journey to becoming a big thorn in the government's side. Instead, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows covers a hundred years of China's history and the artist's place within it, from his childhood in exile during the Cultural Revolution, to his time in America with buddies Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg, to his prolific rise and process as an artist who refuses to be muzzled.
Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer by Rax King
Smart writing about dumb subjects is one of the best genres, and columnist Rax King takes this incisive approach to dig into topics like bad reality TV, like Jersey Shore and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and the buttrock band Creed, connecting with our lowest common denominator of culture through a personal lens.
Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King
If you loved her previous novels Writers & Lovers and Euphoria, you'll want to check out Lily King's shorter works, published together in this new collection of her short fiction with something for everyone: a bookseller with a crush on his employee, a teen who befriends a group of housesitting college students, a grandfather watching over his grandchild in a hospital room.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
How does a haunted independent bookstore sound? Well, that's the basic premise of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louise Erdrich's latest, which is set in a Minneapolis haunt that is literally haunted by a dead customer. It's up to a new employee, recently freed from incarceration, to find out what's going on.
My Body by Emily Ratajkowski
Model, influencer, writer, actress, and provocateur Emily Ratajkowski's first book is a collection of essays that tackle feminism, body image, and commodification of women. Frankly, if they are anything like her striking essay about buying photographs of herself back from people who exploit them, we're all in.
Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson
One of the founders of modern science fiction returns with a novel of a near future wrecked by climate change, where superstorms, rising sea levels, and endless pandemics spell doom for mankind. But one plucky billionaire may have hit on a master plan for saving the world, one so crazy it just might work, and he sets out on a globetrotting adventure set on the inhospitable planet ours is on the verge of becoming.
Call Us What We Carry: Poems by Amanda Gorman
Poet Amanda Gorman took the nation by storm when she read her work at Joe Biden's inauguration, and her new collection of poetry—including her inauguration poem "The Hill We Climb"—further proves Gorman's astounding and fervent voice in American literature.