Fall is arriving, and with it, a new crop of must-read books. Plenty of the season’s highly-anticipated titles are coming out in September. So if you’re done with your beach reads (or even if you haven’t finished your summer reading list), make room on your shelf. Here are 14 top picks, from a buzzy magical realism debut to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s headline-making investigation into President Donald Trump’s White House.
How Do We Look, Mary Beard (9/1)
Mary Beard, acclaimed author of SPQR and Women & Power, challenges dominant narratives of the past. She showcases that talent in her latest book while tracing the history of art and how it relates to culture, religion and how we perceive ourselves. Beard expands her thinking beyond the Western canon, highlighting works of ancient Mesoamerican art, the terra-cotta warriors of China’s first emperor and calligraphy in Islamic mosques. But don’t let the breadth of the subject intimidate you: Beard’s sharp argument and the accompanying illustrations fit within a manageable 240 pages.
Small Fry: A Memoir, Lisa Brennan-Jobs (9/4)
The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has inspired countless explorations of his life since his death, including biographies, biopics, podcasts, graphic novels and even operas. Never before, however, has there been such a complex portrait of Jobs as a parent. Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ memoir made news this month for illuminating the contradictory, and at times unsavory, ways that Jobs acted as a father. Her writing has been acclaimed for its detail and ability to present Jobs sympathetically, even if his abrasive behavior makes that seem unlikely.
Fashion Climbing, Bill Cunningham (9/4)
Bill Cunningham, the legendary and beloved New York Times fashion photographer, didn’t reveal he had written this memoir before he died in 2016; his family later discovered the neatly-typed manuscript in his apartment above Carnegie Hall. Now, fans of his street photography can learn Cunningham’s whole story: from having to hide his love for clothes from his family when he was young, to dropping out of college and moving to New York City, to designing acclaimed hats under an alias. Cunningham conjures the world of New York glamour, fashion and journalism in a candid narrative. Fashion Climbing is a rare snapshot of the mind of someone who was always more comfortable observing others than being the center of attention.
On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope, DeRay Mckesson (9/4)
DeRay Mckesson emerged at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014, when he used social media to share dispatches from the Ferguson protests against police violence with the world. Now, the prominent activist and host of the podcast Pod Save the People is sharing the manifesto he has developed on combating social injustices and harnessing new strategies for change, all largely helped by technology. Within his examination of race and politics in America, Mckesson also embeds own experiences from the heart of the BLM movement.
Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart (9/4)
It’s near-impossible to feel sorry for Barry, the central character in Gary Shteyngart’s searing fourth novel. Facing an indictment for insider trading, the 40-something hedge fund manager leaves his wife and 3-year-old son in Manhattan to take an idealistic Greyhound trip across America. As the novel pivots between scenes from Barry’s trip to the story of how his wife, Seema, is raising a child with special needs, Shteyngart also manages to tell a story of parenthood and compassion while skewering the force of white male privilege. The novel’s time period — 2016, on the cusp of the Trump era — makes the satire all the more relevant.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, Imogen Hermes Gowar (9/11)
This novel starts when Jonah Hancock unwillingly becomes the owner of a “brown and wizened” mermaid that seems worthless — until it vaults him into high society, where he meets the beautiful companion for wealthy clients Angelica Neal. The two are married, despite her debts, and the story spirals as a historical fantasy rollick through London’s worlds of brothels, burlesque, opulence and seedy underbelly.
She Would Be King, Wayetu Moore (9/11)
Wayetu Moore’s debut novel mythologizing the birth of Liberia sweeps across the African diaspora, from a small West African village, to Jamaica, to Virginia. The narrative jumps between separate characters from three different backgrounds who each have a special power — immense strength, disappearance at will, and the ability to return from death — until they are pulled together in the settlement of Monrovia. Even the character of the wind contributes as one of the narrators. “If she was not a woman,” it explains of one heroine, who survived being left for dead outside her village, “She would be king.”
Fear: Trump in the White House, Bob Woodward (9/11)
Bob Woodward’s deep dive into President Donald Trump’s White House has already captured the attention of political readers. The legendary journalist, who began his career with a story about the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation, has conducted “hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources” and pored over tons of original material like meeting notes and personal diaries, according to publisher Simon & Schuster. Fear — reportedly named for the time that Trump explained what “power” meant to him — presents a comprehensive portrait of Trump’s presidency and how his administration has made decisions. And since the publisher characterizes those findings as “harrowing,” the title may be doubly appropriate.
In Pieces: A Memoir, Sally Field (9/18)
After debuting on TV as Gidget at age 17, Sally Field never left the public eye. In a career that spans five decades, she’s since earned two Best Actress Oscars and racked up praise for roles in movies like Sybil, Norma Rae, Forrest Gump and Lincoln. Her memoir goes behind the scenes of those stories, including her complicated relationship with her mother and close relationships with people like her ex-boyfriend Burt Reynolds. The book took her more than five years to write, but as she told People: “I knew I had a story to tell and I knew I had to tell it.”
Lethal White, Robert Galbraith (9/18)
Robert Galbraith — a.k.a. J.K. Rowling — is releasing the fourth title in the Cormoran Strike series. Private Investigator Strike and his partner Robin Ellacot are approached by a disturbed young man who reports seeing a violent crime as a child, and the pair sets off through London and the English countryside to uncover the truth. And while the professional partnership remains constant, publisher Little, Brown & Co. teases that the drama of Strike and Ellacott’s personal relationship is building.
Sea Prayer, Khaled Hosseini (9/18)
Khaled Hosseini’s first three books, including the bestselling The Kite Runner, were all set in Afghanistan. But the writer consciously set his latest book in Homs, Syria — marking the three year anniversary of the death of 3-year-old refugee Alan Kurdi, whose body washed ashore after he tried to cross the sea to Greece. Sea Prayer is an illustrated book, but it’s not for young children; it takes shape as a letter from a father to a son on the night before a journey over water out of Syria, just like the trip on which Kurdi died. The powerful story tells how the Homs that the father grew up in was far less dangerous than the city the son knew. The illustrations reflect the change with their style and the use — or absence — of color.
These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore (9/18)
As many Americans question what America should stand for in the face of deep political divide, historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore turns to facts from the past to explore what has been true in America since 1492. Her work of condensing American history into a single (nearly 1,000-page) volume may feel grand in scope, but it manages to stay narrow in its objective of examining whether America has stayed true to Thomas Jefferson’s three “truths.”
Transcription, Kate Atkinson (9/25)
Transcription is the latest from Kate Atkinson, acclaimed author of Life After Life and A God in Ruins. The highly-anticipated novel follows Juliet Armstrong, who transcribed covert meetings for MI5 during World War II. Ten years later, as she produces radio programs for the BBC, she finds her present threatened as secrets from her past resurface.
The Shape of the Ruins, Juan Gabriel Vasquez (9/25)
Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s sixth book translated into English begins, like many great thrillers, with an attempted crime. In this case, it’s merely a man trying to steal the bullet-riddled clothing of an assassinated Colombian politician from a museum. The would-be thief fails, but the attempt soon means much more to a novelist — also named Juan Gabriel Vasquez — who becomes entangled in the political conspiracy theories of his country. This compelling read is more than a standard mystery; it interrogates the way moments of violence in Colombia’s past have retained their power long after they are over.