Fall is for books what summer is for movies: Blockbuster season. By some archaic convention, it’s the time of year when publishers roll out their heavy hitters—the prestige books that garner maximum buzz and critical attention. Of course, serious readers are happy to read great books winter, spring, summer, and fall—but if the publishing industry wants to set off all its fireworks after Labor Day, who are we to complain?
And what a show it will be this fall. Leading the way is Margaret Atwood, the acclaimed Canadian novelist whose work seems more resonant than ever. Her dystopian 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, has reached a new generation via the Hulu TV adaptation (recently renewed for a fourth season), and all anyone in the book world can talk about right now is The Testaments, her Handmaid’s Tale sequel out Sept. 10. The novel is strictly embargoed until publication, so we know little about it—except that everyone will be reading it in a matter of weeks.
Other marquee names with books out this fall: Salman Rushdie returns with a satiric contemporary spin on Don Quixote (Quichotte, Sept. 3); National Book Award finalist Jacqueline Woodson returns to Brooklyn in another novel for adults (Red at the Bone, Sept. 17); and Ann Patchett, who last dazzled readers with the family drama in Commonwealth, tells the story of a mansion and its occupying family (The Dutch House, Sept. 24). Elizabeth Strout brings back her unforgettable creation, the titular character of her Pulitzer Prize–winning 2008 novel Olive Kitteridge (Olive, Again, Oct. 15).
Fall is always a good time to explore authors you don’t know. For years people have been telling me I need to read British writer Deborah Levy—author of Swimming Home, Hot Milk, and other books—but somehow I just haven’t gotten around to her. I intend to remedy that with her latest work of fiction (The Man Who Saw Everything, Oct. 15), which recently turned up on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize. It opens with a man being struck by a car and lightly injured as he crosses Abbey Road in London, imitating the famous Beatles record cover, and spins out from there. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it a “tantalizing new novel, which interconnects place, subject, and time as intricately as lace-making.”
Nonfiction, too, has a crowded roster of top-shelf authors bringing out new books: Former Washington Post Book World editor Marie Arana explores the dark history of colonialism in Latin America through the Western lust for precious metals (Silver, Sword, and Stone, Aug. 27); Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Eric Foner, whose work has done so much to enlarge our understanding of slavery in American history, looks at constitutional struggles over African American citizenship and voting rights during Reconstruction (The Second Founding, Sept. 17); and National Book Award winner (and national treasure) Patti Smith delivers a new memoir, a chronicle of the year 2016 as she watched the decline of two dying friends (Year of the Monkey, Sept. 24). Malcolm Gladwell, who has altered the cultural conversation and ascended the bestseller lists ever since his first book, The Tipping Point (2000), brings news we may not want to hear: Despite what we think, we are bad—empirically bad—at making judgments about people we don’t know (Talking to Strangers, Sept. 10).
The Children’s and Young Adult fall lists are just as robust. Watch this space for the books that editors Vicky Smith and Laura Simeon are excited about, including titles by Minh Lê, Sharon Robinson and Akwaeke Emezi.
Find what Minh Lê calls The Perfect Seat and take in our preview of coming attractions. Then it’s time to start reading.
Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief.