A few columns ago, I lamented the lack of intriguing books released in the summer months, particularly July. With the fall season, we have the opposite problem, as an abundance of big names grace the pages of publishers’ catalogs over the next few months, including, among dozens of others, Simon Winchester, Richard Dawkins, Stacy Schiff, Gloria Steinem, Susan Cheever, Jay Winik, Elizabeth Gilbert, and even Mark Twain. Check out our Fall Preview for full reviews of 30 nonfiction books to pay attention to this fall, three of which I’m particularly excited to read:

Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini

From renowned literary scholar and biographer Parini comes this unblinking exploration of Gore Vidal, acerbic, enigmatic author extraordinaire. In a starred review, we called it a “superbly personal biography that pulsates with intelligence, scholarship, and heart.”

Objective  Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone by Scott Shane

New York Times journalist Shane, who has covered terrorism for more than a dObjective Troyecade, chronicles Barack Obama and the American government’s pursuit, and eventual drone killing of, Islamic militant Anwar al-Awlaki. Our starred review noted, “Shane's reporting is superb, and the way he frames the public policy debate makes the narrative compelling from start to finish.” It should be a perfect bookshelf companion for Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower.

M Train by Patti Smith

In the follow-up to her National Book Award–winning Just Kids, her chronicle of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, the punk poet laureate “articulates the pensive rhythm of her life through the stations of her travels.” Though not as revelatory as Just Kids, our reviewer wrote, it’s still “an atmospheric, moody, and bittersweet memoir to be savored and pondered.”

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.