Nearly every year, the titles I select for the Fall Preview are among my favorites of the entire year, and 2019 is no different. While all 30 titles are worthy of inclusion, here are three that I believe are essential—and not just right now, but in the years to come.
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (Oct. 8)
After two well-received poetry collections, Jones’ memoir is unquestionably one of the best debuts in the past few years. As our reviewer wrote, Jones “tends less toward flights of poetic fancy and more toward understated, matter-of-fact prose, all the more powerful because the style never distracts from the weight of the story: the sexual awakening and struggle for identity of a young black man raised in Texas by a single mother.” At around 200 pages, there are few wasted words, making this a “coming-of-age memoir [that] marks the emergence of a major literary voice.”
Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry (Sept. 17)
In a book that recalls not just James Baldwin but also Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kiese Laymon (and Saeed Jones, see above), Perry demonstrates her well-deserved reputation as a top-notch researcher and academic. Her most personal narrative to date, it’s a “masterfully poetic and intimate work that anchors mothering within the long-standing tradition of black resistance and resourcefulness.” Throughout, “Perry uses references…that range across centuries and the global black diaspora, across folklore, music, and visual arts as well as the influence of numerous faith traditions.”
Fentanyl, Inc. by Ben Westhoff (Sept. 3)
The opioid epidemic is one of most significant struggles that we face as a society, and few books have engaged with the problem so powerfully. Westhoff’s latest, a “highly sobering, exemplary reportage delivered through richly detailed scenarios and diversified perspectives,” joins Sam Quinones’ Dreamland on the short list of most well-researched and empathetically rendered works on a dire crisis that continues to grow worse.
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.