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Fall fiction and nonfiction suggestions

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Jonathan Franzen

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

From the celebrated novelist, a fresh voice — Pip, for Purity, a young woman saddled with student loans and family mysteries (who is her father? what is her mother’s real name?) — combines with an intensely detailed exploration of how the Internet is changing our politics, our lives, our loves.

“The Story of the Lost Child’’

Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein ( Europa)

The fourth and last novel in the reclusive author’s wildly popular series about Elena and Lila, two best friends who grew up in a violent, insular Neapolitan neighborhood in the shadow of Vesuvius, reveals the tragedies that haunt the later phase of their life in Naples.


“Fates and Furies’’

Lauren Groff (Riverhead)

Groff opens her third novel (after “The Monsters of Templeton’’ and “Arcadia’’) on a cold May morning in Maine, as Lotto and Mathilde walk beside the sea the day after their secret wedding, blissfully in love; she carries them through the sweep of 24 years of marriage, with two perspectives — his: “If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you’d crush them to paste,” and hers: “[S]ilent intimacies made their marriage.”

“Did You Ever Have a Family’’

Bill Clegg (Scout)

After a horrific fire in her Connecticut house wipes out her family and boyfriend on her daughter’s wedding day, June leaves town, ending up in a West Coast motel, and the community pieces together what happened in this pitch-perfect first novel, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

“Gold Fame Citrus’’

Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead)

Imagine California’s drought evolving into a world-class disaster, with the state’s refugees turned back at the border and a few survivors trying to find safety from the growing desert. Add a cult leader who claims he can draw water through his own magic gifts, and you’ve got a gripping, provocative debut novel.


“The Prize’’

Jill Bialosky (Counterpoint)

A poet, memoirist, and editor, Bialosky brings an insider’s understanding of the complicated layers of being an artist today to this novel in which an art dealer is thrown off balance in the run-up to an awards competition, with ripples affecting his family, his future, and the artists he takes under his wing.

“A Slanting of the Sun’’

Donal Ryan (Steerforth)

Ryan’s first novel, “The Spinning Heart,’’ won the Guardian First Book Award; his new collection continues his exploration of the struggles and paradoxes of life in Ireland today, told straight: “She cries sometimes, without noise,” and “The day we shot the boy was clear and blue.”


“Thirteen Ways of Looking’’

Colum McCann (Random House)

McCann, whose “Let the Great World Spin’’ won the 2009 National Book Award, unspools complex and unforgettable stories in this, his first collection in more than a decade. They include tales about a Galway mother whose Christmas gift for her 13-year-old son is a near fatal mistake, a former Maryknoll nun who recognizes on TV the man who kidnapped and raped her decades before in Central America, a woman on guard duty in Afghanistan on New Year’s Eve, and an 80-year-old judge caught in a web of memory that flashes forward to his coming death.

“The Tsar of Love and Techno’’

Anthony Marra (Hogarth)


Marra, author of the award-winning first novel about the Chechen wars, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,’’ returns to Russia with nine Tolstoyesque stories that begin in Leningrad in 1937, with a censor who airbrushes dissidents out of pictures, and moves through the post-Communist era into the future, with film stars, soldiers, gangsters, cybercriminals, students, a man blasted into space, all connected through a single landscape painting.

“The Mark and the Void’’

Paul Murray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Only Murray, whose Irish boarding-school-based “Skippy Dies’’ gathered fans effortlessly, could create such a hilarious and razor-sharp comic novel about the collapse of the Celtic Tiger boom, starring a French analyst for Dublin’s Bank of Torabundo and a novelist named Paul.

“Mothers, Tell Your Daughters’’

Bonnie Jo Campbell (Norton)

In 16 fast-flowing stories, Campbell introduces women facing extreme situations with courage and an urgent need to communicate: “I’ve got a head full of stories you still need to hear,” says the narrator of the title story, “starting with my ribs, ending with my whole life.”

“Golden Age’’

Jane Smiley (Knopf)

The last novel in Smiley’s Last Hundred Years trilogy, reaching from 1987 into 2019, outlines, with warmth and wisdom, a tumultuous time for the extended Langdon family and the United States, with economic and political upheavals, 9/11, devastating drought, increasing violence, and a bleak future for the family farm that nurtured their immigrant ancestors.

“City on Fire’’

Garth Risk Hallberg (Knopf)

Hallberg captures “the insanity, the mystery, the totally useless beauty of the million once-possible New Yorks” in a vivid immersive 944-page first novel set in 1977, exploring how a Central Park shooting and a historic blackout change lives forever.


“Death by Water’’

Kenzaburo Oe (Grove)

In this poetic and profound novel about the process of writing a novel, Oe, who won the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature, sends his alter ego on a mission to his hometown to discover the story behind his father’s drowning death in World War II.

“Mrs. Engels’’

Gavin McCrea (Catapult)

Dublin-born first novelist McCrea has hit the long list for the Guardian First Book Award with this story, told from the point of view of Lizzie Burns, an illiterate Irishwoman who makes the move from working-class Manchester to the intellectual salons of London with her lover, Frederick Engels, who wrote “The Communist Manifesto’’ with Karl Marx.


“Avenue of Mysteries’’

John Irving (Simon & Schuster)

Irving’s magical new novel revolves around Juan Diego, whose younger sister, Lupe, is a mind reader; what she sees in his future haunts him from his years as a dump kid in Oaxaca, Mexico, to a second life as an academic in Iowa, through a post-retirement trip to the Philippines, where his childhood comes back to life.

“The Mare’’

Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon)

National Book Award finalist Gaitskill’s spare, smashing new novel pairs a troubled, middle-aged urban artist who moves to the country with a Fresh Air Fund Dominican girl from Brooklyn, challenging them both; their strongest bond eventually comes through their love of horses.


“Twain and Stanley Enter Paradise’’

Oscar Hijuelos (Grand Central)

The last novel from Pulitzer winner Hijuelos is a labor of love and prodigious imagination written over the decade before he died in 2013 — a fictional account of the long friendship between Mark Twain and the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, recreated in the form of letters, memoir, and narrative (and yes, there’s a journey to Cuba).


“House of the Rising Sun’’

James Lee Burke (Simon and Schuster)

Two-time Edgar winner Burke sets Texas Ranger Hackberry Holland the task of protecting a precious artifact (is it the Holy Grail?) from a string of villains, including an Austrian arms dealer who sets his sights on Holland’s son Ishmael, who serves in the US Army; Burke does not disappoint.




“Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed History’’

Wil Haygood (Knopf)

Blending history and biography, Haygood (“The Butler”) vividly profiles the daring NAACP lawyer and his political path to becoming the first African-American Supreme Court justice.


“Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal’’

Jay Parini (Doubleday)

Poet, novelist, and biographer Parini takes on the notoriously vain and thin-skinned Vidal, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant and vexing public intellectuals.

“The Witches: Salem, 1692’’

Stacy Schiff (Little, Brown)

A big work about America’s first great scandal; Schiff (“Vera,” “Cleopatra”) delves into the Salem witch trials and produces what Megan Marshall calls a “devilish, oracular book.”

“The Givenness of Things: Essays’’

Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Novelist Robinson (“Gilead,” “Lila”) writes lyrical essays on faith, politics, and what it means to be human.

“The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue’’

Piu Marie Eatwell ( Liveright )

A juicy narrative history packed with revelations about unsavory goings-on among the upper classes in late Victorian England.

“M Train’’

Patti Smith (Knopf)

After the success of her previous memoir “Just Kids,” here the rock legend chronicles her writing life and journeys, from Mexico to Berlin.

“Lafayette in the Somewhat United States’’

Sarah Vowell (Riverhead )

Vowell (“Assassination Vacation”) profiles George Washington’s right-hand man with her trademark off-kilter view of history.

“Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter”

Kate Clifford Larson (Houghton Mifflin)

Acclaimed biographer Larson tells the story of the famous family’s forgotten daughter, whose intellectual disability was its best-kept secret.

“Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl”

Carrie Brownstein (Riverhead )

From Sleater-Kinney to “Portlandia,” Brownstein is both an icon of pop culture and an astute observer of it; here she chronicles her life as a riot-grrrl pioneer.

“War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel That Stunned the Nation’’

John Sedgwick (Berkley )

Sedgwick (“In My Blood”) traces the friendship and rivalry of the founding fathers whose enmity came to represent some of our nation’s most enduring conflicts.

“Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg”

Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (Dey Street)

Highly entertaining look at Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, a tiny, fierce, Jewish grandmother and pop-culture icon.

“Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War’’

Linda Hervieux (Harper)

The story of the segregated 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, soldiers who battled both enemies and racism, is the focus of this book, which historian Douglas Brinkley says “all Americans should read.”

“Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers”

Simon Winchester (Harper)

As the Atlantic Ocean played a central role for past generations, Winchester (“The Professor and the Madman”) argues, the Pacific Ocean, along with the cities and countries that line it, will define our future.


“St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street’’

Ada Calhoun (Norton)

Calhoun makes a case for the enduring relevance and legacy of St. Marks Place, the quintessential downtown street and home to everyone from W.H. Auden to Keith Haring.

“Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir”

Stan Lee, Peter David, and Colleen Doran (Touchstone)

A vivid graphic memoir by the man who brought us Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men.

“Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape’’

Lauret Savoy (Counterpoint )

How does the natural world influence our human community? What do we owe one another? Savoy ponders both personal and geographic identity in this haunting meditation.

“Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll’’

Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown )

The book is long, befitting the man’s stature; the dean of American music writing brings us the life of rock’s first great producer.

This Old Man: All in Pieces

Roger Angell (Doubleday)

Essays on aging and living, from the longtime New Yorker writer.


“Drawing Blood’’

Molly Crabapple (Harper)

An artist and writer, Crabapple maps her personal, aesthetic, and political journey with stops at Occupy Wall Street, Rikers Island, and Guantanamo.

“Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility’’

George Cotkin (Oxford University )

An essential look at the ideas, art, and artists — Andy Warhol, Susan Sontag, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan — who gave us the world we live in today.