After the beach-blanket fare of summer, fall is the season of literary heavy hitters. But don’t be intimidated: Some of the juiciest reads of the year are published between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Here are 12 titles not to be missed, by some of the best — and bestselling — writers at work today.
“SALINGER”, by David Shields and Shane Salerno. This new biography of the famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, is tied to a documentary film also released last week. Biographical details may be scant (the author of “The Catcher in the Rye” withdrew from the public eye in the 1960s), but the book’s big revelation is already causing quite a stir: Salinger completed five unpublished books that will be released in the years to come.
“STILL FOOLIN’ ‘EM: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys,” by Billy Crystal. The Long Island-raised actor, comedian and frequent Oscar host, who is 65, reflects on his life and career. Also covered: Crystal’s standup career, his turns on “Soap” and “Saturday Night Live,” and the making of “When Harry Met Sally.” Expect more than a few senior citizen jokes. (Sept. 10)
“DISSIDENT GARDENS,” by Jonathan Lethem. The author of “Motherless Brooklyn” and “The Fortress of Solitude” leaves the familiar literary terrain of Brooklyn behind in his new novel, the multigenerational story of one radical clan from Sunnyside Gardens, Queens. From the homegrown communist party of the 1940s to counterculture movement of the 1960s and the current-day activism of the Occupy movement, Lethem charts the ideals and disillusionments of an unorthodox but very American family. (Sept. 10)
“A HOUSE IN THE SKY,” by Amanda Lindhout & Sarah Corbett. Amanda Lindhout was a footloose global backpacker and inexperienced freelance journalist when she and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan flew into Somalia — “the most dangerous place on earth”— in 2008. Four days later, the pair were abducted by a band of Islamic militants demanding $2 million in random. “A House in the Sky,” co-written with a New York Times Magazine contributor, is her account of more than a year spent in captivity — how she survived and what she learned. (Sept. 10)
“COMMAND AND CONTROL: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety,” by Eric Schlosser. In September 1980 an explosion at a facility in Damascus, Ark., caused a Titan II nuclear warhead to be ejected from its silo. Though the missile didn’t explode, the incident is one of the more dramatic near-disasters recounted in this frightening new book by the author of “Fast Food Nation.” Schlosser sheds light on the management — and mismanagement — of America’s nuclear arsenal during the Cold War and beyond. (Sept. 17)
“BLEEDING EDGE,” by Thomas Pynchon. The author of several modern American classics — including “V,” “The Crying of Lot 49” and “Gravity’s Rainbow” — gives J.D. Salinger a run for the money in the reclusiveness department. Pynchon, born in 1937, is still at it; he published “Inherent Vice” in 2010, and his latest, set in New York in 2001, follows a fraud investigator and single mom as she researches a computer security firm and its billionaire CEO. Yes, things get wild and woolly. (Sept. 17)
“DOCTOR SLEEP,” by Stephen King. A sequel to “The Shining”? You heard correctly. America’s prolific horror master, already on this year’s bestseller lists with “Joyland,” is sure to make another appearance with this satisfyingly hefty tale, which follows the adult Dan Torrance — son of maniacal Jack, and refugee from the Overlook Hotel — as he encounters a 12-year-old girl who also has the telepathic gift of “the shining.” (Sept. 24)
“THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. You know her as the woman behind “Eat, Pray, Love,” the mega bestseller and Julia Roberts vehicle. But Elizabeth Gilbert is also the author of a delightful 2000 novel about feuding Maine lobstermen and the young woman who wants to work with them. Now Gilbert returns with a new novel, set in the 18th and 19th centuries about a female botanist who falls in love with a painter of orchids. The action ranges from North and South America to the South Pacific and Europe. (Oct. 1)
“DAVID AND GOLIATH: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” by Malcolm Gladwell. The author of “The Tipping Point,” “Blink” and “Outliers” explores the world through a new lens — this time looking at underdogs and giants, and how perceived disadvantages may often disguise unexpected strengths. “David and Goliath,” of course, refers to the biblical tale, and Gladwell seeks out its lessons in modern-day cancer research, in the civil rights movement and elsewhere. (Oct. 1)
“THE GOLDFINCH,” by Donna Tartt. In the fall of 1992, the one book that had everybody talking was Donna Tartt’s debut novel, “The Secret History,” which has turned into a pass-along cult favorite. Tartt hasn’t published much since then — a second novel, “The Little Friend,” came out in 2002 — so a new book is a genuine event. “The Goldfinch” is about a young boy who survives the accident that kills his mother; as an adult he is drawn into the art underworld by the 17th century painting of the title, which was a favorite of his mother’s. (Oct. 22)
“THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT,” by Amy Tan. The author of “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Hundred Secret Senses” can deliver a sweeping family saga like nobody else. Her first novel in eight years, “The Valley of Amazement” is the story of a half-Chinese, half-American woman who is one of the most celebrated courtesans of Shanghai and must reconcile herself to her absent mother and the loss of her daughter. (Nov. 5)
“THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE,” by Ann Patchett. The Nashville bookseller (she opened Parnassus Books in 2011) and beloved author of “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder” reflects on her marriage — happy, apparently — as well as the other vital things in her life — writing, family, friends, dogs, books — in this new memoir. “Truth and Beauty,” Patchett’s book about her friendship with the late writer Lucy Grealy, was a knockout, so expectations for this one run high. (Nov. 5)
AND DON’T MISS ...
Other books on the list of must-reads for fall include new novels by two Pulitzer Prize winners, “Enon” by Paul Harding (Sept. 10) and “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri (Sept. 24), and another by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, “The Childhood of Jesus” (Sept. 3). Also: Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: America, 1927” (Oct. 1), Terry Teachout’s “Duke: The Life of Duke Ellington” (Oct. 17) and Sam Wasson’s “Fosse” (Nov. 5).