27 books you should read this fall, according to local experts

We asked staff members at Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Harvard Book Store, Frugal Bookstore, Brookline Booksmith, and Porter Square Books for the titles they’re most excited to read as the foliage changes.

David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe, File
books to read:

The days of lounging with a book by the beach or a pool may be drawing to a close, but there should be nothing but excitement as fall brings with it a thrilling lineup of new titles to dive into as the leaves turn.

To get the rundown on the books that shouldn’t be missed this fall, we asked staff members at five local bookstores — Trident Booksellers and Cafe, Harvard Book Store, Frugal Bookstore, Brookline Booksmith, and Porter Square Books — for the titles they can’t wait to pick up as the weather turns cool. 


Whether you’re sipping on a pumpkin spice latte as you take in the crisp air or curled up in your favorite flannel, the booksellers said these 27 works of nonfiction and fiction should be on your list of books to read this fall. 

“Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin (July 5)

This book may technically be a summer read because of its publication date, but it should be one to catch up on this fall if you haven’t picked it up already, according to Courtney Flynn, co-owner of Trident Booksellers & Cafe. The story follows two friends who meet in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while they are both in college and whose lives become intertwined as they create a successful gaming company. Flynn said it is an amazing read, whether or not you’re someone who’s into the world of gaming. “It’s a wonderful novel,” she said. “Zevin is really skillful at creating the complexities of their lives and creating rich narrative arcs for both of the characters. And you just can’t put it down; it’s so well done.”

“The Milky Way” by Moiya McTier (Aug. 16)

Brad Lennon, head buyer at Harvard Book Store, has his eye on this work of nonfiction by the first and only person to get their undergraduate degree at Harvard in both astrophysics and mythology. In it, McTier channels the galaxy, telling its own story as a kind of autobiography. “It sounds really interesting. … That’s one I’m going to check out,” Lennon said. 

“Carrie Soto Is Back” by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Aug. 30)

Readers won’t be disappointed with this highly anticipated new novel from the author of “Malibu Rising” and “Daisy Jones & The Six,” Flynn said. The narrative follows Carrie Soto, a minor character from “Malibu Rising,” as she attempts to wage a comeback in elite tennis, coached by her father with whom she has a rocky relationship. “You’ll root for her and be exasperated by her, but you definitely won’t be able to put the book down,” Flynn said. “It’s really, really well done.”

“If I Survive You” by Jonathan Escoffery (Sept. 6)

Clarrissa Cropper Egerton, co-owner of Frugal Bookstore, recommends readers consider this debut novel, a collection of connected stories that follow a Jamaican family striving for more in Miami. The stories span the past and present, delving into the experiences of the family’s different generations. “It’s a very heartful and humorous story that speaks on racial identities, loneliness, and the search for love,” Cropper Egerton said.

“The Third Reconstruction” by Peniel E. Joseph (Sept. 6)

Cropper said she’s also looking forward to this work of nonfiction. In it, Joseph, a historian, argues that the racial “reckoning” of 2020 marked the climax of a Third Reconstruction, which he outlines as stretching from the civil rights movement up to the present. “He’s offering a personal interpretation of recent history, calling it the Third Reconstruction, a new struggle for citizenship and dignity for Black Americans, as an opportunity to choose hope over fear,” Cropper Egerton said.

“The Marriage Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell (Sept. 6)

Flynn said this new novel, from the author of the acclaimed “Hamnet,” is one of the best books she’s read in a long time. Set during the Renaissance in Italy, it follows Lucrezia, who is 13 years old when she is married off. Flynn said the book starts with the teenager realizing that her husband intends to murder her. “It kind of unfolds from there,” the bookseller said. “So it’s part historical fiction, part thriller, part literary. The writing is beautiful, so you really get immersed in this noble world of Italy. [O’Farrell] seems to have done her research impeccably.”

“Mother Brain” by Chelsea Conaboy (Sept. 13)

This work of nonfiction, which examines motherhood and parenthood and the changes that go on in the body and mind after becoming a parent, will be interesting to any readers interested in parenthood, Flynn said. Conaboy, a health and science journalist, focuses in particular on the changes that occur neurologically. “And a lot of that research has focused on certain types of women, mostly white women, but she kind of expands the definition of motherhood to any parent who has a child, it doesn’t have to be someone you’ve birthed yourself,” Flynn said. “But no matter how you come into parenthood, there are physical and mental changes that you experience.”

“What If? 2” by Randall Munroe (Sept. 13)

There’s already a lot of excitement around this new work, which comes recommended by both Ellen Jarrett, co-owner and adult buyer at Porter Square Books, and Alie Hess, senior buyer at Brookline Booksmith. In it, Munroe once again focuses on striving to answer, with science, strange and absurd hypothetical questions. “Filled with loony science and Randall’s signature stick figure drawings, it’s sure to become another bestseller,” Jarrett said. “It definitely is one of those great books that you can give to someone you know will love that, but also a gift for someone who you might not know so well,” Hess said.

“Less Is Lost” by Andrew Sean Greer (Sept. 20)

Readers also should look out for this follow up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Less,” according to Hess. The new novel continues the story of Arthur Less as he heads off across the country (accompanied by his dog) for a job, and starts growing a handlebar mustache. “It’s really well done,” Hess said. “He’s a great writer.”

“Starry Messenger” by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Sept. 20)

Fans of the cosmos and Neil deGrasse Tyson shouldn’t sleep on the author’s new work, considered to be the closest thing to his magnum opus, Jarrett said. Using clear and concise prose, he examines how much humanity has in common rather than focusing on the differences. “He shines the light on our earthly existence through the lens of this cosmic perspective and the rationality of science, always science,” Jarrett said. 

“Shrines of Gaiety” by Kate Atkinson (Sept. 27)

Jarrett said the latest novel from the author of “Transcription” and “Life After Life” is a must-read for Atkinson fans. The new tale is set in London in the wake of World War I when a new, highly energized culture of nightlife and clubs is gripping society across the classes. “Atkinson gives us a snapshot of this time through the lives of Nellie Coker, a grand dame of this glittering world struggling to hold onto her turf, and her six children, all clamoring to rise to the top,” Jarrett said. 

“The Winners” by Fredrik Backman (Sept. 27)

This novel, which is the third and last book in Backman’s Beartown series, is worth picking up even if you haven’t read the stories that precede it, Hess said. The narrative sees Maya Andersson and Benji Ovich, two young people who left the small town, coming home two years after “the events that no one wants to think about.” And over the course of two weeks, “everything” in the small town will change. “He’s just a phenomenal writer,” Hess said. 

“Fen, Bog and Swamp” by Annie Proulx (Sept. 27)

The newest book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Shipping News” and “Barkskins” is a work of nonfiction, which Lennon said isn’t to be missed. In it, Proulx chronicles wetlands, the important role they play in combating climate change, and what their systemic destruction means for the planet. “It’s a really short book,” Lennon said. “It’s really precise, so it brings a really big subject down into a very narrow, focused way of looking at it.”

“Our Missing Hearts” by Celeste Ng (Oct. 4)

The new novel from the author of “Little Fires Everywhere” and “Everything I Never Told You” is one that Lennon, Hess, and Jarrett all agreed you should look out for this fall. “In her new novel, Ng considers a world being presaged right now in which supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice,” Jarrett said. Set partially around Harvard Square, the story follows a 12-year-old boy named Bird, who lives with his father, an intellectual who now shelves books in a library. After a horrific economic crisis, a repressive system of government has emerged, under which authorities are allowed to relocate children of dissidents — particularly those of Asian heritage — and libraries are forced to remove books with “unpatriotic” content. Among those that have been removed are works by Bird’s mother, a poet, who disappeared years earlier. When Bird gets a mysterious letter, he embarks on a quest to find his mother. “There’s a whole secret organization of librarians that are keeping track of kids that are taken away,” Lennon said. “So it’s just a really interesting adventure story but with lots of societal critiques.” “It really just sounds like a beautiful novel of family and Celeste Ng is able to combine so many things in the story and sort of realizing, once you’re done, how much there was,” Hess said. 

“The Impatient” by Djaili Amadou Amal (translated by Emma Ramadan) (Oct. 11)

Cropper Egerton said she’s excited about this novel, translated from French. The Cameroonian author’s first book to be published in English tells the stories of three women from Cameroon, who have linked destinies. The women “rebel against repressive, long-held, cultural traditions, including polygamy and domestic abuse,” Cropper Egerton said. “This is inspired by the author’s own personal experiences,” the bookseller added. “This is a moving testimony of sheer pain amongst these three women and also a call for change.”

“Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver by (Oct. 18)

This spin on “David Copperfield” is one that Hess said she’s looking forward to picking up. The novel, which pays homage to the Charles Dickens classic, weaves the story of a boy, Demon, who is born into a trailer park in Appalachia to a single, teenage mother. “It’s a big book. … I love the way she writes,” Hess said. 

“Liberation Day” by George Saunders (Oct. 18)

Lennon has his eye on the new short story collection from the author of “Lincoln in the Bardo.” The nine stories in the collection explore themes of power, ethics, justice, and what it means to live in community. “He’s just a master of the short story,” Lennon said of Saunders. 

“Signal Fires” by Dani Shapiro (Oct. 18)

From page one of this new novel by the author of “Inheritance” the reader is hooked, according to Jarrett. The story follows what happens when a tragic accident on a summer night leaves deep, irreparable rifts in the Wilf family that are not acknowledged or addressed until years later. The families’ lives become entwined with the Shenkman family on the fateful day that Dr. Wilf delivers young Waldo Shenkman, beginning a bond that precipitates a reckoning with the past. “Shapiro tells the story with palpable compassion and skillfully propels the reader to finish this in one sitting,” Jarrett said. “Good stuff.”

“Uphill” by Jemele Hill (Oct. 25)

If you’re hoping to check out a new memoir this fall, Cropper Egerton suggests reading this one. It’s one the bookseller said she is hoping to pick up. In it, the journalist and former ESPN co-anchor delves into growing up in Detroit, Michigan, and her experience overcoming her “legacy of pain,” Cropper Egerton said. “Her parents had some challenges with substance abuse and just poverty,” she said. “So she’s just sharing her own personal journey toward a new path, despite all life’s uphill battles and challenges.”

“The Passenger” & “Stella Maris”  by Cormac McCarthy (Oct. 25 & Dec. 6 )

The release of two new books by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men” is an event not to be missed this fall, according to Hess. The two connected novels are being released just over a month apart. The first, “The Passenger” follows a salvage diver who is pursued for a conspiracy he doesn’t understand; “Stella Maris” follows his sister, a young woman in a psychiatric facility. “He has a real cult following and hasn’t had a new book in 10 years. … People are already really, really excited about them,” Hess said.

“The Song of the Cell” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Oct. 25)

If you’re in the mood for some medical history, Hess said this new work from the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Emperor of All Maladies” is one to remember this fall. In it, Mukherjee sets down how scientists discovered cells, started to understand them, and now can use that knowledge to create new humans. “He’s this brilliant person who is able to relay really complicated theories and statistics, and all that, to the regular person,” Hess said.

“The Philosophy of Modern Song” by Bob Dylan (Nov. 1)

Hess said music fans won’t want to miss this new book, the first work of new prose writing from Dylan since 2004 and since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. The book contains more than 60 essays, with photos interspersed throughout, in which Dylan examines songs by other artists — from Stephen Foster to Nina Simone. “It’s almost like the science of the song, so I think it’s going to be amazing,” Hess said. 

“The World We Make” by N. K. Jemisin (Nov. 1)

Cropper Egerton said she’s personally been waiting for this new book, the conclusion of the Great Cities duology. A mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and the supernatural, the story captures a world in which an enemy is out to destroy all mankind, so avatars from New York’s boroughs must join forces to protect against complete destruction. “It’s a tale of identity, resistance, magic, and myth,” Cropper Egerton said. 

“White Horse” by Erika T. Wurth (Nov. 1)

Lennon recommends this novel in the genre of Native American horror, which he said you don’t have to be a fan of ghost stories to enjoy. The narrative weaves the story of a part Apache Chickasaw woman whose mother disappeared when she was a baby. But when her cousin gives her an old bracelet that belonged to her mother, it triggers something. “She starts seeing her mother and realizes that she didn’t just disappear, that something horrible happened,” Lennon said. “And so she’s reconstructing what happened.” 

“The Magic Kingdom” by Russell Banks (Nov. 8)

Jarrett recommends this novel, in which Banks juxtaposes two seemingly unrelated and contradictory elements of American history: the Shaker colonies of the early 20th century in the Florida swamplands and Disney World. The story follows Harley Mann, who lives in and follows the tenants of a Shaker community. “When he falls in love with Sadie Pratt, who lives among the shakers, his world view changes,” Jarrett said. The question then emerges — what is he willing to give up to enter paradise, or the American Dream, and what does he really desire?  

“The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama (Nov. 15)

If you don’t already have it circled on your calendar, Hess said readers should remember that the former first lady’s second book will be released this fall. The bookseller noted that she, herself, is already incredibly excited about the book, in which Obama is expected to share advice and reflections for staying balanced and overcoming during uncertain times. “It couldn’t be more timely,” Hess said. “It couldn’t be a better subject. People are very excited about it, and I think it’s going to be pretty awesome.”



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