What to Read This Fall, Depending on How You Want to Feel
From essays on food to highly anticipated sequels.
Published Sep 10, 2019 6:00 AM
The days of lounging lazily in the sun, SPF slathered generously all over your skin as you dive into a good book, might be ending, but that means we get to start fresh. With the dawn of fall comes crisp farmers’ market apples; warm, woodsy candles; and sweater weather—and what could be better to pair with all that than a stack of brand-new reads?
Luckily, this autumn will see the release of plenty of books that deserve a spot on your nightstand. There’s something for everyone—the thrilling follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, a celebrity short story debut, and a mix of authors widely admired (Ta-Nehisi Coates! Zadie Smith!) and up-and-coming. So what will you be reading?
The Ones That Will Make You Emotional
Find Me by André Aciman
Elevator pitch: The highly anticipated sequel to Aciman’s 2007 Call Me By Your Name (which turned into a widely praised film starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer). Ideal reading scenario: An apartment in Paris (where Elio eventually moves) filled with flickering candles. The gist: Years later, we meet Elio, Oliver, and Samuel (Elio’s father) as they find love, once again, on their own terms.
The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong
Elevator pitch: A story of three women (no, not those three) who couldn’t come from worlds more different from one another—yet all cross paths with the same writer. Ideal reading scenario: On a plane to a place you’ve never been before. The gist: Set in the 19th century, this novel drastically shifts in perspective and place to show the untold histories of one man’s life.
Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson
Elevator pitch: A coming-of-age tale grounded in traditions and the tensions between generations in a Brooklyn brownstone. Ideal reading scenario: A big, soft armchair that you’ve cherished for years. The gist: Jumping around from past to present, Woodson explores the family’s history alongside its members as they search for their own individual identities.
The Ones That Will Provoke Serious Thought
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Elevator pitch: The follow-up to The Handmaid’sTale that you’ve desperately been waiting for. Ideal reading scenario: In your bed with a good night-light—you’ll want to stay up late to finish it. The gist: The story picks up 15 years after the ending of The Handmaid’s Tale, with a focus on three different women (one of them being Aunt Lydia) whose lives converge in Gilead—so, yes, it is different from the TV show.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Elevator pitch: A heartening novel about loss and perseverance in the time of slavery, as one man tries to save his family. Ideal reading scenario: Somewhere comfortable, so you can spend hours getting lost in the pages. The gist: In his debut novel, Coates spotlights an exceptionally grim period in American history with poise, heart, sheer brilliance—and a touch of magical realism, as the title alludes.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Elevator pitch: When a 15-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic gets the opportunity to move to New York, it comes with a price. Ideal reading scenario: On the sofa, with your family somewhere nearby. The gist: This immigrant narrative is as full of heart as it is with the energy of New York City.
The Ones That Will Satisfy You in Bite-Size Portions
Sudden Traveler by Sarah Hall
Elevator pitch: A short story collection that bridges the gap between sci-fi and folklore. Ideal reading scenario: A public park, just as the leaves are starting to change color. The gist: Hall’s short fiction stretches the bounds of the familiar, as characters venture into personal waters uncharted and mythical beings come into existence.
Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
Elevator pitch: When all you want is something life-affirming, Slate’s observations of the world around her do just the trick. Ideal reading scenario: At a quiet bar, embracing some alone time. The gist: The actress’s vignettes of her personal life are just as whimsical and charming as you’d expect.
Grand Union by Zadie Smith
Elevator pitch: A new assortment of short fiction that explores the quirks of modern life, touching on topics that range from Brexit to writer’s block. Ideal reading scenario: A cozy corner in a grand old library. The gist: Much like her novels, Smith’s stories are electrifying in their wit and wisdom.
How to Cure a Ghost by Fariha Róisín
Elevator pitch: A moving poetry collection by a queer Muslim writer exploring all the facets of her identity. Ideal reading scenario: A chill coffee shop, with a hot mug of tea to grip in one hand. The gist: Autumn is the perfect time to confront ghosts both personal and unfamiliar, and Róisín’s poetry does just that.
The Ones That Will Make You Question Your Reality
Pigs by Johanna Stoberock
Elevator pitch: When a stranger arrives on an island that’s home to four children and several hungry pigs, they have to decide where he stands. Ideal reading scenario: A faraway coast where you can completely unplug. The gist: Though the setup is similar, Pigstackles more modern issues than The Lord of the Flies. Think: climate change, greed, and individualism.
The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada
Elevator pitch: Japanese factory workers start to question their reality as their days blend together. Ideal reading scenario: On your daily commute to work. The gist: This Kafka-esue novel might force you to reevaluate your own relationship to your job, but that’s probably for the best, no?
Space Invaders by Nona Fernández
Elevator pitch: A group of children in 1980s Chile tries to make sense of their dictatorial government. Ideal reading scenario: A bench in your local history museum, as you let passersby stream around you. The gist: The perspectives that are least explored are usually the most insightful. Fernández’s novel is proof.
The Ones That Will Make You Reflect
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Elevator pitch: A memoir about a relationship gone wrong, told in an experimental, genre-bending fashion. Ideal reading scenario: A bedroom equipped with plenty of comforting blankets. The gist: Like her novel, Her Body and Other Parties, Machado’s personal story is full of haunting imagery and pop culture references that make for an irresistible read.
Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco
Elevator pitch: A timely, vital reflection on a sexual assault. Ideal reading scenario: Somewhere with no distractions. The gist: Vanasco’s memoir is a compelling, nuanced look at trauma and survival, including an interview with a former friend involved in the incident, and it asks questions you might not have considered before.
Eat Joy by Natalie Eve Garrett
Elevator pitch: Illustrated, food-focused essays (and accompanying recipes!) by writers you love. Ideal reading scenario: In the kitchen, as your oven is preheating. The gist: There’s pretty much nothing cozier than reading about the comforts of food when life gets tough, while eating homemade mac and cheese.