BY NICO VREELAND
[This feature is a brief summary of interesting books coming out each month. Click the title links to find these books at Goodreads.]
The cusp of fall brings with it the best month for books of the entire year. Let’s get cracking.
America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, by Stephen Colbert (out 10/2)
I’m a diehard Colbert fan (I’m actually wearing a Colbert T-shirt as I write this), so a new book by America’s pre-eminent satirist gets top billing every time. I really liked Colbert’s first book, I Am America (And So Can You!), and if you haven’t seen him reading his children’s book (I Am a Pole (And So Can You!)) to Maurice Sendak, watch it (and part 2) right now. I don’t have much else to say about this one. If you’re going to like it, you probably know already.
Ancient Light, by John Banville (out 10/2)
Though Banville’s latest crime novel was sub-par, but I really liked another one of his Benjamin Black novels, and he’s a tremendously talented writer. I’m interested in trying one of his non-mystery novels, because plotting is definitely not his strong suit, characters are. And this setup, a premise about an aging actor ruminating on his mistakes, is exactly the kind of thing Banville can knock out of the park.
Son, by Lois Lowry (out 10/2)
I completely missed The Giver in school, and when I finally read it last year, it kept me up all night. Son is the fourth and final novel in the Giver quartet, but supposedly the functional sequel to The Giver. Lois Lowry writes with great pacing and plot mechanics, not unlike The Hunger Games’s Suzanne Collins, and since it’ll only take about two hours to read it, there’s little risk.
We Are What We Pretend to Be, by Kurt Vonnegut (out 10/9)
In the subgenre of posthumous publications, this one is an interesting case. It’s billed as two novellas in one book: the first is the first long work Vonnegut ever wrote, never published it while he was alive. The second is his final novel, still unfinished at the time of his death. I’m usually not much of a posthumous novel reader, but this one might just have to be an exception.
Astray, by Emma Donoghue (out 10/30)
Emma Donoghue’s runaway hit Room drove Sean nuts, but was undeniably good, too. Her latest is a collection of short stories, which is almost always a mixed bag with a talented but uneven writer. There will surely be a few gems, and just as surely there’ll be some duds.
Back to Blood, by Tom Wolfe (out 10/23)
Wolfe’s massive latest novel takes place in Miami and involves a big raucous cast of characters, including the mayor of Miami, a muckraking journalist, a sex-addiction psychiatrist… you get the idea. It weighs in at 700 pages, but if it’s as “high-energy” as it claims to be, it could be great.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan (out 10/2)
You can tell from the title that this novel is pointed squarely at the nostalgia-for-books crowd, and I’m ready to eat it right up. Flap copy says, “A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life.” I’ve never been anything but disappointed by this kind of flap copy, and yet… I can’t help but get excited.
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, by Chinua Achebe (out 10/11)
Achebe’s memoir looks to be powerful stuff: the Nigerian civil war of the late 1960s killed thousands of Biafrans, so to have one of Africa’s most lauded writers release his personal experiences with such an event has the chance to be an amazing piece of work.
The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays, by James Wood (out 10/30)
James Wood isn’t quite my style, but there’s no denying that he’s one of America’s top-tier book critics. This time around, he’s writing on a variety of topics in addition to the usual book criticism.
Total Recall, by Arnold Schwarzenegger (out now)
I almost put this book in the Yes section, and then almost put it in the No section. Schwarzenegger had one of the weirdest movie careers ever, and even though he was never what you would call “good,” he’s also pretty tough to hate. In fact, our own Sean Clark loves the guy. (I liked him a lot better before he became a terrible governor.) Whatever your feeling on the man, weird lives make for good memoirs.
Swimming Home, by Deborah Levy (out 10/6)
One of the Booker Prize longlistees, Levy’s novel deals with a group of tourists vacationing at the French Riviera when they “come apart at the seams.” Sounds interesting enough to check out, at least.
The Twelve, by Justin Cronin (out 10/16)
Cronin’s first novel in this sell-out vampire series was obnoxiously long and very poorly constructed. It’s a literary author’s hamfisted attempt to cash in on the vampire craze. If you’re going to read a vampire book, read one by a vampire author, not this phony.
It’s Fine By Me, by Per Petterson (out 10/2)
I don’t out and out hate Per Petterson, but the price I’d ask to read this book is… let’s say “impractical.” Petterson writes with glacial slowness and pretty much a complete lack of action. If you’re not into watching grass grow, you probably won’t like this book.