What we're reading: The best books for fall 2019

Curl up with one of these hotly anticipated books this fall.
"The Witches Are Coming" by Lindy West, "The Institute" by Stephen King and "Olive, Again" by Elizabeth Strout are among the most anticipated books for fall.
"The Witches Are Coming" by Lindy West, "The Institute" by Stephen King and "Olive, Again" by Elizabeth Strout are among the most anticipated books for fall.
By Nicole Spector

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The leaves are beginning to brown and scatter from their branches, the air is getting cooler, crisper, and the days are shortening. Yes, fall is finally here. We’ll begin to break out our cold weather apparel, change up our menus to embrace autumn’s all-star cast fruits and veggies — like pumpkin and apple — and prepare for the holidays that will be here before you know it.

Fall, the season that is perhaps most symbolic of transition, also serves as an opportune time to set new goals and self-reflect, which is partly why it’s my favorite time of year. Frankly, I also find that I spend less money going out as the sun sets earlier and earlier, and more time cozied up on the couch with my two dogs and a great book.

Years ago, I worked in a big book publishing house and fall was by far our busiest time, seeing the release of some of our most hyped up titles of the year. The publishing industry has changed (and sadly shrunk) since then, but fall is still jam-packed with stellar literary launches.

Here’s a look at some of the most hotly anticipated fiction and non-fiction books dropping this season.

'The Testaments' by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” (on which Hulu’s hit show is based), was first published in 1985. Now, nearly 35 years later, a sequel-meets-prequel has been born (a Virgo, according to its September 10 pub date, if you want to get astrological about it), and she’s as ferocious as her landmark predecessor. Holding strong in second place on "The New York Times" bestseller list, “The Testaments” centers on the first person accounts of three characters, including the infamous Aunt Lydia. Atwood’s prose is at its best: lean, ferocious and urgently intimate.

'The Institute' by Stephen King

Just in time for Halloween, the master of horror has gifted us thrill-seekers “The Institute,” the number one "New York Times" bestseller. King is a pro at vividly imagining how terrifying clowns, zombie pets and other ghoulish creatures can be, but he’s just as deft at digging deep into the horrors that good old-fashioned humans might render, as proven again in “The Institute”. The novel centers on a sinister organization that abducts paranormally gifted children with the intent of extracting their powers. The story focuses on protagonist Luke Ellis, a boy who might just be the first child to escape this evil place.

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'Talking to Strangers' by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell has a virtuosic knack for revealing that even the mundane aspects of daily life are subjects of enormous curiosity and history — like breadcrumbs leading us back to our most primitive selves. In his latest book, the "New Yorker" staff writer and host of the podcast “Revisionist History” examines what it means to be two strangers talking to one another. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s anything but. This is one of Gladwell’s darker explorations, reminding us of our mother’s pearly dagger of wisdom: that we should never talk to strangers — at least, not without knowing all the loaded sociology and psychology that goes into such ostensibly harmless exchanges.

'The Water Dancer' by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates stands among American’s foremost writers on culture and race in America, and has become best known for his non-fiction works such as the 2015 National Book Award-winning “Between The World And Me”. Coates isn’t new to fiction — he’s penned several Black Panther graphic novels — but “The Water Dancer” is his first prose novel. An evocative if not transcendent work of historical fiction with a dash of fantasy, the story centers on a young man born into slavery who meets Harriet Tubman and discovers that they both possess a mysterious magical power to free enslaved people through teleportation.

'Know My Name' by Chanel Miller

In 2016, Chanel Miller made headlines as Emily Doe, the sexual assault victim of ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner (who served only three months in prison for the crime). Though we didn’t learn her real name back then, we did learn that Miller was a powerful writer, when the victim impact statement she delivered to her assailant in court went viral. Miller has now reclaimed her name — and her story — in this courageous memoir about trauma, identity and healing.

'Me' by Elton John

Thought you got all of Elton John’s story in the rollicking biopic, “Rocketman?” Well, consider that merely a tasty appetizer ahead of this ultra-rich and heavy dinner. In his debut memoir, the beloved singer, songwriter, pianist and composer, who vastly augmented the fashion possibilities of sunglasses, discusses his journey from a shy boy in a London suburb to an international superstar that dazzled the world (and quite a few fellow celebs) with his mighty talents and warm, gentle nature. In addition to serving up piping hot rock n’ roll stories, John, whose birth name is Reginald Dwight, reflects on overcoming addiction, finding true love and the beauty of fatherhood.

'Olive, Again' by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge, the main character in Elizabeth Strout’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, simultaneously confounded and endeared readers (and viewers; in 2014, the book was turned into a star-studded HBO miniseries) — and she’s back, praise the fiction heavens. “Olive, Again”, like its predecessor, spins a series of short stories that link to create a cohesive novel that deals with themes of love, loneliness and loss — and reminds us that life can shine most extraordinarily through its so-called ordinary moments.

'Grand Union' by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith simultaneously invigorated and disillusioned many an aspiring young novelist when she burst onto the scene at 24-years old with the instant classic, “White Teeth”. She’s released a number of fiction and non-fiction smash hits since then and now graces us with a collection of short stories, a first for the iconic author. Smith’s prose is both furious and graceful — with each sentence as athletically disciplined as a race horse. Her stories bounce around in subject, from working-class London to sci-fi dystopias, with perhaps the only real connective tissue being the reader’s recurring exclamation, “Oh my God, this is so smart!”

'Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life'by Ali Wong

Ali Wong catapulted to fame with her 2016 Netflix comedy special, “Baby Cobra”, which saw the comedian owning the stage with uproariously raunchy material — while nearly eight months pregnant. The mere sight was revolutionary, but the content was off the hook hilarious. Wong, a seasoned TV writer who co-penned and starred in the delicious romcom, “Always Be My Maybe”, doesn’t hold back the humor or tame her feminist fire in this memoir, which is presented as a series of letters to her daughters, but she also doesn’t shy away from being vulnerable or loving, either.

'The Witches Are Coming' by Lindy West

Lindy West brought us to tears (through laughing, mostly) with “Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman”, a razor-sharp memoir about toxic misogyny and fat shaming that went on to inspire the fantastic Hulu series. West is back and funny as ever in her forthcoming non-fiction book, “The Witches Are Coming”, a cultural critique of American culture, the #MeToo movement and what it means to not be a mediocre white man — in a society that so often protects and promotes him.

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