A Fall Festival of Reading

By Carole Reedy

If you’re like most avid readers, you’re in a constant state of awaiting the publication of new books by your favorite authors even as you seek out the new shining stars of literature. Judging from the selection of authors and books listed here, the forthcoming fall season will not disappoint.

First, though, I want to highlight two books for June publication that are long-awaited titles by well-established authors.

BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson (June 18)

A welcome surprise is the return of detective Jackson Brodie to this latest novel from Atkinson. Brodie has appeared in four of Atkinson’s previous novels, the last one published in 2010, Started Early, Took My Dog. You may be better acquainted with her more recent and equally successful books, Life after Life and A God in Ruins.   

GUN ISLAND by Amitav Ghosh (June 6, although I have seen conflicting information that lists September 10 as the pub date. Let’s be optimistic and hope for June.)

Many of you who are familiar with Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy about the opium trade, which traverses Britain, India and China (Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, and Flood of Fire), will want to read his latest, in which the action also spans several continents, from India and North America to Europe.  Not only is Ghosh an enchanting storyteller, he has an “obsession with words” (his comment), and those of us who appreciated his clever use of language in the trilogy eagerly await what he has in store for us this time. 

Now for the fall books and dates: 

OLIVE AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout (October 15)

I may have mentioned this book is a previous column, but I must repeat it as I think, judging from the company I keep, that it will be one of the most sought-after books of 2019.  Get yourself on the library waiting list as soon as possible. Yes, the adventures of the snarky yet beloved Olive Kitteridge continue. If you haven’t read Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning introduction to our favorite gal, please do so. It is called simply Olive Kitteridge, and it is simply unputdownable. 

THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood (September 10)

Building on the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, her brilliant novel of almost 20 years ago that was recently serialized with equal success for television, Atwood continues the novel in this book (not to be confused with the end of the TV series, which expanded Atwood’s story).  At the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred is being placed in a van that will take her to freedom outside of Gilead. 

“Dear readers,” writes Atwood, “Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett (September 24)

Bel Canto, for which she won the Orange Prize in 2002, remains my favorite novel by well-established writer Patchett, but that may be due to my passion for the opera as well as the allure of Peru and the mysterious Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). This, her eighth novel, spans 50 years in the lives of two siblings. Family, betrayal, and love are common themes in her novels, and this one is no exception. The publisher calls it her “masterpiece.”

Most notably, Patchett runs an independent bookshop, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tennessee, in the US.

THE WATER DANCER by Ta-Nehisi Coates (September 24)

This will be his first novel, though it continues the theme of his previous non-fiction books.  The premise is a boy with a supernatural gift who lives in bondage on a plantation.  This book is categorized as Historical Fiction and Science Fiction/ Fantasy. It is written as an adventure in the underworld and the real world of slavery. 

TALKING TO STRANGERS by Malcolm Gladwell 

(September 10)

I recently saw a survey that identified the top recommendation for good mental health as having random conversations daily, even with strangers. Number two on the list was having good friends. The article casts an interesting light on Gladwell’s new book, which deals with interactions and understanding strangers. Also significant in these days of conversations on immigration. 

Gladwell is always a delight and a surprise, analyzing everyday habits and new ways of looking at the world. 

GIRL by Edna O’Brien (Faber & Faber, the publisher, has announced only that it will come out in 2019.)

Edna O’Brien’s work spans nine decades and this Irish titan has received numerous awards. She’s truly a role model for new writers. 

Lee Brackstone, then the head of the Faber Social imprint at Faber & Faber, commented:  “In Girl, Edna O’Brien once again proves herself to be one of our most compassionate, stylish, and fearless novelists. The Little Red Chairs has sold over 250,000 copies in two years. In her ninth decade, Edna is producing the greatest work of her staggering career. There is no more urgent writer working today.”  

The repressive environment in which girls are brought up is a continuing theme in O’Brien’s books. Her earlier ones were even considered scandalous in her home country of Ireland, where she attended Catholic schools.  I love the opening sentence of her newest book, “I was a girl once, but not anymore.” 

Happy reading, friends!

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