fall preview: books

Some of fall's new books just seem destined to be best sellers

St. Louis Post-DispatchSeptember 2, 2012 

Publishers have a tantalizing pile of books coming out this fall, the traditional season for some of the year's biggest titles.

The Pulitzer Prize committee surprised readers earlier this year by declining to award a fiction prize to a 2011 title. We're hoping they won't have to pull the same stunt next spring, with new books arriving soon from previous Pulitzer finalist Barbara Kingsolver, who grew up in Carlisle; and winners Michael Chabon and Junot Díaz.

Upcoming titles destined for the best-seller list include J.K. Rowling's first novel written specifically for adults (The Casual Vacancy, Sept. 27), Justin Cronin's vampire apocalypse (The Twelve, Oct. 16) and the World War II years of Ken Follett's five-family saga (Winter of the World, Sept. 18).

High-interest non-fiction will include Medal of Honor winner and Kentuckian Dakota Meyer and Bing West's Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War (Sept. 25), Bob Woodward's look at President Barack Obama (The Price of Politics, Sept. 11) and Mark Owen's eyewitness account of the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, No Easy Day (Sept. 4).

Also look for books by and about David Foster Wallace, a memoir of Salman Rushdie's years in hiding and at least two biographies involving Thomas Jefferson. Not every book will turn out to be as good as advertised, but with all of the big-name authors and topics, it won't be hard to jump into new fall titles.

FALL BOOKS

Here are summaries of some of the many upcoming releases, with information culled from publishers and Publishers Weekly magazine. Publication dates are subject to change. They are organized by month of publication and alphabetized by title.

September

FICTION

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. The pressure's on for Harry Potter's creator, whose new novel sounds like a traditional English mystery involving a pretty town with secrets. But let's withhold judgment until Sept. 27.

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk. Sensuous story of a 17th-century English orphan who goes to work in a manor house kitchen. Sept. 4.

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes. Darkly comic novel begins with a suburban Thanksgiving that goes more wrong than usual (violence rather than lumpy potatoes). Sept. 27.

NW by Zadie Smith. It's been several years since Smith's last novel (On Beauty), and this tangled story of four Londoners might be overly confusing, Kirkus Reviews hints. Sept. 4.

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu. First novel by promising young author is about women coming of age in the Israeli military. Sept. 11.

San Miguel by T.C. Boyle. Historical novel about two families on a desolate California island. Sept. 18.

Sutton by J.R. Moehringer. Moehringer follows his memoir The Tender Bar with a lively novel about a real-life bank robber. Sept. 25.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. A megastore tycoon wants to take over space occupied by an indie record store in this latest contemporary comedy by the author of The Yiddish Policeman's Union and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Sept. 11.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz. Stories of love and heartbreak by the prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Sept. 11.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. The poet (and Army veteran) writes about U.S. soldiers in Iraq for his first novel. Sept. 11.

A Wanted Man by Lee Child. Popular suspense writer Child involves his unkempt hero Jack Reacher in a dangerous conspiracy. Sept. 11.

Wilderness by Lance Weller. Lauded first novel about a Civil War vet's rugged journey over the Olympic Mountains. Sept. 4.

Winter of the World by Ken Follett. Part 2 of Follett's Century Trilogy follows five families through the dramatic years of World War II. Sept. 18.

NON-FICTION

A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music by Jason Howard. The Berea writer traces how popular music, not just country and bluegrass, has deep roots in the Bluegrass State. Sept. 25.

Bill and Hillary by William H. Chafe. Duke University historian says that to understand the Clintons, it's essential to understand their personal relationship. Sept. 4.

Boss Rove by Craig Unger. Karl Rove is no longer in the White House, but this book looks at how he remains a powerful political operative who will influence the coming election. Sept. 4.

The Endgame by Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor. An 800-page "inside story" about the war in Iraq. Sept. 25.

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max. Max writes about the life, depression and suicide of writer David Foster Wallace. Aug. 30.

God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage by Bishop V. Gene Robinson. The openly gay Episcopal priest and Lexington native makes his case for same-sex marriage. Sept. 18.

The Great Partnership by Jonathan Sacks. The British rabbi argues that science and religion complement each other and that the world needs both. Sept. 11.

Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War by Dakota Meyer and Bing West. The Marine who grew up in Greensburg and Columbia recounts the 2009 five-hour gunbattle in Ganjgal that led to his receiving the Medal of Honor. He reportedly criticizes the Army officers he blames for allowing members of his team to die in the fight, describes flaws in the mission's planning, tells how officers nearby refused to send help and questions why an Army captain who fought alongside him, Will Swenson, hasn't received any valor award. Sept. 25.

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie. In 1989, the novelist was told that Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini had put a bounty on his head for writing The Satanic Verses. This book is Rushdie's memoir of his famous years in hiding. Sept. 18.

No Easy Day by Mark Owen. Owen is the pseudonym of a Navy SEAL, Matt Bissonnette, who gives his eyewitness account of the killing of Osama bin Laden. It reportedly contradicts previous accounts by administration officials, raising questions as to whether the terror mastermind presented a clear threat when SEALs first fired upon him. Sept. 4.

The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin. Billed as a story of conflict between the Obama White House and Supreme Court. No hint on how Toobin portrays his flub on CNN when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. Sept. 18.

One Last Strike by Tony La Russa and Rick Hummel. Last year's dramatic World Series provides the backdrop for a memoir that encompasses more than 30 years in Major League Baseball. Sept. 25.

The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward. The venerable reporter's look at how the Obama White House tried to deal with the Great Recession. Sept. 11.

Seward by Walter Stahr. Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state was so important that he also was targeted for assassination. This biography reminds Americans of a figure whose "folly" was part of an important legacy. Sept. 18.

The Voice Is All by Joyce Johnson. How Jack Kerouac (On the Road) found his literary voice. Sept. 13.

We Have the War Upon Us by William J. Cooper. A close look at events in the five months leading up to the Civil War. Sept. 11.

October

FICTION

Ancient Light by John Banville. An aging actor delves into his lush memories of losing his virginity at 15 to a friend's mother. Oct. 2.

Astray by Emma Donoghue. Donoghue's books are always a surprise. With this, she follows her best-selling Room with a collection of stories about wanderers. Oct. 30.

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe. Eight years after the disappointing I Am Charlotte Simmons, Wolfe has a new publisher and a novel set in the melting-pot of Miami. Oct. 23.

Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie. A "sweeping anthology," it includes 15 new stories along with 15 old ones. Oct. 2.

In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin. Romantic New York saga by the author of Winter's Tale. Oct. 2.

Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. An Irish-American gangster gains power in Prohibition-era Boston. Oct. 2.

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. A Chicago family tries to cope with an obese mother's obsessions, which drive her husband away and challenge everyone who remains. Oct. 23.

Phantom by Jo Nesbø. Popular Norwegian writer sends his ex-police officer Harry Hole to Oslo to help a boy accused of murder. Oct. 2.

The Racketeer by John Grisham. An imprisoned lawyer knows why a federal judge has been murdered. Oct. 23.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Historical tale focusing a 13-year-old North Dakota boy, the son of characters in Erdrich's The Plague of Doves. Oct. 2.

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk. The Turkish writer's second novel, the story of a family gathering before a 1980 military coup. Oct. 9.

The Twelve by Justin Cronin. A literary author who created a vampirish, apocalyptic world with The Passage, Cronin now follows surviving humans as they hunt the 12 original "virals." Oct. 16.

Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell. Her first novel is an uneasy coming-of-age story punctuated by Appalachian magic. Oct. 16.

NON-FICTION

Apocalyptic Planet by Craig Childs. NPR commentator combines science and adventure to show that the Earth is constantly heading toward its end. Oct. 2.

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson. Subtitle says it: "A history of how we cook and eat." Oct. 2.

The Dust Bowl by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns. There have been many books about the 1930s ecological disaster, but none so closely followed a punishing Midwestern summer. The Burns film airs in November on PBS. Oct. 17.

Elsewhere by Richard Russo. Russo is better known for his novels, but here he gives a funny personal account of growing up in Gloversville, N.Y. Oct. 30.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. A son becomes even closer to his mother as she is dying of pancreatic cancer. Oct. 2.

Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Fast on the heels of his best-selling Killing Lincoln, O'Reilly takes on another dramatic presidential assassination. Oct. 2.

Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King. In-depth look at da Vinci's famous painting. Oct. 30.

The Man Who Saved the Union by H.W. Brands. Admiring assessment of Ulysses S. Grant, both as general and as president. Oct. 2.

Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves by Henry Wiencek. Historian takes a deep, and troubling, look at Jefferson's attitude toward slavery and finds that the president found it pleasingly profitable. Oct. 16.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. Extraordinary life of photographer Edward Curtis, who obsessively documented vanishing Native American cultures during the early 20th century. Oct. 9.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen. Respected science writer explores cases in which animal diseases jumped to humans. Oct. 1.

Venice by Thomas F. Madden. A 2,000-year history of the Italian city. Oct. 25.

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young. Rock 'n' roll legend writes his memoir. Oct. 2.

November

FICTION

The Black Box by Michael Connolly. Ballistics evidence sends Harry Bosch on the track of a 20-year-old murder. Nov. 26.

Dear Life by Alice Munro. Fourteen new selections by the short story master. Nov. 13.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. A naive farm wife witnesses a strange biological event in Appalachia in this exploration of the tension between science and faith. Nov. 6.

Magnificence by Lydia Millet. A widow inherits her uncle's mansion and decides to restore its taxidermy collection. Nov. 5.

Notorious 19 by Janet Evanovich. Stephanie Plum's back again. Nov. 20.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. A Cambridge student is recruited into the MI5 in a 1970s espionage story by the author of Atonement. Nov. 13.

NON-FICTION

Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace. Fifteen essays never before collected in book form. Nov. 6.

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. Everyone has the potential to have hallucinations, says the best-selling doctor in his latest exploration of the mind's tricks. Nov. 6.

In the House of the Interpreter by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o. A memoir of his country's turbulent years of 1955-59 by the Kenyan novelist. Nov. 8.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. Esteemed writer and Jefferson fan takes on the complexities of our third president. Nov. 13.

December

FICTION

Dogfight by Calvin Trillin. A humorous narrative poem about this year's presidential election. Dec. 4.

Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. An investigator's wife is abducted, and a string of murders seems to be connected to the kidnappers. Dec. 11.

NON-FICTION

38 Nooses by Scott W. Berg. A history of the Dakota War of 1862 and the "beginning of the frontier's end." Dec. 4.

The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond. A personal look at primitive societies by the author of Guns, Germs and Steel, this book comes out on the final day of 2012.

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