Fall Books Preview: Big-name fiction authors are all over the season

The Seattle TimesSeptember 12, 2013 

Pulses are quickening for book lovers. This fall will see tomes published by writers gifted at making things up, with new novels out by Margaret Atwood, Jamie Ford, Stephen King, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Lethem, Thomas Pynchon, Donna Tartt and Amy Tan.

Those who like their reading material factual must settle for a slightly less-stellar list, but there are new works of history by Bill Bryson and Simon Winchester. There's a memoir by Linda Ronstadt, and biographies of Johnny Cash, Norman Mailer and Ian Fleming. Rebecca Eaton, the force behind Masterpiece Theater, offers a glimpse at her gilded world. The late Nora Ephron's publisher collects some of her best work.

Here are the highlights of fall's new books.

FICTION AND POETRY

SEPTEMBER

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday). The third installment in the Canadian author's speculative fiction trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood).

The Return by Michael Gruber (Henry Holt). The author of philosophically complex thrillers pens a story about a New York book editor and Vietnam War vet who sets off on a last mission of vengeance after learning that he's dying of a brain tumor.

Enon by Paul Harding (Random House). Harding's novel Tinkers, published by a small press, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In Enon, a New England-set sequel, the grieving Charlie Crosby, grandson of the Tinkers protagonist, tries to come to terms with the death of his daughter and the breakup of his marriage.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Scribner). Dan Torrance, the child protagonist/hero of The Shining, has grown up, still has paranormal powers and is still doing battle with the dark side.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf). The second novel by the author of The Namesake. Two brothers, born in Calcutta in the years just before the Partition of India, grow apart when one moves to America and the other becomes aligned with an increasingly violent radical movement.

Then We Take Berlin by John Lawton (Atlantic Monthly Press). Lawton, author of the Inspector Troy series, delivers a lively tale about Joe Wilderness, a Cockney street kid involved in the Berlin black market during World War II who moves on to people-smuggling across the Iron Curtain.

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday). From the author of Motherless Brooklyn, a family saga that interweaves the stories of three generations of American radicals with that of the American Communist Party.

Someone by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). McDermott, an extraordinary fiction writer (Charming Billy), returns after a seven-year hiatus to tell the story of "ordinary woman" Marie, her family and their history in an Irish-American enclave in Brooklyn.

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin). The reclusive National Book Award winner publishes a novel about New York swindlers in the interregnum between the turn-of-the-last-century dot-com bust and 9/11.

OCTOBER

Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (Random House). New poetry by the much-admired Collins, a two-term poet laureate of the United States.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding. The third installment of the story of Bridget, Britain's favorite singleton.

The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf Doubleday): The author of the novel A Hologram for the King, the non-fiction Zeitoun and the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius tells the story of a young idealistic woman who goes to work for a giant Internet company, a sort of Google, Facebook and Twitter combined, only to find things are what they seemed.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking). The Eat, Pray, Love author returns with a novel set in the 18th and 19th centuries as it follows the gifted and complicated Whittaker family around the globe.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown). Tartt, author of The Secret History and The Little Friend, returns with the story of a boy who loses his parents, is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend and becomes a misfit who moves in the world of the rich but is not of it.

NOVEMBER

We Are Water by Wally Lamb (Harper). By the author of She's Come Undone, a wife, mother and outsider artist falls in love with the owner of the gallery that represents her, opening up a Pandora's box of family secrets.

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan (Ecco/Harper). The Joy Luck Club author's new novel moves between turn-of-the-century Shanghai, a Chinese mountain village and 19th-century San Francisco as it follows women connected by blood, history and a mysterious painting.

NONFICTION

SEPTEMBER

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes (Knopf). The British literary novelist grapples with the unexpected death of his wife of 30 years, his navigation of "the geography of grief" and how to live in the aftermath.

Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler (Scribner). Lots of advance praise for this book, in which the author compares the death of both her parents — one assisted by the latest medical interventions, the other meeting death "the old-fashioned way."

Mushroom Hunter: On the Trail of an Underground America by Langdon Cook (Ballantine). Cook follows foragers who penetrate the dark corners of the forests to seek mushrooms coveted by the gastronomic elite.

An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins (Ecco). The evolutionary biologist's memoir of how he became interested in science and turned into a world-renowned scientist/opinionator.

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt (Simon & Schuster). The life of the accomplished musician/singer, plus dish about the SoCal music scene of the 1970s.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser (Penguin Press). The Fast Food Nation author investigates the safety of our nuclear arsenal.

OCTOBER

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson (Doubleday). The witty and erudite Bryson makes a case that 1927, a year of accomplishments/notoriety for Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone and Herbert Hoover, was the year America "came of age."

The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday). Conroy writes about his father, the inspiration for "the Great Santini," and his quest to find common ground with him.

It's All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey by Rick Dodgson (University of Wisconsin Press). Billed as the first biography of the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, focusing on his younger years, from wrestling to writing to road-tripping to drugs.

The Most of Nora Ephron by Nora Ephron (Knopf). A posthumous collection of Ephron's work, including writings on journalism, feminism, food and politics.

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Finkel, author of The Good Soldiers, in which he shadowed the men of the 2-16 infantry battalion in Iraq, follows them as they return home and try to assimilate back into the lives of their family and their country.

Norman Mailer: A Double Life by J. Michael Lennon (Simon & Schuster). This is an authorized biography, but Publishers Weekly says it is comprehensive in documenting "the extremes of ugliness and compassion that defined the author's life and work."

Ian Fleming: A Biography by Andrew Lycett (St. Martin's). Billed as the first full-length biography of the creator of James Bond, who was, among other things, a British intelligence officer.

Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven Davis (Twelve). The authors, both veteran journalists with roots in Dallas, vividly re-create the atmosphere of Dallas on the eve of the Kennedy assassination, a toxic mix of hatred, fanaticism and extremism.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (Little, Brown). Billed as the definitive story of Amazon.com. We'll see.

The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester (Harper). Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman, traces the country's history through the stories of America's explorers, thinkers and innovators, some famous, some now forgotten.

NOVEMBER

Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at 'Masterpiece Theatre' and 'Mystery!' On PBS by Rebecca Eaton (Viking). Eaton, who helped bring Upstairs, Downstairs, Inspector Morse and Downton Abbey to PBS, offers readers a behind-the-scenes look at how the program works.

Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn (Little, Brown). The life of one of the 20th century's most famous and influential musicians — billed as definitive and no-holds-barred. Hilburn is a distinguished music critic and journalist.

Vanished: The 60-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil Hylton (Riverhead). A tale of forensic sleuthing — the story of the 60-year search for the crew of a B-24 bomber that disappeared over the Pacific.

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the 19th-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge (W.W. Norton). This portrait of Brits who chose a "life in service" got rave reviews in Britain. A promising backgrounder for the Downton Abbey crowd.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (Harper). A collection of essays by the novelist (Bel Canto, State of Wonder) and bookseller.

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