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Five Picks for Your Fall Reading List

Rebecca Howard

Fall offers us many comforts--farm stand apples, homemade soups, and long walks in the woods with leaves crunching underfoot. Fall fiction generally offers no such reprieve, which is just the way that I like it. 

Some readers live for juicy summer reads that inevitably wind up with the scent of sunscreen and sand embedded between the pages. For fall book lovers, a coffee or tea ring is the mark of a great read. (Important PSA: these stains are merely metaphorical if you’re reading a library copy, of course!) 

While there’s no perfect fall book for everyone, for me a great fall read is meaty and substantial, discomforting, unsettling, challenging, and thought-provoking. These are books that urge me to dig in, grapple, and re-think. As days get shorter, my tolerance for darkness in life and in fiction grows. If your taste in fiction can accommodate some good and necessary discomfort right now, keep reading. 

These are five titles from my own personal TBR (to be read) list that I’m anticipating most this fall. Annotations from the library’s catalog. 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi   

The anticipated follow up to Gyasi’s 2016 debut novel, Homegoing. A novel about faith, science, religion, and family that tells the deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, narrated by a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward-seeking behavior in mice.

Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine  

As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Claudia Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history. 

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar 

A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home.

Daddy: Stories by Emma Cline 

In ten remarkable stories, Emma Cline portrays moments when the ordinary is disturbed, when daily life buckles, revealing the perversity and violence pulsing under the surface. She explores characters navigating the edge, the limits of themselves and those around them: power dynamics in families, in relationships, the distance between their true and false selves. 

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (October 2020) 

A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong. Alam is the author of Rich and Pretty and Not that Kind of Mother. Alam sensitively and surprisingly explores the unexamined privilege that creates fault lines within friendships, families, and communities.  

When you read a book, you enter a different world. But the act of reading does more than broaden our world-view; it creates empathy, and nurtures civility.
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