This season’s literary nonfiction is in a retrospective mood, reflecting on mortality and what the authors have learned about their art. Readers will learn about the history of the New Yorker, trace the cultural afterlives of favorite books, and share the perspective of a critic with limited reading time left to him.
Essays & Literary Criticism Top 10
And Yet...: Essays
Christopher Hitchens. Simon & Schuster, Dec. 8
A collection of pieces written over the past two decades by Hitchens, who has been a much missed figure since his death from cancer in 2011.
The Art of Memoir
Mary Karr. Harper, Sept. 15
With memoir continuing to be one of the most popular genres, it should be illuminating to see a master of the form explain what it has to do with craft, as well as life.
The Art of the Publisher
Roberto Calasso, trans. by Richard Dixon. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Nov. 3
The author of Ardor should have plenty of insights to share about the business of books. His career as a publisher goes back to the beginnings of the Italian house Adelphi in the 1960s.
Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the ‘New Yorker’
Thomas Vinciguerra. Norton, Nov. 9
An account of the early years of the New Yorker promises a compelling narrative stocked with plenty of well-remembered names (James Thurber, E.B. White), with a starring role for a relatively forgotten one: theater critic Wolcott Gibbs.
The Givenness of Things
Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct. 27
The author of several acclaimed novels, including Gilead and Lila, will draw a wide audience to these 17 essays that critique our society and call for a renewed sense of grace in our lives.
Clive James, Yale Univ., Aug. 25
James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia in 2010, which lends an added note of poignancy to the typically insightful literary criticism collected here.
Quixote: The Novel and the World
Ilan Stavans. Norton, Sept. 8
It might seem hard to find new things to say about one of the first, and most famous, novels, but Stavans does so in a cultural history that shows Cervantes’s tale has exercised an even wider influence than you might have thought.
Reporting Always: Writing for the ‘New Yorker’
Lillian Ross. Scribner, Nov. 10
Ross was on staff at the New Yorker for decades, beginning in 1946. This collection will be a must for her fans and should win her new readers as well.
The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong
David Orr. Penguin Press, Aug. 18
Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is still widely known, even among those who don’t often read poetry. According to PW’s review, New York Times poetry columnist Orr has crafted a witty and engaging narrative out of the poem’s birth and cultural afterlife.
We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think: Selected Essays
Shirley Hazzard, edited by Brigitta Olubas. Columbia Univ., Jan. 5
This nonfiction collection from the author of The Great Fire includes pieces written between the 1960s and the 2000s and covering a wide range of topics.
Essays & Literary Criticism Listings
My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things by Joseph Skibell (Oct. 27, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-56512-930-6). The first nonfiction book from novelist Skibell (A Blessing on the Moon) is an array of funny and thought-provoking true stories about life’s small moments.
The Challenge of Things: Thinking Through Troubled Times by A.C. Grayling (Dec. 8, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-63286-246-4) is a collection of recent writings from philosopher Grayling (The God Argument) reflecting on the world in a time of war and conflict.
The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them, edited by Antonia Fraser and Victoria Gray (Oct. 20, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-63286-228-0). Forty authors—10 of them new to this reprint of a book first published in 1992—including Margaret Atwood, Tom Stoppard, and Doris Lessing, explain what first drew, and continues to draw, them to literature.
(dist. by IPS)
The Book of Mountains and Rivers by Qiuyu Yu (Oct. 6, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-62774-108-8) offers a series of meditative pieces from one of China’s greatest modern essayists, here returning to the Chinese mainland in contemplation of its people and the natural landscape that has shaped their way of life.
(dist. by Consortium)
Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong, edited by Caroline Casey, Chris Fischbach, and Sarah Schultz (Sept. 15, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-56689-411-1). Coffee House Press’s Kickstarter campaign has surpassed its $25,000 goal to fund this book, which will present essays—from contributors who include Maria Bustillos, Ander Monson, and the late David Carr—that make the case that Internet cat videos are more serious than you thought.
The Fate of Ideas: Seductions, Betrayals, Appraisals by Robert Boyers (Sept. 8, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-231-17380-3). The editor of the quarterly Salmagundi for the past 50 years writes an intellectual memoir that confronts aspects of contemporary society while recollecting his collaborations and quarrels with transformative writers like Susan Sontag and J.M. Coetzee.
We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think: Selected Essays by Shirley Hazzard, edited by Brigitta Olubas (Jan. 5, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-231-17326-1). Spanning the 1960s to the 2000s, these writings by acclaimed novelist Hazzard (author of The Great Fire) explore topics such as global politics, literary culture, and post-WWII life in Europe and Asia, confirming the author’s faith in the power of literature to console and inspire.
(dist. by Consortium)
The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All by C.D. Wright (Nov. 10, paper, $18, ISBN 978-1-55659-485-4). This prose collection from Wright (One with Others) reveals her as one of our most original and passionate thinkers on the art of poetry.
(dist. by PGW)
Massive Pissed Love: Nonfiction 2001–2014
by Richard Hell (Sept. 15, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-59376-627-6). Punk innovator Hell is also a prominent voice in American letters for works like the novel I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, and here presents a collection of his ruminations on art, literature, and music, among other subjects.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The Art of the Publisher by Roberto Calasso, trans. by Richard Dixon (Nov. 3, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-374-18823-8), is an interior look at author Calasso’s work as a publisher, sharing what he has learned about the elusive yet profoundly relevant art of making books since the founding of the Italian press Adelphi.
The Givenness of Things: Essays by Marilynne Robinson (Oct. 27, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-374-29847-0) is a profound new essay collection from the author of Gilead, Houskeeping, and Lila.
Theory at Yale: The Strange Case of Deconstruction in America by Marc Redfield (Nov. 2, paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8232-6867-2). The first book-length history of the Yale school of literary criticism, which included figures like Harold Bloom and Paul de Man, examines the process through which European theory entered the United States in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story by Christopher Castellani (Jan. 5, paper, $12, ISBN 978-1-55597-726-9). The 11th entry in Graywolf’s popular Art Of series tackles every fiction writer’s most urgent issue: point of view.
Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts (Oct. 6, paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-55597-721-4). The author of The Gutenberg Elegies offers trenchant essays on the cultural consequences of continuing, all-permeating technological innovation.
The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (Sept. 15, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-06-222306-7). Credited with the current revival of the literary memoir, Karr offers a master class in the essential elements of great memoir, delivered with her signature wit, insight, and candor.
The Annotated Poe, edited by Kevin J. Hayes (Oct. 26, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-674-05529-2). This edition of selected tales and poems offers in-depth notes elucidating Poe’s sources, allusions, and obscure words and passages, along with color illustrations and photographs throughout. Hayes debunks enduring myth, enables a larger appreciation of Poe’s career, and investigates his cultural afterlives.
The Best American Essays 2015, edited by Ariel Levy; series editor, Robert Atwan (Oct. 6, paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-544-56962-1). New Yorker staff writer and award-winning essayist Levy applies her wide-ranging taste and distinctive voice to selecting the year’s best essays from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites.
The Spectacle of Skill: New and Selected Writings of Robert Hughes by Robert Hughes (Nov. 17, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-4000-4445-0) gathers the best previously published writing by the outspoken art and culture critic, along with more than 100 pages from the unfinished second volume of the memoirs he was working on at the time of his death in 2012. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
Letters to Vera by Vladimir Nabokov, edited and trans. by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd (Nov. 3, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-0-307-59336-8). The letters of the writer to his wife—in their first publication—tell a long and beguiling love story, and document the career of a great artist from a fresh perspective.
Becoming Human: Kierkegaardian Reflections on Ethical Models in Literature by Jamie Lorentzen (Nov. 2, paper, $35, ISBN 978-0-88146-541-9). Kierkegaard scholar Howard V. Hong (1912–2010) often asked classes “What does it mean to become a human being?” during his 40-year tenure at St. Olaf College. Lorentzen—one of Dr. Hong’s students—applies this question to classic works of fiction.
The Quarry: Essays by Susan Howe (Nov. 10, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-8112-2246-4) presents a selection of essays that moves backward chronologically through Howe’s career, from the new “Vagrancy in the Park” (about Wallace Stevens) to her seminal and early “The End of Art.”
New York Review Books
Existential Monday: Essays by Benjamin Fondane, trans. and edited by Bruce Baugh (Jan. 19, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-59017-898-0), is the first selection of philosophical writings from the French-Romanian intellectual and poet (1898–1944) to appear in English, revealing him as a metaphysical anarchist and the most daring of the existentialists.
Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, edited by Judith Kitchen and Dinah Lenney (Nov. 9, paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-393-35099-9), assembles 77 literary memoirs, essays, and reflections, many written expressly for this collection, from authors both emerging and established, including Stuart Dybek, Roxanne Gay, and Leslie Jamison.
Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of the New Yorker by Thomas Vinciguerra (Nov. 9, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-393-24003-0) is a revealing look at the writers who built the magazine, centering on the largely forgotten Wolcott Gibbs, the New Yorker’s theater critic and all-around wit.
Quixote: The Novel and the World by Ilan Stavans (Sept. 8, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-393-08302-6) is a cultural history of the most influential, frequently translated, and imitated novel in the world, in the year that marks its 400th anniversary.
South Toward Home: Travels in Southern Literature by Margaret Eby (Sept. 8, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-393-24111-2) takes readers through the Deep South to the places that famous authors lived in and wrote about, traveling through Mississippi (William Faulkner, Richard Wright), Alabama (Harper Lee, Truman Capote), and Georgia (Flannery O’Connor, Harry Crews).
(dist. by Hal Leonard)
Dear Mr. Beckett: Letters from the Publisher; the Samuel Beckett File—Correspondence, Interviews, Photos, edited by Lois Oppenheim (Jan. 12, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-1-62316-070-8). A collection of letters, contracts, photos, interviews, speeches, reviews, and memorabilia, most never before made public, relates the personal and professional friendship between Beckett and the late Barney Rosset, longtime owner of Grove Press.
(dist. by HBG)
My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South by Rick Bragg (Sept. 15, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-8487-4639-1) is a collection of the Pulitzer Prize–winning author’s most poignant portraits of American Southern life, with many new essays included.
(dist. by Norton)
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books
by Michael Dirda (Aug. 15, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-60598-844-3) collects 50 witty and wide-ranging reflections on literary journalism, book collecting, and writers from the Washington Post book reviewer.
Last Night’s Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors by Kate Gavino (Oct. 27, paper, $16, ISBN 978-0-14-312731-4). At every book reading Gavino attends, she hand letters the event’s most memorable quote alongside a charming portrait of the author. Here, she shares over 100 of these illustrations.
The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong by David Orr (Aug. 18, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-59420-583-5). Orr, the poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review, writes a cultural “biography” of Robert Frost’s popular poem, tracing its influence and the many misconceptions about it.
The Essential Goethe by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, edited by Matthew Bell (Nov. 24, hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-691-16290-4), presents the most comprehensive one-volume collection of Goethe’s writings ever published in English, fully representing his work as playwright, poet, novelist, and autobiographer.
Shame and Wonder: Essays by David Searcy (Jan. 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-8129-9394-3) is the debut essay collection of a singular new voice in nonfiction, collecting 21 pieces from Searcy, formerly a literary horror novelist, who found himself drawn back to writing in his late 60s.
Random House UK
Affirming: Letters, 1975–1997 by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy and Mark Pottle (Dec. 1, hardcover, $75, ISBN 978-1-78474-008-5). The fourth and final volume of Isaiah Berlin’s much admired letters shows the philosopher entering a profoundly interesting last phase in his life.
Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee (A Reader’s Companion) by Shelley Fisher Fishkin (Nov. 11, hardcover, $34.95, ISBN 978-0-8135-7597-1) takes readers on an eclectic tour of more than 150 National Register historic sites significant in American literature, from traditional tourist destinations like Walden Pond to less recognizable but equally pivotal locations.
(dist. by IPG)
Short Flights: Thirty-Two Modern Writers Explore the World of Aphorisms with Insight, Inspiration and Wit, edited by James Lough and Alex Stein (Nov. 1, paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-936182-88-6), compiles satirical and philosophical aphorisms from leading modern writers, including Charles Simic, David Shields, and Olivia Dresher.
Reporting Always: Writing for the New Yorker by Lillian Ross (Nov. 10, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-5011-1600-1) assembles a range of pieces, spanning 60 years, from the longtime New Yorker staff writer, who is credited with inventing the modern entertainment profile with her writings on figures like Charles Chaplin and Ernest Hemingway.
(dist. by MIT)
When the Sick Rule the World by Dodie Bellamy (Oct. 16, paper, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-58435-168-9) is a moving meld of essay, memoir, and story that collects Bellamy’s new and recent lyric prose on topics as eclectic as vomit, Kathy Acker’s wardrobe, and Occupy Oakland.
Simon & Schuster
And Yet...: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Dec. 8, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4767-7206-6) is an assortment of previously uncollected pieces published over the past two decades by the erudite, provocative, and polarizing writer, who died in 2011 from esophageal cancer.
Making a Point: The Persnickety Story of English Punctuation by David Crystal (Oct. 6, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-250-06041-9) concludes Crystal’s triumphant trilogy about the English language, combining the first history of English punctuation with a complete guide on how to use it.
Temple Univ./American Literatures Initiative
The Asian American Avant-Garde: Universalist Aspirations in Modernist Literature and Art by Audrey Wu Clark (Oct. 1, paper, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-4399-1227-0) examines a long-neglected canon—avant-garde work produced between 1882 and 1945 by writers and artists of Asian descent—showing how figures like Isamu Noguchi and Dong Kingman critiqued racism and engaged with literary modernism.
Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals by Dinty W. Moore (Aug. 18, hardcover, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-60774-809-0). A unique writing guide pairs questions sent in by famous contemporary essayists with the author’s advice column–style responses and witty example essays.
Univ. of Chicago
Philip Sparrow Tells All: Lost Essays by Samuel Steward, Writer, Professor, Tattoo Artist by Samuel Steward, edited by Jeremy Mulderig (Oct. 29, paper, $20, ISBN 978-0-226-30468-7), selects 30 essays written by a multifaceted author, under the pen name “Philip Sparrow,” for the Illinois Dental Journal, 1944–1949.
(dist. by Random)
Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality by Fredric Jameson (Nov. 17, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-78478-216-0). The master of literary theory takes on the master of the detective novel for an interpretation of Chandler’s work that reconstructs both the context in which it was written and the social world it projects.
The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy by J.M. Coetzee and Arabella Kurtz (Sept. 29, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-525-42951-7) explores the nature of truth, fiction, and psychotherapy in a series of compelling and revealing dialogues between the Nobel Prize-winning author Coetzee and psychoanalyst Kurtz.
J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing: Face-to-face with Time by David Attwell (Sept. 29, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-525-42961-6). Atwell, who has followed Coetzee’s work from his first novel, delivers a critical biography and study—on sources, process, and influence—that spans the entire arc of an impressive career.
Latest Readings by Clive James (Aug. 25, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-300-21319-5). The esteemed literary critic, who in 2010 was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, shares musings on his children, his final reading list, and his own impending death, in this moving farewell.