The Lit Lover

Novels to bring some story to the season


Ann Patchett. Harper. ISBN 978-0-06-249179-4

Patchett’s latest novel is a funny, sad, and heart-wrenching family portrait: a collage of parents, children, stepchildren, siblings, and stepsiblings, showing how alliances and animosities ebb and flow over time, and how a fatal accident changes the family for good.

By Gaslight

Steven Price. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

ISBN 978-0-374-16053-1

In 1885 London, a woman’s dismembered body incites two men to search through opium dens, séance halls, and foggy streets to find an elusive master criminal. Combining historical suspense with literary sophistication, Price weaves a sweeping, transporting tale of hunter and hunted.


Margaret Atwood. Hogarth.

ISBN 978-0-8041-4129-1

Atwood reimagines Shakespeare’s The Tempest by making her Prospero a prominent theater festival director who stages a play with prisoners. Perhaps most rewarding in this canny remix is marveling at the ways in which Atwood changes, updates, and parallels the original play’s magic, grief, vengeance, and showmanship.

The Mothers

Brit Bennett. Riverhead. ISBN 978-0-399-18451-2

Bennett’s brilliant, tumultuous novel begins with 17-year-old Nadia Turner’s pregnancy (the father is the local pastor’s son) and its cover-up. Years later, living in debt, the characters are haunted by what might have happened if they had made different decisions.

Swing Time

Zadie Smith. Penguin Press. ISBN 978-1-59420-398-5

This rich, absorbing novel from the acclaimed author of White Teeth and NW garnered a starred review. With “nuances of race relations” that are both “subtle and explicit,” the book tracks the friendship of two brown girls in London who dream of being dancers, and ranges from the metropolis to West Africa.

This Must Be the Place

Maggie O’Farrell. Knopf.

ISBN 978-0-385-34942-0

This magical love story is about the unlikely meeting of Daniel, an American, and Claudette, a French-English former actress, and their struggle to hold things together in the face of a secret from Daniel’s past. By incorporating a dizzying array of perspectives and detail, O’Farrell has crafted a stunning exploration of how relationships start, end, and last.

To the Bright Edge of the World

Eowyn Ivey. Little, Brown.

ISBN 978-0-316-24285-1

This riveting adventure novel follows an 1885 wilderness expedition in which Col. Allen Forrester must map Alaska’s northern interior, leaving his pregnant wife, Sophie, on her own at Fort Vancouver. Perfect for armchair explorers.

The Budding Detective

Picks for fans of mysteries and thrillers

In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper

Edited by Lawrence Block. Pegasus Crime.

ISBN 978-1-6817-7245-5

This high-concept crime fiction anthology has obvious crossover appeal to art lovers. Heavyweight contributors include Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Stephen King, and Joyce Carol Oates.

A Great Reckoning

Louise Penny. Minotaur. ISBN 978-1-250-02213-4

After steady growth in sales since 2006, Canadian author Penny finally hit the number one spot on PW’s Hardcover Fiction bestseller list this fall with her 12th mystery featuring Quebec’s Chief Insp. Armand Gamache. Those who haven’t noticed Penny’s rise will want to know what all the fuss is about.

Night School: A Jack Reacher Novel

Lee Child. Delacorte.

ISBN 978-0-8041-7880-8

The 21st Jack Reacher novel is cause for special celebration, as 21 is the number of books in the popular Travis McGee series written by bestseller Child’s literary idol, John D. MacDonald. Plus, Tom Cruise is reprising his role as the vigilante loner this fall in the second Reacher movie, Never Go Back.

Road to Perdition

Max Allan Collins. Brash.

ISBN 978-1-941298-96-1

Collins had to adhere closely to the screenplay when he wrote the novelization of the 2002 movie starring Tom Hanks, which was adapted from his original graphic crime novel set in Prohibition-era Chicago. This much improved, expanded version is a must-have for fans of the movie and the graphic novel.

Surrender, New York

Caleb Carr. Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-45569-1

Fans of bestseller Carr’s The Alienist, about a psychologist tracking a serial killer in late 19th-century New York City, won’t want to miss this ambitious novel, about a psychologist and a DNA expert investigating crimes from their base in present-day upstate New York.

The Sci-fi Hound

Wrap up some science fiction and fantasy this year


Nisi Shawl. Tor. ISBN 978-0-7653-3805-1

Steampunk fans will be delighted by Shawl’s clever revitalization of the genre. The setting of the Belgian Congo lays bare the colonial underpinnings of the steampunk aesthetic and draws readers deep into a tale of culture clash, intrigue, and utopian hopes in the midst of disaster.

The Fifth Season

N.K. Jemisin. Orbit.

ISBN 978-0-356-50819-1

Jemisin’s complex, haunting novel of seismic magic and climate terror has gotten renewed buzz from its Hugo Award win this August. The paperback edition is an excellent gift for any casual fan of SF.

A Natural History of Hell: Stories

Jeffrey Ford. Small Beer. ISBN 978-1-61873-118-0

This is the perfect reader-who-has-everything gift for fantasy fans with a literary bent or vice versa. Ford brilliantly cross-pollinates the grim suburban settings of literary fiction with fantastical elements, adding dashes of humor and empathy to provide some light in dark days.

The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin. Saga. ISBN 978-1-4814-7596-9

The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin. Saga. ISBN 978-1-4814-5139-0

These handsome hardcover collections of some of the finest work by one of America’s finest authors will delight any fan of speculative literature. Le Guin is a living legend, and even readers who know much of her classic work will fall for it all over again.

The Hopeless Romantic

They’ll fall in love with these romance books

Christmas at Promise Lodge

Charlotte Hubbard. Zebra.

ISBN 978-1-4201-3943-3

Hubbard’s second Promise Lodge Amish contemporary romance smoothly integrates its seasonal theme with the ongoing story of three sisters founding a new colony where single women and ostracized families can find refuge. Hubbard excels at weaving a feminist perspective into the daily realities of Amish life.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal

Tessa Dare. Avon.

ISBN 978-0-06-234904-0

Dare’s delicious Regency romance, in which a proper young woman is rumored to have trysted with an arrogant spy, links her two popular series, but the earlier books definitely aren’t required to enjoy this one. Her current fans will love it, and new readers will get the bonus gift of an extensive backlist to explore.

First Star I See Tonight

Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Morrow. ISBN 978-0-06-240561-6

The newest book in Phillips’s Stars series of contemporary standalone novels is a pure delight. Phillips has a knack for nuance and stage-setting that grounds her characters, a clumsy PI and a hapless former quarterback, and gives their hilarious story extra weight as they fumble and scrimmage their way into romance.

Looking for Group

Alexis Hall. Riptide. ISBN 978-1-62649-446-6

When the college-age protagonists of Hall’s tender, sweet novel meet in an online game, it’s not clear at first that they’re both men—but the bro/nerd conflict looms much larger than concerns over sexual identity. The game is explored extensively and the physicality is limited to a few charmingly awkward kisses, making this a great gift for teens.

Sunrise Crossing

Jodi Thomas. Harlequin. ISBN 978-0-373-78930-6

In this first-rate contemporary, Victoria, a talented artist, escapes to Crossroads, Tex., which sets into motion a chain of seemingly unrelated events. The book’s pitch-perfect pacing, well-crafted characters, and satisfying ending earned it a starred review in PW.

Sweet Tomorrows

Debbie Macomber. Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-553-39183-1

Diehard fans will already have this tear-jerker concluding volume to Macomber’s Rose Harbor series, which has two romance threads in one volume, but it’s an excellent fit for anyone looking for books that hit the sweet spot between romance and women’s fiction.

The Comics Savant

Perfect for graphic novel and comics fans

Attack on Titan Anthology

Scott Snyder et al. Kodansha.

ISBN 978-1-63236-258-2

A dazzling lineup of Western comics creators—among them Asaf Hanuka, Faith Erin Hicks, Paul Pope, Afua Richardson, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, and Ronald Wimberly—create original stories based on Hajime Isayama’s global manga smash Attack on Titan series. The 256-page book comes loaded with special material.

The Best American Comics 2016

Edited by Roz Chast and Bill Kartalopoulos. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

ISBN 978-0-544-75035-7

The current golden age of comics is reflected in a particularly rich edition of the yearly anthology, with work by Lynda Barry, Kate Beaton, Cece Bell, Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware, and Julia Wertz; a great sampler for a wide range of material and introduction to some fine talents.

Frank Miller’s Sin City: The Hard Goodbye Curator’s Collection

Frank Miller. Dark Horse. ISBN 978-1-50670-070-0

Printing art at its original size, and in revelatory detail, artists editions are the ultimate item for collectors. And few books look better in this large format than Miller’s stark, visceral black and white tales of violence and passion.

March Trilogy Box Set

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Top Shelf. ISBN 978-1-60309-395-8

The much lauded—and now long-listed for the National Book Award—series about the birth of the civil rights movement is finally completed with a long and triumphal third volume, and all three are collected in a slipcased edition.

The Wicked + The Divine Deluxe Edition: Year One

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson. Image. ISBN 978-1-63215-728-7

The gods have been reincarnated in human form, but in modern society, gods are celebrities and celebrities are gods, and it’s hard to tell the difference. The first 11 issues of this dazzling fantasy about fame, identity, and divinity are collected in a deluxe hardcover.

The Poetry Devotee

Collections for the lyrical ones in your life

Certain Magical Acts

Alice Notley. Penguin.

ISBN 978-0-14-310816-0

There’s no real “wrong” choice when it comes to picking a collection from Notley. Here, it’s her against the world, or at least its modern ills. Notley doesn’t shy from seeking via language, and these big-picture poems can have a kitchen-sink feel in their inclusiveness.

Collected Poems: 1974–2004

Rita Dove. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-28594-9

One of America’s most brilliant and lauded poets finally sees all her work in one place, a boon to new and familiar readers alike. Dove can effortlessly shift from lyric to experiment, and from historical voice to personal recollection. But it’s the unexpected feelings she evokes that keep readers rapt.


Anne Carson. Knopf. ISBN 978-1-101-94684-8

Carson continues to experiment with what makes something a poem as well as how best to deliver it. Float is actually a collection of 23 autonomous chapbooks bundled together so that their disparate elements and subjects play off each other in wild ways, however one chooses to read them.

Partly: New and Selected Poems, 2001–2015

Rae Armantrout. Wesleyan Univ. ISBN 978-0-8195-7655-2

If for some reason you haven’t kept up with Armantrout’s recent production, or don’t know her work well, this is an excellent way of getting acquainted. The volume includes 32 new poems as well as selections from her Pulitzer Prize–winning collection, Versed.

Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin

Edited by Philip Cushway and Michael Warr. Norton.

ISBN 978-0-393-35273-3

This anthology collects poems and brief essays from 43 African-American poets, highlighting crucial intersections of art, history, and social justice. The volume includes such figures as Rita Dove, Terrance Hayes, Tyehimba Jess, Yusef Komunyakaa, Harryette Mullen, Natasha Trethewey. With photos by Victoria Smith.

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