20+ Best Fall Books of 2019

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20+ Best Fall Books of 2019

1

Dominicana: A Novel

In this sensational coming-of-age novel, a Dominican teenager named Ana immigrates to midcentury New York City by way of a loveless marriage to a man twice her age. As Ana grows closer to her brother-in-law, she wrestles with her duty to her family back home, who hope to follow her to America. At once tender, musical, and electric, this novel meditates on how immigration shapes lives, from both without and within.

2

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement

In October 2017, Kantor and Twohey helped to ignite a global movement against sexual harassment and abuse through their Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. In She Said, they pull back the curtain on months of gumshoe reporting, while also investigating the structural tools of complicity that inoculate abusers from consequences. Kantor and Twohey even-handedly assess the impact of the #MeToo movement thus far while also turning a perceptive, hopeful eye on the way forward.

3

For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity

It’s a man’s world, but as Liz Plank argues in this timely, gimlet-eyed book about toxic masculinity, men aren’t exactly enjoying the emotional repression and strict gender roles that have become their MO. With sparkling wit and razor-sharp cultural criticism, Plank investigates toxic masculinity and the threat it poses not just to women, children, and society, but to the emotional wellbeing of men themselves.

4

A Cosmology of Monsters: A Novel

H.P. Lovecraft meets Stephen King in this spooky debut novel about a family of haunted house proprietors who are haunted across generations by monsters—and not the hokey jump-scare kind. Hamill has crafted an ambitious, spellbinding horror novel for the ages, one where the looming specters of ambition, obsession, and loss are every bit as terrifying as the flesh-and-blood monsters themselves.

5

Red at the Bone: A Novel

One of our most empathetic writers turns her full-hearted eye on an intergenerational Brooklyn story of two families from different social classes who are bound forever by a teenage pregnancy. Lyrical, dreamy, and brimming with compassion for her characters, Woodson explores the forces that divide us and the ties that bind with her signature extremity of feeling.

6

Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale

The sands of time have reaped over some of our best writers, but after this collection launches, Nancy Hale will no longer be one of them. Hale is our next Lucia Berlin—neglected in her lifetime, then rediscovered after her death. In these 25 arresting stories, Hale writes about complex women who live quiet lives of confusion and desperation, locating the hugeness of human feeling within the minutiae of domestic life. Perceptive and luscious, these stories are unmissable.

7

Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays

The acclaimed essayist returns to her signature cocktail of memoir, journalism, and cultural criticism in this dazzling collection about the outer reaches of human connection. Jamison reports on surprising subjects, such as lonely whales and break-up museums, while also turning her eye inward for a poignant meditation on her own experiences of marriage, giving birth, and becoming a stepmother. Acute in her analysis and nourishing in her observations, Jamison is at the height of her powers here as she investigates what we owe one another.

8

The Water Dancer: A Novel

After Between the World and Me, Coates became one of our foremost public intellectuals, and as such, his fiction debut arrives with immense expectation. This fantastical novel of the human spirit’s triumph over unimaginable oppression doesn’t disappoint. Through the story of Hiram Walker, an escaped slave with fantastical powers seeking to rescue the family he left behind, Coates explores the profound dehumanization of slavery, producing a soulful, kinetic novel that can’t be missed.

9

The Topeka School: A Novel

In this ambitious, formidable novel, one of the very best of the Trump era thus far, Lerner asks: how does one raise a good son? When high school senior Adam Gordon takes a troubled loner under his wing, the consequences for their small community are disastrous. With acute social insight into the crisis of toxic masculinity and deep psychological penetration into one Midwestern family, this is the rare novel of ideas that never skimps on depth of feeling.

10

Frankissstein

One of our finest thinkers on sex and desire reimagines Frankenstein for a new age of medicine, science, and body positivity. In this multi-dimensional novel, Mary Shelley writes Frankenstein at Lake Geneva; later in time, a transgender doctor falls in love with an AI expert, a divorced man launches a groundbreaking sex doll, and a cryogenics facility houses bodies that aren’t as dead as they seem. Campy, smutty, and thought-provoking, this reboot of the OG science fiction novel pulls a totemic story into the 21st century, proving that when it comes to the morality of bodies and minds, we haven’t evolved at all.

11

Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl: A Memoir

In this singular, gutting memoir, perhaps the most important book of the season, Vanasco interviews her own rapist. Fourteen years later, Vanasco and the high school friend who raped her struggle together through the landmines of a harrowing conversation about consent, betrayal, and rehabilitation. This book lives masterfully in the messy, liminal space between punishment and forgiveness, asking us to consider the path forward from the unthinkable.

12

Grand Union: Stories

From one of the finest writers of our generation comes a dazzling collection of stories, each of them uniquely witty, perceptive, and generous of spirit. With eleven new stories, in addition to some of Smith’s best-loved pieces from The New Yorker, this collection is sure to enthrall readers of all persuasions, meditating as it does on identity, inheritance, and rebirth. 

13

salt slow

In these surreal, muscular stories, all of them unfettered from the demands of realism, Armfield considers womanhood and its visceral discontents. Fangirls turn rabid; puberty produces a monstrous transformation; a post-apocalyptic pregnancy isn’t what it seems. Fusing genres with supernatural grace, Armfield takes the discourse about inhabiting a female body to spooky, surprising places.

14

Arias

One of our most celebrated poets roars into 2019 with this high-velocity collection of gorgeous, urgent poems about political life, racism, and intimate violence. Olds is as visionary as ever, shining her radiant, forceful voice on subjects that can’t be ignored.

15

Girl: A Novel

Set in Nigeria, this wrenching story of innocence lost follows the shattered life of a girl abducted and abused by Boko Haram. When she escapes captivity with a child born out of rape, she struggles to rebuild the life that was taken from her. Burning with rage and anguish, yet woven from glittering prose, Girl is a riveting story of the unbreakable bonds between mothers, daughters, and sisters.

16

Olive, Again: A Novel

Ten years after Olive Kitteridge earned the Pulitzer Prize, Strout returns to Crosby, Maine for a new season of Olive’s life. Olive is as stern, sensitive, and inscrutable as ever, struggling to feel compassion for the improbable ups and downs of her neighbors’ messy lives. Yet it’s in those ups and downs—the vicissitudes of marriage, aging, and loss—that Olive locates essential truths about how we live alongside one another. Shot through with transcendent moments of grace, this ode to the human comedy is Strout at the height of her gifts. 

17

In the Dream House: A Memoir

Fresh off the staggering success of Her Body and Other Parties, Machado returns with this formally daring memoir of domestic abuse. Pinballing through forms, Machado turns an abusive relationship over and over in her mind’s eye, evaluating it through such varied tropes and lenses as erotica, fairy tales, and Star Trek. Daring, chilling, and unlike anything else you’ve ever read, In the Dream House is a singular accomplishment.

18

The Worst Kind of Want: A Novel

In this dark, seductive novel, a middle-aged woman forced for years to be her mother’s keeper jets to Italy to keep an eye on her wayward teenage niece. Once there, she relishes the years lost to her by falling into youthful, reckless behaviors, including a dangerous flirtation with a teenage boy. Noirish and sexy, this provocative novel explores what it’s like to be a woman on the edge, and what happens when dreams are deferred for too long.

19

The Witches Are Coming

With her signature wit, brio, and laser-like clarity of vision, one of our foremost thinkers on gender unveils her unifying theory of America: that our steady diet of pop culture created by and for embittered, entitled white men has stoked our sociopolitical moment. Adam Sandler, South Park, and Pepe the Frog all come under West’s withering scrutiny in this funny, hyper-literate analysis of the link between meme culture and male mediocrity.

20

Life isn’t everything.: Mike Nichols, as remembered by 150 of his closest friends.

In this exhaustively reported oral history of director Mike Nichols’ life, dozens of Nichols’ friends and collaborators (including Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, and Lorne Michaels) share intimate stories about the man who directed, challenged, and inspired them. What emerges is a warm, effusive portrait of a singular life and career. 

21

Dead Astronauts: A Novel

As the prophet of climate fiction, Vandermeer occupies a singular space in literature. His latest novel follows three astronauts squaring off against a nefarious biotech corporation known only as The Company, which devastated Earth’s biome by releasing bioengineered creatures into the wild. This is a Russian doll of a novel, with each chapter containing worlds upon nested worlds, all of them dreamlike and dark. In this shattered landscape, Vandermeer explores urgent ideas about capitalism, greed, and natural destruction. 

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