It's early September, but already fall promises a bounty: A new novel from the wildly talented Zadie Smith, a final dispatch from the late Christopher Hitchens and a red-hot account of the Navy SEAL mission that took out Osama bin Laden. And there are more to come. Here are 15 titles on our must-read list for fall. --TOM BEER, firstname.lastname@example.org
No one could accuse Junot Díaz -- a Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2007 novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" -- of cranking out books like factory product. "This is How You Lose Her," a story collection, is his first published work since that Pulitzer was bestowed, and only the third since his 1996 debut with the story collection "Drown." The new stories pick up the romantic and familial troubles of Yunior, Diaz's Dominican-American protagonist, now approaching middle age and troubled by a bad back and a case of the blues. Yunior's serial infidelities catch up with him in the standout story, "The Cheater's Guide to Love." (Riverhead, Sept. 11)
Junot Diaz, author of "This Is How You Lose Her" (Riverhead, Sept. 11).
Michael Chabon, another Pulitzer winner -- this one pretty darn prolific -- throws his hat in the ring this fall with a novel about the California East Bay neighborhood between Oakland and Berkeley where two old friends -- one white, one black -- run a record store that is about to be put out of business by a megastore owned by a retired NFL quarterback, the "fifth-richest black man in America." This one's for fans of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" and "The Yiddish Policeman's Union," who've awaited a big, ambitious, exuberant novel from this imaginative writer. (Harper, Sept. 11)
Michael Chabon, author of "Telegraph Avenue" (Harper, Sept. 11).
Wait, men no longer run the world? Did we miss the memo? That's the surprise conclusion reached by journalist Hanna Rosin in "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women," the new book drawn from her buzzed-about article in The Atlantic. Based on wide-ranging reporting and interviews, Rosin looks at how the vast changes in cultural attitudes, education and the workplace have benefited women and left men struggling to hold onto their dominance. We don't have a woman president -- or equal pay for equal work -- but "The End of Men" argues these are the last vestiges of the old order. (Riverhead, Sept. 11)
Hanna Rosin, author of "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women" (Riverhead, Sept. 11).
Harry Potter is for the ages, but can she write for adults? J.K. Rowling returns with "The Casual Vacancy," a novel written expressly for grown-ups -- because, let's face it, we all devoured Harry Potter books as quickly as the kids could pass them along to us. "The Casual Vacancy" has been embargoed by Rowling's publisher, so we'll have to wait a few weeks to get our hands on this comic novel set in a quaint English village where all is not as idyllic as it seems. The novel will bring Rowling to Lincoln Center Oct. 16 for a rare New York appearance. (Little, Brown, Sept. 27)
J.K. Rowling, author of "The Casual Vacancy" (Little, Brown, Sept. 27 2012).
For two years, while she was being treated for -- and then dying of -- pancreatic cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son, Will Schwalbe, formed an unlikely book club of two -- discussing books at scheduled dinners and in hospital waiting rooms. They made their way through "A Thousand Splendid Suns," through "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," through Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead," and others, prompting unprecedented conversations about life and, naturally, death. (Knopf, Oct. 2)
Will Schwalbe, author of "The End of Your Life Book Club" (Knopf, Oct. 2).
Ever since the publication of "Love Medicine" in 1984, Louise Erdrich has brought Native American lives to readers around the world, particularly in those stories set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. For her new novel "The Round House," narrated by a 13-year-old boy unraveling the mystery of a woman's murder, Erdrich returns to this setting and to the characters of her 2008 outing, "The Plague of Doves." Any novel by Erdrich is cause for celebration, but we hear this is one of her best in years. (Harper, Oct. 2)
Louise Erdrich, author of "The Round House" (Harper, Oct. 2).
We've been treated to some extraordinary memoirs by rock musicians in recent years -- Patti Smith's "Just Kids" and Keith Richards' "Life" are the leaders of the pack -- and Neil Young's forthcoming "Waging Heavy Peace," which was not distributed in advance for reviewers, could certainly join them. The Canadian-born member of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young who went on to an influential solo career has described the autobiography as a "kind of diary." Expect a colorful portrait of the protean rock scene of the '60s and '70s. (Blue Rider Press, Oct. 2)
Neil Young, author of "Waging Heavy Peace" (Blue Rider Press, Oct. 2)
'Marvel Comics: The Untold Story,' by Sean Howe (Harper, October 2012)
Sean Howe, author of "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" (Harper, Oct. 9)
The dapper man in the white suit -- the one responsible for modern classics such as "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" and "The Right Stuff" -- is back with "Back to Blood," a novel of Cuban Miami. "Miami is the only city I can find in the whole world where people from another country, speaking another language and from another culture have taken over a vast city at the ballot box in one generation," Tom Wolfe has said. His new publisher reportedly paid $7 million for the book, which hits seven years after the disappointment of his college novel, "I Am Charlotte Simmons." (Little, Brown, Oct. 23)
Tom Wolfe, author of "Back to Blood" (Little, Brown, Oct. 23).
At last count, in 2010, there were about 77 million dogs in the United States, and Americans spent $38 million on pet food and other products. We treat our dogs like family members, and New York magazine editor John Homans -- himself the proud owner of a Lab mix named Stella, acquired at the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington -- began to wonder why he thought of Stella as almost human. That prompted "What's a Dog For: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man's Best Friend," a thorough exploration of the dog-human bond. (Penguin, Nov. 12)
John Homans, author of "What's a Dog For: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy and Politics of Man's Best Friend" (Penguin, Nov. 12).
It's practically a consensus in the fractious literary world that Alice Munro is our finest short story writer working today. Since her first collection, "Dance of the Happy Shades" in 1968, Munro has accumulated an extraordinary body of work -- rich, detailed stories (not always so short) that have the heft of novels. Many are set in the Lake Huron region of western Ontario where Munro lives, and revolve around the complex lives of girls and women. If you've never read Munro, her 13th collection, "Dear Life: Stories," is as good a place as any to start; she's at the peak of her powers. (Knopf, Nov. 13)
The past few years have seen a raft of great presidential biographies, including Ron Chernow's portrait of George Washington, Edmund Morris' final volume in his trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt and the latest installment of Robert Caro's saga of Lyndon Johnson. Random House editor and former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham has already delivered a Pulitzer Prize-winning portrait of Andrew Jackson; now he promises a re-evaluation of founding father Thomas Jefferson in "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power." (Random House, Nov. 13)
Jon Meacham, author of "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" (Random House, Nov. 13).
The author of "Atonement" has a new novel out this fall, and "Sweet Tooth" does sound delicious. (Though it could be the title's power of suggestion.) At Cambridge University in 1972, a young student in her final year begins an affair with a worldly older professor and finds herself recruited for MI5, the British spy service. But don't expect a straightforward spy thriller a la Ian Fleming or John le Carré -- Ian McEwan makes this a literary meditation on lying and writing. (Doubleday, Nov. 13)
Ian McEwan, author of "Sweet Tooth" (Doubleday, Nov. 13).
Barbara Kingsolver, the hugely popular author of fiction such as "The Bean Trees" and "The Poisonwood Bible" and the nonfiction bestseller "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," takes on global warming in her latest novel, "Flight Behavior." A young woman living on a sheep farm in East Tennessee comes across a rare vision: a forest on fire with millions of red butterflies. Religious fundamentalists call it a miracle; scientists see it as a dire sign of climate change, and the protagonist finds herself at the center of political controversy. (Harper, Nov. 6)
Barbara Kingsolver, author of "Flight Behavior" (Harper, Nov. 6).