12 best new books to read this fall


The marquee names on the fall publishing calendar are legion: Jonathan Safran Foer, John le Carré, Maureen Dowd, Wayne Gretzky, Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon — and yes, a certain scribe by the name of J.K. Rowling. But you don’t have all day to hear us rave about the big books headed our way. Long story short: These are 12 must-reads of the season.


TRUE BELIEVER: Stalin’s Last American Spy, by Kati Marton

TRUE BELIEVER: Stalin’s Last American Spy, by Kati
(Credit: S&S)

The “true believer” of the title was Noel Field, a patrician Harvard-educated American who, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, joined the secret underground of the international Communist movement and became a spy for the Soviet Union, destroying many lives. Marton chronicles Field’s betrayal — and the price he paid after fleeing the United States and then inflaming the suspicions of the Soviets, even serving time in a Budapest prison. The book poses the question: “How does an idealist turn into a willing participant in murder?” (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 6)


MAD ENCHANTMENT: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies, by Ross King

COMMONWEALTH, by Ann Patchett. A new novel by
(Credit: Bloomsbury)

As Europe tumbled into the horrors of World War I, the great French Impressionist Claude Monet — then in his 70s and suffering from cataracts — began work on a series of paintings depicting water lilies in the garden of his home at Giverny. In this new book, Ross King, the author of such lively art histories as “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling” and “The Judgment of Paris,” tells the story of these masterpieces and the remarkable circumstances of their creation. (Bloomsbury, on sale Sept. 6)

COMMONWEALTH, by Ann Patchett

NUTSHELL, by Ian McEwan. You won’t believe the
(Credit: Harper)

A new novel by the bestselling author of “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder” — also a co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee — is an occasion. “Commonwealth,” inspired by the story of Patchett’s own childhood, opens at a christening party in Los Angeles in the 1960s where a policeman’s wife meets a district attorney — also married — upending both marriages and families. Patchett follows the siblings of this blended family, split between California and Virginia, across the decades, exploring the complicated affections and resentments that bind them together. (Harper, Sept. 13)



NUTSHELL, by Ian McEwan

THE WONDER, by Emma Donoghue. The author of
(Credit: Doubleday)

You won’t believe the premise of this one: The worldly, unreliable narrator of the latest novel by McEwan is still in utero, where he overhears his mother plot with her lover to murder his father. He also absorbs the wine she drinks and the podcasts she listens to. Yes, it sounds crazy, but then again, this is the Man Booker Prize-winning author of such outstanding titles as “Enduring Love,” “Atonement” and “Saturday” — so it’s just possible he could pull it off. Did I mention the echoes of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”? (Doubleday, Sept. 13)

THE WONDER, by Emma Donoghue

BORN TO RUN, by Bruce Springsteen. There have
(Credit: Little, Brown)

The author of the bestseller (and subsequent movie) “Room” sets her new historical novel in rural 1850s Ireland, where an English nurse has been dispatched to look after an 11-year-old girl who, locals claim, has not eaten for four months. Is it a hoax? The nurse, an acolyte of Florence Nightingale, is inclined to think so, but Donoghue poses powerful questions about faith and belief all the while crafting a compelling story and an evocative portrait of 19th-century Irish provincial society. Donoghue will be at Book Revue in Huntington on Oct. 2. (Little, Brown and Co., Sept. 20)

BORN TO RUN, by Bruce Springsteen

(Credit: S&S)

There have been some big rock-star memoirs in recent years — Keith Richards, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan — and this autobiography seems destined to join their ranks. Reviewers have not been allowed an advance peek, but his publisher says that Springsteen began by writing about his performance at the halftime show of the 2009 Super Bowl, then going back to revisit his Catholic upbringing in New Jersey, his days playing bars in Asbury Park and his breakout with the E Street Band. A companion album, with previously unreleased tracks and performances by early Springsteen bands, will also be available. (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 27)


THE FRENCH CHEF IN AMERICA: Julia Child’s Second Act, by Alex Prud’homme

SMALL GREAT THINGS, by Jodi Picoult. The author
(Credit: Knopf)

Ten years ago, readers were universally charmed by “My Life in France,” Julia Child’s memoir of her post-World War II experiences in France and education in French cooking. Her great-nephew co-authored the book, which was partially the basis for the movie “Julie & Julia,” with a star turn by Meryl Streep as the enthusiastic chef. Now Prud’homme provides the second act to that story: Child’s TV success in America and her culinary legacy. (Alfred A. Knopf, Oct. 4)



ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, Volume 3: The War Years and
(Credit: Ballantine)

The author of “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Leaving Time” and many other bestsellers may live in New Hampshire, but she was born and grew up in Nesconset. As usual, her latest novel feels timely in its exploration of racism. African-American labor and delivery nurse Ruth Jefferson is barred from caring for the newborn baby of a white supremacist couple; when the baby goes into cardiac arrest and Ruth hesitates to intervene, she finds herself on trial for murder. (Ballantine, Oct. 11)



ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, Volume 3: The War Years and After, 1939-1962, by Blanche Wiesen Cook

FAITHFUL, by Alice Hoffman. The latest novel from
(Credit: Viking)

More than two decades after she published Volume One, a CUNY historian concludes her acclaimed three-part biography of America’s most famous first lady. The final installment covers ER’s most interesting and influential period — in the White House with FDR as he led American efforts in World War II, and after FDR’s death, as she became an important crusader for racial equality. Cook’s biography is required reading for students of 20th-century American politics and history. (Viking, Nov. 1)


FAITHFUL, by Alice Hoffman

SWING TIME, by Zadie Smith. The British author
(Credit: S&S)

The latest novel from Hoffman returns this author to familiar turf (she grew up in Franklin Square and attended Adelphi University). The protagonist here is Shelby Richmond, a Long Island teen who is in a car accident on Route 110 with her best friend, Helene Boyd. Helene is left in a coma, but Shelby survives and must try to make something of her life, always shadowed by guilt. Hoffman will be at Book Revue in Huntington on Nov. 30 and at the Madison Theater at Molloy College on Dec. 7. (Simon & Schuster, Nov. 1)


SWING TIME, by Zadie Smith

BORN A CRIME, by Trevor Noah. The stand-up
(Credit: Penguin Press)

The British author who made a worldwide splash with her debut novel, “White Teeth” (published when she was just 24) goes from strength to strength. Her previous two novels, “On Beauty” and “NW,” were both excellent, and expectations are high for this novel, about two London girls who meet at a dance class in 1982: “Our shade of brown was exactly the same.” One has talent and will pursue a career, the other becomes a personal assistant to a pop star; Smith charts their friendship across the years. (Penguin Press, Nov. 15)


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