Do you remember the book “Where the Red Fern Grows“? It was a tear-jerker by middle school standards; a boy loses one of his coonhound hunting dogs, and it feels as though he’s lost his best friend. This book made me fall in love with reading — and writing. (“Bridge to Terabithia” may have also played a part.) Today, my bookshelves are stuffed with all kinds of books, from classic fiction to graphic novels to my number one guilty pleasure novelist, Anita Shreve.
I love books so much that one of my favorite games is finding someone else a book in my shelf that I think they might love. (You need one? Just ask!) At a cocktail party, I’m most apt to start a conversation with: “What are you reading?” The rainy weather has me in full on book mode, so I decided to share the books I plan to stack on my (already cluttered) nightstand this season. (Hint: Do you know who Emma Straub is?)
1. “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures,” by Emma Straub (above)
Buzz, buzz, buzz. I’m eager to read this much-talked-about novel about Golden Age Hollywood by this Brooklyn-based debut novelist — and so is everyone else. (New York Times Magazine recently profiled her.) The book is about a young Wisconsin woman who flees to Los Angeles in the 1920s to escape a family tragedy and finds herself in the flash and pomp of Old Hollywood. On shelves now.
2. “Flight Behavior,” by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Bean Trees” is one of my favorite books of all time. While most people know Kingsolver for the “The Poisonwood Bible,” which became an Oprah book club sensation in 2000, I found it the weakest of her 13 books. Kingsolver is back in early November with her 14th novel, “Flight Behavior,” and you can bet I’ll have it in my hands the day it comes out. Kingsolver deftly weaves social narratives into her characters and in “Flight Behavior” she’s using the heroine to tell a story of climate change’s impact on one small Appalachian community. “Set in Appalachia, a region to which Kingsolver has returned often in both her acclaimed fiction and nonfiction, its suspenseful narrative traces the unforeseen impact of global concerns on the ordinary citizens of a rural community,” reads the book jacket. On shelves November 6.
3. “This is How You Lose Her,” by Junot Diaz
Many critics already consider Diaz a literary great, and he’s only 40. His novel, “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” spent more than a 100 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and earned him a Pulitzer Prize. He was also recently awarded a much coveted MacArthur Genius Grant. It’s taken a few years for him to write his latest collection of stories, but critics say he nailed it with “This is How You Lose Her.” It offers pitch-perfect insight into contemporary Latino culture. As the Times wrote in their glowing review, Diaz is “fluent in the languages of hip-hop, sci-fi, nerd-dom, the drug culture and — lest you thought you had him pegged — the academy.”
4. “Sweet Tooth,” by Ian McEwan
If you were as big of a fan of “Atonement” or “On Chesil Beach” as I was, you’ll be happy to hear that McEwan has a spy novel coming out in November. I want to read this one for the plot alone, as described by the Daily Beast: “A literary young woman at Cambridge University in the 1970s is recruited by British intelligence to shadow an up-and-coming writer, whom she can’t help but fall for. The year’s most intensely enjoyable novel.” Yes, please. On shelves November 12.
5. “Motherland,” by Amy Sohn
Sohn’s always-lively articles in New York Magazine got me hooked on her writing style years ago. In Motherland, she turns her wit and sharp eye to motherhood and all of its complexities in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Admittedly, I want to read this for one reason: I’m kinda curious what it’s like to be a mom out there in Brooklyn. Plus, it’s gotten pretty good reviews as a fun read. On shelves now.
6. “Joseph Anton,” by Salman Rushdie
I was held rapt while reading an excerpt of Rushdie’s new memoir “Joseph Anton” in a recent issue of the New Yorker. He’s got an incredible story: When Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” was published in 1988, the writer was forced into hiding after direct threats from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; the Supreme Leader of Iran put a bounty of $1 million dollars on Rushdie’s head since he believed the writer was an attack on the Koran. “Joseph Anton” is about Rushdie’s years in hiding, the new identity he was forced to take on, and how he managed to continue writing. The writing is so crystal clear and compelling that I can promise this is a good one. The only thing, it’s kinda heavy stuff. On shelves now.