Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fall Fiction: My Most Wanted List

A few weeks ago, my supervisor and I were looking at a list of major authors with books coming out in the next few months: Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, Ha Jin and Anne Tyler are just a few. It's an exciting season for fiction lovers. The only difficulty is selecting the titles you most want to read! Here are three books at the top of my to-read list.

Lorrie Moore, best known for short story collections like Anagrams and Birds of America, has a new novel out, A Gate at the Stairs. Set in a midwestern college town in the aftermath of 9/11, the narrator is Tassie, an intelligent but naive twenty-year-old college student and former country girl who works as a nanny for a wealthy restauranteur who wants to adopt a baby. According to Publishers Weekly: "The story's apparent modesty and ambling pace are deceptive, a cover for profound reflections on marriage and parenthood, racism and terrorism, and especially the baffling, hilarious, brutal initiation to adult life -- what all of us learn to endure 'in the dry terror of cluelessness.'"

If all that sounds too heavy, let me add that Moore is one of funniest writers around: I've wanted to read more of her ever since reading "You're Ugly, Too," which John Updike selected for the The Best American Short Stories of the Century anthology. (The story opens: "You had to get out of them occasionally, those Illinois towns with the funny names: Paris, Oblong, Normal. Once, when the Dow Jones dipped two hundred points, a local paper boasted the banner headline 'NORMAL MAN MARRIES OBLONG WOMAN.' They knew what was important. They did! But you had to get out once in a while, even if it was just across the border to Terre Haute for a movie.")

I've never read anything by Chicago writer Sara Paretsky, but two trusted readers have been raving so fervently about her Chicago mysteries, which often address social issues and injustice, that I've decided to dive into her latest novel, Hardball. Hardball is the 13th novel to feature kick-ass private investigator V. I. Warshawski (née Victoria), who in this novel is asked to locate a man who has been missing for over 40 years, and in the process "confronts an ugly period in Chicago's history, [including] a peaceful march in 1966 by Martin Luther King that resulted in a white riot and the murder of a young black woman" (Publishers Weekly). If you're someone who likes to start with the first book in a series, Paretsky's first V.I. Warshawski novel is Indemnity Only.

I previously posted about my desire to read something by Pete Dexter after his hilarious appearance on Book TV. Well, his new novel, Spooner, has just hit the shelves, and the first few pages indicate it was worth the wait. Characterized by Publishers Weekly as "calamitously funny and riotously tragic," its hero is Spooner, whose life begins inauspiciously in 1956: his mother "issues Spooner, feet first and the color of an eggplant, an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, like a bare little man dropped through a gallows on the way to the next world." The life of Spooner, "who tends toward a life of criminal mischief" (Publishers Weekly), is contrasted with that of his stepfather, a high school principal.

Some other fall titles are The Humbling by Philip Roth, A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve, and Suicide Run: Five Tales of the Marine Corps by the late William Styron. (Remember, you can place any book on hold as soon as it appears in our online catalog. To place a hold on a book mentioned in this blog, just click on the appropriate link. If the catalog indicates that a book is showing on shelf, give us a call and we will set it aside for you.)

What fall books are you most looking forward to?

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