Make room on your nightstands and bookshelves, and get your e-readers and tablets warmed up — it’s time to turn the page from summer “beach reading” to one of the hottest fall book seasons in recent years.
Over summer, publishers gave readers a bookstore’s worth of authors performing in multiple arenas — thrillers, coming-of-age, biography and memoir, adventure, historical fiction, travel, true crime and more.
The fall landslide is invariably larger in scope than summer’s, and of a more serious mien as publishers offer their lead titles by their top-tier authors; as usual, there’s much more fiction than nonfiction. The Bee this week delves into the new fiction of the season and next week will look at the new titles in nonfiction.
On bookshelves and online now are titles by such heavy-hitting novelists as Lee Child, Margaret Atwood, Jamie Ford, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Lethem and Alice McDermott. In the coming weeks, look for the releases of sure-fire bestselling novels by Helen Fielding, Mitch Albom, Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, Amy Tan, John Grisham, Anne Rice and Scott Turnow.
In the $22.5 billion book industry, fall is when half the year’s book sales occur. This year, reader word-of-mouth and industry buzz herald one of the most impressive fall-release parties we’ve seen.
“The fall has always been the favored publishing cycle for authors and (publishers) because the period between Thanksgiving and year’s end is the most commercial time for book buying and book giving. That’s always a reason why so many major authors want to be ready in the fall,” said spokesman Stuart Applebaum of Penguin Random House. “There’s no question this is a particularly exciting and glamorous fall season, a cornucopia of delights. Readers show up in droves when there are more books to anticipate.”
This sampling of titles is arranged alphabetically by authors’ last names. Some titles are on sale now; for the others, the upcoming publishing dates are noted. Now for Chapter 1 ...
“The First Phone Call From Heaven” by Mitch Albom (Harper, $24.99, 336 pages; on sale Nov. 12): What happens when the residents in a small town start getting telephone calls from heaven? Miracle or scam? The author of “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” does here what he does best — make readers feel warm and fuzzy.
“I guess my little books give readers a little sustenance and heart,” he told me in an interview.
“MaddAddam” by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, $27.95, 416 pages): The Canadian poet and novelist (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) concludes her “speculative fiction” (a.k.a. sci-fi) trilogy, following “Oryx and Crake” and “The Year of the Flood.”
“Stay Up With Me” by Tom Barbash (Ecco, $22.99, 224 pages): This much-buzzed-about collection of short stories takes on big subjects as handled by ordinary people — heartbreak, class distinction, intimacy, guilt, coming of age.
“Damned If You Do” by Michael Brandman (Putnam, $28.95, 288 pages): After author Robert B. Parker’s death, it was announced that his publisher would continue his popular Spenser and Jesse Stone series, naming veteran novelist Ace Atkins to write the adventures of Boston private eye Spenser. The Jesse Stone books would be written by producer-screenwriter Michael Brandman. In this outing, the small-town sheriff finds himself in the middle of a turf war between two gang leaders. His only ally is a mob boss.
“Purgatory” by Ken Bruen (Mysterious Press, $24, 272 pages; Nov. 4): Bruen belongs to a cadre of Irish crime and thriller writers that includes Adrian McKinty, John Connolly and Declan Burke. In this sequel to “Headstone,” troubleshooter Jack Taylor tracks a taunting serial killer in Galway.
“Never Go Back” by Lee Child (Delacorte, $28, 416 pages): “Fixer” and former MP Jack Reacher has finished his event-filled trek across America’s heartland and is ready to meet the woman behind the fascinating voice on the phone, Army Maj. Susan Turner. But she’s been arrested. Now it’s time for big trouble, Reacher-style. Child appeared for the Bee Book Club in November.
“Mrs. Poe” by Lynn Cullen (Gallery, $26, 336 pages; Oct. 1): Historical fiction is usually a satisfying journey for readers, as in this reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe’s adulterous affair with poet Frances Osgood. Then Mrs. Poe enters the picture.
“The Quest” by Nelson DeMille (Center Street, $26, 464 pages): The veteran thriller writer has a new take on a seasoned plot: A trio of journalists goes after the Holy Grail — Christ’s drinking cup from the Last Supper — and run up against a cast of bad guys out to stop them.
“The Last Dark” by Stephen R. Donaldson (Putnam, $35, 592 pages; Oct. 15): The long road through The Land concludes (we’re told) with the “Climax of the Entire Thomas the Covenant Chronicles,” a fantasy series that’s been going on since the 1970s.
“Takedown Twenty” by Janet Evanovich (Bantam, $28, 320 pages; Nov. 19): New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is back, along with the zany cast of her friends and family. She’s searching for an on-the-lam mob boss, but in typical fashion becomes ... well, let’s say “distracted.” Evanovich will appear for the Bee Book Club on Nov. 21.
“Mad About the Boy” by Helen Fielding (Knopf, $26.95, 400 pages; Oct. 15): Chick-lit was redefined in 1995 with “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” featuring the 30-something title character — a somewhat ditzy bachelorette who lived in London and obsessed over her self-image, career and love life. It was followed by “The Edge of Reason” in 1999. Now Bridget’s life has moved on — largely into the realm of social media. Fielding has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
“The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” by Fannie Flagg (Random House, $27, 368 pages; Nov. 5): The author of “Fried Green Tomatoes” is off on another romp with a band of women characters who never let refinement or reticence get in their way. Fun stuff.
“Songs of Willow Frost” by Jamie Ford (Ballantine, $26, 352 pages): Set in 1920s and 1930s, the story follows the quest of an orphan boy to find his mother, who he thinks is the movie star Willow Frost. It’s a story of love, loss, secrets and second chances. Ford will appear for the Bee Book Club at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento. His debut novel, “The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” was two years on the New York Times best-seller list
“The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking, $28.95, 512 pages; Oct. 1): Gilbert’s memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” was an international best-seller. This time, she turns to fiction with a sweeping global adventure that follows several generations of a wealthy and talented – and troubled – family over the 18th and 19th centuries.
“W Is for Wasted” by Sue Grafton (Putnam, $28.95, 496 pages): The “alphabet mysteries” continue as PI Kinsey Milhone discovers that two seemingly unrelated deaths in the beach town of Santa Teresa are connected.
“Sycamore Row” by John Grisham (Doubleday, $28.95, 464 pages; Oct. 22): After 25 years, the king of the legal thrillers offers this sequel to his debut novel, “A Time to Kill.” Small-town lawyer Jake Brigance takes on the powers that be in a sensational trial that revisits tumultuous times in Clanton, Miss.
“The Hunter and Other Stories” by Dashiell Hammett (Mysterious Press, $25, 254 pages; Nov. 4; edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett): A hodgepodge from the author of “The Maltese Falcon” includes archival short stories, unpublished and unfinished short stories, and unearthed screenplay treatments.
“Lighthouse Island” by Paulette Jiles (Harper, $26.99, 400 pages; Oct. 8): In a far-future dystopian world where water is rationed and animals are extinct, a young woman embarks on a quest to find a mythical land called the Pacific Northwest.
“Death of a Nightingale” by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis (Soho, $28.95, 368 pages; Nov. 5): The authors follow their 2011 Nordic noir hit “The Boy in the Suitcase” with this intense murder mystery, once again starring Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg. Intricate, compelling and dark.
“The Daughters of Mars” by Thomas Keneally (Atria, $28, 528 pages): The author of “Schindler’s List” tells of the travails of two sisters who serve as nurses in World War I. Graphic and compelling.
“The Bones of Paris” by Laurie R. King (Bantam, $26, 432 pages): American PI Harris Stuyvesant is searching for a missing fashion model in Jazz Age Paris, but finds a serial killer instead. Best-seller King has made a career out of her suspenseful thrillers starring Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. She has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
“Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King (Scribner, $30, 544 pages; Tuesday): As a child, Danny Torrance spent a horrific winter in the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining.” Now he’s a troubled adult who must fend off a “quasi-immortal” cult that wants to possess a gifted young girl.
“We Are Water” by Wally Lamb (Harper, $29.99, 576 pages; Oct. 22): An artist who is a divorced mother of three makes plans to marry her art dealer, unleashing a maelstrom of emotions and dark secrets among her family and friends. Lamb, author of the best-selling “I Know This Much Is True,” is at home with his theme of family values turned upside-down.
“Top Down” by Jim Lehrer (Random House, $26, 208 pages; Oct. 8): This historical novel explores an aspect of the JFK assassination of a half-century ago: What if the bubble top on the presidential limousine had been up instead of down? Would that have changed history? Lehrer is a journalist and executive editor for “PBS NewsHour.”
“Dissident Gardens” by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday, $27.95, 384 pages): Tyranny, communal living, social and political activism, counterculturalism and strident family dynamics imbue three generations of radicalized women and their men. Lethem modeled the main character after his grandmother. Brilliant but exhausting.
“After Her” by Joyce Maynard (William Morrow, $25.99, 320 pages): The award-winning author based this novel on the Trailside Killer, serial murderer David Carpenter, who operated in Marin County from 1979 to 1981. In the book, two sisters believe the “Sunset Strangler” may be stalking them.
“Someone” by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25, 240 pages): In the hands of the National Book Award-winner, the biographically presented, detailed life of “an ordinary woman” takes on extraordinary meaning.
“Who Asked You?” by Terry McMillan (Viking, $27.95, 400 pages): Once again, McMillan focuses on “the burdens and blessings of family” as experienced by African American women friends in Los Angeles. Her blockbuster was “Waiting to Exhale” made into a 1995 movie starring Whitney Houston and Gregory Hines.
“The Returned” by Jason Mott (Harlequin, $24.95, 352 pages): A horrifying epidemic of sorts has gone global: The deceased love ones of families are returning from the other side, seemingly the same people they were at the times of their deaths. One of them is a child who comes back to his parents. Is he really their reincarnated son? A chilling and morally challenging debut.
“The Spook Lights Affair” by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini (Forge, $24.99, 256 pages; Dec. 3): The long-married couple know a good mystery when they write one. He’s the author of the Nameless Detective series; she writes the Sharon McCone series. In their fifth collaboration, the PI firm of Carpenter and Quincannon takes the cases of a strange murder and a Wells Fargo robbery. Making the series unique is the setting — 1895 San Francisco. Muller and Pronzini appeared together for the Bee Book Club.
“The Edge of Normal” by Carla Norton (Minotaur, $25.99, 320 pages): A decade after escaping her kidnapper, 22-year-old Reeve is asked by her therapist to mentor a teen girl who recently escaped a similar situation. The twist is, the new girl’s abductor is stalking both victims.
“White Fire” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central, $27, 384 pages; Nov. 12): The writing partners will make fans cheer with their 13th collaboration featuring fascinating FBI special agent Aloysius Pendergast, who is reminiscent of but more interesting than Sherlock Holmes. Pendergast uncovers the dark, hidden past of a ski-resort town just as a series of arson fires threatens to destroy it.
“Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, $28.95, 496 pages): New York City in post-911 2001. PI Maxine Tarnow takes a case and falls in with a pack of con men and loonies in this surrealistic journey from the National Book Award-winner (“Gravity’s Rainbow”) and perpetual Nobel Prize nominee.
“The Wolves of Midwinter” by Anne Rice (Knopf, $25.95, 400 pages; Oct. 15): It’s Christmastime along the Northern California coast, and newly turned man-wolf Reuben Golding is comfortably relaxing inside a mansion. But what’s that stirring about in the adjoining redwood forest? A netherworld full of spirits, as it turns out. The second title in the “Wolf Gift Chronicles,” after “The Wolf Gift.”
“Shaman” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, $27, 464 pages): The Davis-based sci-fi writer steps back 30,000 years to travel with a clan of primitives in a brave (and very dangerous) world. The multiple Nebula and Hugo awards-winner has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
“Help for the Haunted” by John Searles (William Morrow, $26.99, 368 pages): Teenage sisters are bound together after the murders of their psychic, ghost-hunting parents. There’s a mystery to be solved, but meanwhile — what’s going on the cellar? This YA novel is destined to cross over into adult readership.
“The Valley of Amazement” by Amy Tan (Ecco, $29.99, 608 pages; Nov. 5): Eight years have passed since Tan’s last novel (“Saving Fish From Drowning”), and it looks like the wait was worth it. Three generations of women are linked by a painting in a story that shifts back and forth in time between San Francisco and Shanghai. Tan has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown, $30, 784 pages; Oct. 22): An orphan boy moves in with a wealthy family and, as he grows up, becomes involved in the dark side of the art world. Tartt is the author of the superb “The Secret History” and “The Little Friend.”
“The Supreme Macaroni Company” by Adriana Trigiani (Harper, $25.99, 352 pages; Nov. 26): This “heartbreaking” story of an Italian family has it all — travel (New York, New Orleans, Tuscany), family, romance and unexpected twists and turns. Oh, and cooking and feasting.
“Identical” by Scott Turow (Grand Central, $28, 384 pages; Oct. 15): Identical twins have taken divergent life paths. One is running for mayor, the other has just finished a prison term for murder. Was he really guilty? Could a new investigation uncover the truth? Suspense with twists and turns from a master of the form.
“Deceived” by Randy Wayne White (Putnam, $26.95, 352 pages): The Florida fishing guide-turned-novelist splits his series between black-ops specialist-marine biologist Doc Ford and fishing guide Hannah Smith (who debuted in last year’s “Gone”). Hannah juggles a cold-case murder and a real estate scam that could destroy her little town. White has appeared for the Bee Book Club.
“The Daylight Gate” by Jeanette Winterson (Grove, $24, 240 pages; Oct. 1): This reimagining of the 1612 trial of the Pendle witches in Lancashire, England, introduces the wealthy Alice Nutter, who passionately defends the women from prejudiced, hysterical prosecutors. Unseen forces enter the scene in a tense, spooky tale.
“The Maid’s Version” by Daniel Woodrell (Little, Brown, $25, 176 pages): The author of the critically acclaimed “Winter’s Bone” returns with the tale of a determined young woman in 1929 rural Missouri who will stop at nothing to discover the truth of her sister’s death.
Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe