The fall book season has arrived and anticipation is high, so clear off your nightstands and put your e-readers and tablets on standby. The $27 billion book industry has begun releasing its biggest titles – most of them by A-list authors, but many by impressive new talents. Sales between now and Dec. 31 traditionally account for half the year’s sales for publishing houses. Not shocking, given the overlapping gift-giving season.
This preview is a sampling of new fiction, with a similar taste of nonfiction coming Monday, Sept. 26. These titles are arranged alphabetically by authors’ last names. Some are on sale now; for the others, upcoming publishing dates are noted.
Meanwhile, consider these relevant quotes:
J.K. Rowling: “I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”
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George R.R. Martin: “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
Groucho Marx: “From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.”
“Hag-Seed” by Margaret Atwood (Hogarth, $25, 320 pages; on sale Oct. 11): Atwood reshapes William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” a tale of revenge, magic and second chances. A successful man is ruined by his enemies and, in turn, plots their destruction. Atwood has written more then 40 books, including “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“The Jealous Kind” by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster, $28, 400 pages): The master storyteller continues the six-title “Holland Family” series with this visceral coming-of-age set in 1950s Texas. Wealth and privilege clash with poverty and ignorance as young Aaron Broussard finds first love, confronts his foes and saves a friend. This being Burke, the mob lurks in the background. He is best known for his 20-title Dave Robicheaux thriller series, yet his body of work has transcended genre to become what critics and academicians regard as literature.
“Moonglow” by Michael Chabon (Harper, $29, 448 pages; Nov. 22): Chabon based this “work of fictional nonfiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir” on a week spent with his terminally ill grandfather, listening to his “deathbed confessions.” As usual, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist takes readers on an insightful journey that delves into humankind’s desires and emotions, triumphs and failures. Chabon has appeared for the Sacramento Bee Book Club.
“Night School” by Lee Child (Delacorte, $29, 384 pages; Nov. 7): First the good news: Jack Reacher is back in a thriller that takes him to foreign countries on a mission to recover a stolen nuclear device. Now the better news: Child’s ultra-popular rough ’n’ tumble hero and free-living “problem-solver” will be played for the second time by Tom Cruise in “Never Go Back,” opening Oct. 21. Child has appeared for the Sacramento Bee Book Club.
“Home” by Harlan Coben (Dutton, $28, 400 pages): After a five-year absence from Coben’s thrillers, his signature character finally returns. Myron Bolitar is the 6-foot-4-inch former pro basketball star and Harvard Law graduate turned sports agent who always finds himself in the middle of a mystery. This one involves a 10-year-old kidnapping case in which one of the two victims surfaces in England. What happened to the the other one? Coben has appeared for the Sacramento Bee Book Club.
“Debt To Pay” by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam, $27, 352 pages): When “dean of crime fiction” Robert B. Parker died in 2010, his estate awarded his “Jesse Stone” series to Coleman (after Michael Brandman left the franchise). In his third “Jesse” title, the small-town sheriff braces himself for the upcoming wedding of his ex-wife to a Texas tycoon, as a crazed killer from Jesse’s past re-emerges.
“Razor Girl” by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, $28, 352 pages): The former Miami Herald columnist and humorist assembles his usual cast of over-the-top characters doing outlandish things and places them in an equally disturbed locale – Key West. The plot? Don’t worry about it – just laugh.
“Faithful” by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster, $26, 272 pages; Nov. 1): A car crash changes the lives of young Shelby and her best friend, Helene, in awful ways, but a kind of redemption finally arrives. The characters in Hoffman’s universe manage to survive the worst life throws at them, and then move on with a sense of hope as their guide. “My message is about the triumph of the human spirit,” she said when she appeared for the Sacramento Bee Book Club.
“Echoes of Sherlock Holmes,” edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus, $25, 368 pages; Oct. 11): King, author of the 14-title “Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes” series, partnered with Holmes scholar Klinger to compile 17 eclectic stories by authors who were “inspired” by Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary “consulting detective.”
“A Gambler’s Anatomy” by Jonathan Lethem (Doubleday, $28, 304 pages; Oct. 18): Only a writer as brilliant as Lethem could create such a bizarrely moving (and believable) story about an international backgammon hustler who may or may not be psychic, who arrives in semi-crazed Berkeley seeking experimental medical treatment for a life-threatening illness. Oh, and there’s a complicated relationship with a beautiful woman, of course.
“Nutshell” by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese, $25, 208 pages): The author of “Atonement” tells this story of betrayal and deceit from the point of view of a most unusual narrator – the “inquisitive, 9-month-old resident of the womb” of the pregnant woman who is plotting with her lover to murder her husband.
“Bright, Precious Days” by Jay McInerney (Knopf, $28, 416 pages): The chronicler of New York City’s haute société continues his “Brightness Falls” series, again showcasing his conflicted couple, Corrine and Russell Calloway. They survived the rips in the fabric of their marriage but may not survive their latest crises.
“Commonwealth” by Ann Patchett (Harper, $28, 336 pages): An errant kiss between a man and a woman – both wed to others – leads to a world of denial and tragedy, bonding and love among the six “accidental siblings” who grow up together after their respective parents have divorced. Ultimately, as in Patchett’s other six novels, people must come to terms with their life journeys and the events that have shaped them.
“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles (Viking, $27, 480 pages): When Count Alexander Rostov is found guilty of being an “unrepentant aristocrat” by the Bolsheviks in 1922 Russia, he is sentenced to live out his days in the Moscow luxury hotel Metropol. Drawing on his wit and imagination – and with help from housekeeper Nina, keeper of all the hotel’s keys – he creates a personal world far more satisfying than the chaotic one outside.
“Seduced” by Randy Wayne White (Putnam, $27, 352 pages; Oct. 18): Florida fishing guide and part-time sleuth Hannah Smith takes on a case that leads to a search for a rare object in “the swamps and murky backcountry.” Problem is, she’s not the only one with an interest. This is White’s fourth title in the series, a spinoff from his 24-title “Doc Ford” series. He has appeared for the Sacramento Bee Book Club.
“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, $27, 320 pages): Cora and Caesar are runaway slaves in the antebellum South, on a terrifying odyssey to reach freedom as slave catchers close in. In this novel, the Underground Railroad is presented literally as a “secret network of train tracks and tunnels,” a route that becomes more strange and menacing as the two progress.