Recs 8/15/2021: What Books am I Going to Miss?

Fall is big book season, but there's lots of worthy little books

This week’s column is about the unbelievable number of high profile literary fiction titles coming out in September. I haven’t done the research, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the first time ever new books from past fiction Pulitzer Prize winners have been released four consecutive weeks.

The column only covers September books. October has a bunch more books by the kinds of authors who must be reviewed in the major outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post, or get interviewed by Terry Gross.

(Ex. Amor Towles and Jonathan Franzen have new books coming out on the same day, Oct. 5).

The downside of all this literary firepower going off at the same time like the finale of a 4th of July fireworks display is that it crowds out books by debut authors, or books from smaller presses. Speaking as someone whose novel was released in September from a smaller commercial imprint amidst the usual supply of important books, and who didn’t get any review attention of note, I’ve always had a soft spot for other authors facing the same challenge.

Speaking as a reader, I’m also interested in identifying of writers early who are going to someday be considered “major.” It’s like getting to see a band when they’re still playing the local bar before they wind up at Madison Square Garden. I read Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist not long after its release, and assigned it to my students in my first year of teaching before he’d published a second book, insisting that this guy was going to be someone people read for the next forty years.

In a future column, I’d like to flip this week’s column on its head and feature books that are not as hotly anticipated as ones coming from prize winners and best sellers.

This is where the hivemind comes in. In the comments, or over email, tell me what novels and short story collections are coming out this fall that you are looking forward to that aren’t written by the established heavy hitters. I’m looking for books that publish in September or October that fulfill one or more of the following criteria. I’m most interested in those that fulfill more than one of the following.

  • Debut book

  • Published by an indie/small/university press

  • Seems to be at least somewhat off the traditional publicity radar

  • Something that I might want to read

That last bullet means that you should try to give the audience a sense of what it is that piques your interest. Imagine you’re a bookseller trying to hand sell the title to a customer. What would you say?

This should be fun, and I have a hunch this is going to be one of those occasions where the readers wind up in the column. Again, email (biblioracle.substack.com) or post in the comments below.

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Links

SNL cast member, Chicagoan, and author of the new memoir, This Will All Be Over Soon, Cecily Strong, has some book recommendations at Elle.

Buzzfeed has some books to pair with TV series that you might have recently binged.

I’m not entirely sure what BookTok is, other than it has something to do with TikTok, but whatever it is, this is what it being hyped on BookTok.

The Hurston/Wright Foundation has announced its nominees for the 2021 Legacy awards that celebrate the best in Black literature.

NPR has provided a reader list of the “50 Favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of the Past Decade.”

Selling Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) has always been an ethical no-no, but it always happens anyway.

Does Reading Make You Nicer? Science says, “yes.”

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Reading companion of the week

Miss Caboodle is an excellent reading companion, even when she is not thrilled with the book as appears to be the case here.

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Recommendations

All links to books on these posts go to The Biblioracle Recommends bookshop at Bookshop.org. Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago. Each week before I check the total, I hear a drum roll in my head…. $136.05.

If you’d like to see every book I’ve recommended in this space this year, check out my list of 2021 Recommendations at the Bookshop.org bookshop.

As always, recommendations are open for business, and the supply remains low, so wait times are minimal

Want a recommendation? Click here!

1. Billy Summers by Stephen King
2. Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
3. The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
4. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
5. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Diane J. - Park Forest IL

For Diane, I’m recommending a family drama that also has plenty of page-turning momentum, Father of the Rain by Lily King.

1. Cascade: Stories by Craig Davidson
2. How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith
3. The Headlock of Destiny (Titan Wars #1) by Samuel Gately
4. How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker
5. Educated by Tara Westover

Dave C. - Lombard, IL

This recommendation is a bit afield from the list in that it’s sci-fi, but it wrestles with some issues in fiction that Dave has been contemplating via non-fiction. Plus, it’s just a great read, Kindred by Octavia Butler. 

Happy Sunday!

John