There’s something about a crisp fall day that just makes you want to curl up in an armchair and read a good book, right? (Preferably, as is often the case at my house, with a purring cat squeezed in next to you.) Here are some fall reading ideas from the season’s new crop of paperbacks, perhaps destined for an armchair near you.
“Harbour Street,” by Ann Cleeves (Minotaur Books, $16.99). This tale of a murder investigation during the holidays is the sixth installment in Cleeves’ popular British mystery series featuring D.I. Vera Stanhope. It’s the inspiration for the television series “Vera” -- a favorite of my on-leave colleague Mary Ann Gwinn -- starring Brenda Blethyn and airing on PBS.
“Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff (Penguin, $16). Groff’s third novel, a National Book Award finalist, is the story of a marriage, told from the point of view of husband Lotto, then from that of wife Mathilde. President Obama named it as his favorite book of 2015; in a Seattle Times review, Misha Berson called it “one of the most absorbing, intimate accounts of a modern marriage I’ve read in a good while.”
“The Past” by Tessa Hadley (Harper Perennial, $15.99). A quartet of adult siblings, with various family members, gather at a crumbling seaside home in Somerset once owned by their grandparents. Reviewing the book last winter, I was struck by Hadley's soft, delicate prose, and by the way that manse came to life on the page: “close the pages of ‘The Past’ and you can picture the house, smelling its faint dampness and reading the stories in its weary walls.”
“Thirteen Ways of Looking” by Colum McCann (Random House, $16). The ever-dazzling Irish author of “Let the Great World Spin” returns with a collection of short fiction. In my Seattle Times review last fall, I admired McCann’s eloquent wordplay (often with a Joycean twist), particularly in the wondrously meandering yet deeply moving title story of, seemingly, an ordinary day.
“So You Don’t Get Lost In the Neighborhood” by Patrick Modiano (Mariner Books, $14.95). Should you wish to get a taste of French writer Modiano, who won the Nobel Prize in literature for 2014, this slim suspense novel might be a good start. The Los Angeles Times notes that it begins with a Stendhal epigraph -- “I cannot provide the reality of events, I can only convey their shadow”-- that is “an almost perfect evocation of the book, not to mention Modiano’s career.”
“Under the Udala Trees” by Chinelo Okparanta (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $14.95). In her first novel, Okparanta, a Nigerian-born author whose honors include the O. Henry Prize, tells a story of a young gay woman named Ijeoma coming of age in Nigeria, where she must hide her true self. The New York Times notes Okparanta uses few stylistic flourishes, preferring “to step aside and allow Ijeoma to plainly tell her story, giving the novel an intimate feel.”
“Why Not Me?” by Mindy Kaling (Penguin Random House, $16). The second collection of essays from the star of “The Mindy Project” is, notes the Washington Post, “funnier, sharper and more confident than her 2011 collection of personal essays and pop culture riffs called ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).’?” (And hey, I thought the first book was pretty darn funny and sharp, so there you go.)
“Joy Ride: Show People and Their Shows” by John Lahr (Norton, $18.95). Lahr, author of an acclaimed Tennessee Williams biography, here collects an irresistible assortment of profiles, features and reviews from his 21 years as drama critic for the New Yorker. The New York Times described his writing as “gleeful illuminations of art and its mysterious process.”
“The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape” by James Rebanks (Flatiron Books, $17.99). Rebanks, who works on his family’s Lake District farm, moved from tweeting about the sheepherding life (@herdyshepherd1) to writing this well-received book. In a Seattle Times review, Curt Schleier found it “satisfying on every level, but what I enjoyed most was these glimpses into a place where old-fashioned values of hard work, integrity and community reign supreme.”
“The Witches: Salem, 1692” by Stacy Schiff (Back Bay Books, $18.99). Schiff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Vera” and “Cleopatra: A Life,” here turns her attention to the famed New England witch trials. In a Seattle Times review, Claudia Rowe praised Schiff’s “ability to render history in vital detail, and from a contemporary perspective.”
“Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS,” by Joby Warrick (Anchor Books, $16). Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of what’s now known as ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State group, comes off in this “gripping” book as “a kind of Bond villain, who repeatedly foils attempts to neutralize him,” according to the New York Times. Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, “has a gift for constructing narratives with a novelistic energy and detail.”
“Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin” by Andrew Wilson (Scribner, $18). The immensely talented British fashion designer killed himself in 2010; Wilson’s “meticulously researched book,” wrote the Boston Globe, “provides unprecedented access to a misunderstood soul.”
“The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World” by Andrea Wulf (Vintage, $17). Last month, this biography of the German naturalist and explorer was named the winner of Britain’s Science Book Prize, which honors science books in English written for nonscientist readers. The New York Times noted that this lively book “may go some way toward returning this strange genius to the public” and named it to its 10 Best Books of 2015 list.
(Tribune Content Agency)
By Moira Macdonald
The Seattle Times