All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
American author Anthony Doerr’s 2014 novel All The Light We Cannot See tells the tale of a young, blind French girl Marie Laure who flees Nazi-occupied Paris with her father. Her path converges with gifted German orphan Werner, whose talent for fixing and building radios earns him a place at a brutal military academy, in the ill-fated city of Saint-Malo on the Brittany Coast. Praised for Doerr’s meticulous research and poetic storytelling, All The Light We Cannot See went on to win the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. With Remembrance Day approaching in November, the book makes for an even more poignant read.
The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood
Amongst this season’s new releases is Canadian writer Margaret Atwood’s latest book The Heart Goes Last – her first standalone novel since publishing the Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Assassin in 2000. Set in the near future, The Heart Goes Last follows protagonists Stan and Charmaine, a down on their luck couple. Their lives take a drastic turn when they sign up to the Positron Project – a social experiment providing participants with jobs and homes: with the catch being that they must spend every other month in a prison while ‘Alternates’ take their place in the outside world. Dark and witty, the novel is a perfect fall read for fans of Atwood’s familiar dystopian themes and speculative fiction.
The Shining – Stephen King
Halloween is fast approaching, and there’s no better time of year to indulge in a spine-chilling read. What could be more perfect than Stephen King’s 1977 horror The Shining? For those who aren’t familiar with cult classic’s plot or Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson, The Shining centers on recovering alcoholic and writer Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy and young son Danny as they take up position as the winter caretakers at the Overlook Hotel – an isolated resort with a gruesome history. As the hotel’s malevolent ghostly residents reveal themselves to telepathic Danny and cabin fever overwhelms Jack, King crafts an increasingly unnerving tale ideal for Halloween reading.
Did You Ever Have A Family – Bill Clegg
A definite must-read this fall, Did You Ever Have A Family, the debut novel from literary agent turned best-selling memoirist Bill Clegg – impressed judges for the 2015 Man Booker Prize so much that they announced its longlisting a month before the book had even been officially published. Beginning with a terrible tragedy, the novel follows June Reid – who loses her entire family in a house fire on the eve of her daughter’s wedding – as she flees her Connecticut town, and the interconnected cast of characters she leaves behind as they cope with shared heartbreak. Described by The Guardian as “a meditation on enduring the unendurable,” Did You Ever Have A Family is an intricately plotted page-turner exploring humanity, forgiveness and hope.
Notes on the Assemblage – Juan Felipe Herrera
Mexican-American poet Juan Felipe Herrera – the son of migrant farmworkers who in June 2015 was announced as the USA’s first Hispanic poet laureate – is known for his vibrant, evocative poetry depicting the US immigrant experience and his new collection of poetry, Notes on the Assemblage, is no different. Released to coincide with Herrera’s inaugural reading as the new poet laureate, Notes on the Assemblage features powerful prose including Ayotzinapa, addressing the disappearance of 43 students from Mexico’s Ayotzinapa Normal School at the hands of corrupt police, and Almost Livin’, Almost Dyin’ – a poem honoring Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two of the many black men to have died at the hands of American police.
Farewell Summer – Ray Bradbury
Though released almost ten years ago, Farewell Summer – late American author Ray Bradbury’s last full-length novel and the much anticipated sequel to his semiautobiographical 1957 book Dandelion Wine – is nevertheless a great read this fall. Set in October during an Indian summer, Farewell Summer’s timing is seasonally appropriate as the novel follows the inhabitants of Green Town, Illinois as 13-year-old Douglas Spalding and his friends rebel against the town’s elders. Described as “beautiful, poignant, wistful, hilarious, sad, evocative, profound and unforgettable” by publishers Harper Collins, Farewell Summer’s vivid prose perfectly conjures the end of boyhood mirroring the changing of the seasons.
Purity – Jonathan Franzen
Since publishing his debut novel The Twenty-Seventh City in 1988, American author Jonathan Franzen has received widespread acclaim. Now, his recently released book Purity looks set to wow critics and readers alike once more. Described by Macmillan Publishers as “a magnum opus for our morally complex times,” Purity tells the tale of Pip who, saddled with student debt and living in a squat, takes up an internship in Bolivia working for Andreas Wolf on The Sunlight Project – a Wiki Leaks-esque operation trafficking in secrets and sensitive information. Darkly comedic and touching on themes of youthful idealism and technological critique, Purity makes for a compelling read this fall.
By Helen Armitage