Fall means last trips to the beach, lengthening shadows, and something to read indoors while the leaves change outside. Below are some recent releases worth catching up on, whether your taste runs to short stories or novels. Running the gamut from mystically-charged horror to realism, these books channel the present moment while alternating between politically-charged ambivalence, romantic yearning, and revelation.
Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang
Jenny Zhang’s work for Rookie, Harper’s and The New York Times Magazine has been rapturously received, and her first collection of short fiction, Sour Heart, is the first release from Lena Dunham’s new publishing imprint. These seven stories are like nothing else, taking place in contemporary Queens and 1960s China, chronicling the American experience through its immigrants, finding humor in the bleakest corners and attaining transcendence through empathy, sex, and karaoke.
Eastman Was Here by Alex Gilvarry
His life in ruins, a washed-up writer with a more-than-passing resemblance to Norman Mailer impulsively accepts an assignment in Vietnam in order to drum up sympathy from his recently-estranged wife and the circle of New York literati he terrorizes in Eastman Was Here. Alex Gilvarry’s black humor, ludicrously explicit page-turner brings Alan Eastman’s 1970s zeitgeist to life, and it is impossible to look away from his larger-than-life hero as he moves from one self-made catastrophe to another.
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
Victor LaValle injects horror with wonder and the everyday with uncanny menace. In The Changeling, LaValle is on top of his game, unfolding the story of a father whose search for his vanished family takes him to graveyards, islands, and forests in a quest descended from fairytales but pregnant with all the anxieties of contemporary life.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Written as a diary, Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin is a novel of delayed adulthood, as 30-year-old Ruth returns to her family and her Alzheimer’s-afflicted father to meditate on her broken and engagement and heal her own wounds, only to discover complications stemming from painful histories both personal and perennial.
Moving Kings by Joshua Cohen
Moving Kings is Joshua Cohen’s follow-up to the acclaimed Book of Numbers. In his new book, two Israeli veterans decamp to New York to begin working with a moving company. They soon find themselves engaged in a new war, one fought between their Republican employer, angry tenants and a vengeful homeowner whose tactics are not dissimilar from the Middle Eastern warfare they had hoped to leave behind.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward has written a new kind of southern novel in Sing, Unburied, Sing, as a Mississippi family battles illness and addiction while undertaking a journey to the State Penitentiary. On the way, Ward invokes the South’s rural past and racially-charged present, bringing Biblical implications to this powerful vision of the powder keg that is modern Americana.
New People by Danzy Senna
Set in the last days of the 20th-century, New People by Danzy Senna follows Maria and Khalil, two graduates newly arrived in Brooklyn, where they navigate bohemia, the dot-com boom, and Maria struggles to complete a dissertation about the Jonestown massacre. When they become subjects of a documentary and Maria finds herself fixated on a poet acquaintance, questions of race and privilege come to the surface, making for a darkly comic novel that brings recent history to bear on the present.
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
Modern India is the subject of Diksha Basu’s debut novel The Windfall, as the housing complex-dwelling Jha family find themselves unexpectedly rich and facing a legion of new problems, from their son, who is attending business school in the U.S., to their richly drawn new neighbors on the wealthy side of New Dehli. Basu is a brilliant stylist and the warmth of her novel permeates a well-observed portrait of class differences and varied definitions of success.