• Libbie

Books I'm Most Excited to Read: Fall 2020

This week's list is a different one. Instead of listing books I have read in the past, I'm going to list the ones I'm most excited to dig into! I try to read year-round, of course, but my reading really hits its stride in the fall and winter, when there is less work to be done in the garden and less daylight time, giving me more time and motivation to curl up inside with a book.

So here are the top new and forthcoming releases I've been waiting for, which I'll be getting into this fall!

Summer by Ali Smith

I am crazy about Ali Smith's work. I haven't quite read all her stuff yet, but I'm getting there. She is consistently in my top ranking of favorite authors. I love the way her prose slips effortlessly between grounded and accessible, and totally out-there, weird, mystical, spooky. It's exactly my kind of prose.

Her "Seasonal Quartet", which began a couple years ago with Autumn, has stood out as my favorites among all her novels. Summer is the final volume in "Seasonal". I am constantly recommending these books to people who love literary fiction and who want to read something that was written about "right now". Smith is a Scottish author, so the "right now" she's writing about isn't exactly like my "right now"--the Seasonal Quartet is about the current political climate in the UK, Brexit and its fallout and all associated political twists, and how those political shifts have affected real people. But it's fiction. It's not nonfiction contemporary studies, or anything like that--it's solid fiction, where characters' seemingly small personal journeys are affected by and reflected in the dramatic political changes in the UK. Many of the changes impacting the UK right now are more or less the same as those affecting the USA, so the content of these novels feels extremely relevant to an American reader, too.

I will warn you: Smith tends to be a heart-wrencher. She doesn't pull any punches in these books. They will probably leave you sobbing, but the sobbing is cathartic and leaves you feeling like there is hope among humanity, if not among politicians.

I've had Summer sitting on the coffee table in my office for days now. I won't allow myself to start reading it until I've finished edits on my 2021 Lake Union Publishing book, because I know once I open Summer I'm not going to put it down again until I've devoured every last word, and I gotta get some work done before I do that. I have never been so tempted by anything in my life as I am by Summer sitting there on the table, STARING AT ME. I am flying through these edits. A new Ali Smith novel is the best motivation I could ever have.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Homecoming, Gyasi's first novel, was absolutely fantastic, so lush and moving, so I am very excited to dig into her new release, which came out September 1. I'm especially interested because the narrative deals with heroin addiction and how it impacts family relationships--a subject I've had some personal experience with myself.

I think I'm going to go for the audiobook edition of Transcendent Kingdom and listen while I'm doing my daily walks. It seems like a good walkin' book.

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

This one promises to be an exploration of the immigrant experience (specifically Muslim immigrant experience) in Trump's America. I don't know much else about it, but I do know the author won the Pulitzer in playwriting, so I expect it will have fine character work, and anything that examines the shitshow our country is at present is fine by me. Hopefully I'll enjoy it!

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

This one looks like just a good old-fashioned FANTASY, with magic and weird creatures and a quest and an unlikely hero--you know, the standard tropey fantasy we all love to indulge in now and then. However, Diné author Rebecca Roanhorse sets her fantasy in the pre-colonization Americas, among the myths and culture of Native Americans. I am so stoked to read this. I was just talking with my friend a few days ago about how much fun fantasy was to read when we were kids, but how disillusioned we've become with it because it's all just the same old thing over and over again. Roanhorse's Black Sun trilogy promises just enough fantasy to stir the nostalgia and plenty of originality to make me want to keep on reading it.

The Fisherman by John Langan

This one has been out for a little while now, but I haven't read it yet and I'm looking forward to getting into it this fall. The story promises to be atmospheric, spooky, weird, and a tad unsettling, which I love any time of year, but particularly in the fall. This one is classified as horror and I don't read a lot of horror, since in modern times it has largely strayed away from psychological drama and into the realms of gore. I find it ethically objectionable to be entertained by violence and suffering, so as a rule I avoid the horror genre in books and other forms of entertainment. However, sometimes someone puts out a work in the horror genre that is psychological and more about the dark depths of the human mind than it is about blood, guts, and gawking at suffering. Supposedly The Fisherman is the psychological type. We'll see... I'll let you know if I like it!

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