Forget summer reading—fall is the season of literary bounty. The next few months bring with them a starry landscape full of returns from the buzziest names in the business as well as bold newcomers with hotly anticipated debuts. There’s a crime novel set in 1960s Harlem from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead, a posthumous novel from British master John le Carré, the very first book from acclaimed television creator Michaela Coel and the latest narrative of young people stumbling their way through romantic strife from superstar Sally Rooney. That’s all to say: there’s truly something for everyone in this jam-packed season. Here, the most anticipated books to read this fall.
Misfits: A Personal Manifesto, Michaela Coel
Michaela Coel, creator and star of I May Destroy You and Chewing Gum, makes her literary debut with a slim manifesto written with the same perfect balance of sentiment, insight and wit that made viewers fall in love with her on the screen. Built on a speech Coel delivered at the 2018 Edinburgh International Television Festival, Misfits describes her experience of racism, prejudice and trauma, and her empowering transformation from a person trying to fit in to a person determined to make new space for herself. It’s an impassioned and rousing defense of staying true to yourself and supporting others to do the same.
Inseparable, Simone de Beauvoir
Thirty-five years after Simone de Beauvoir’s death, her never-before-published novel Inseparable is finally being released to the world. The iconic French philosopher (and author of the landmark feminist text The Second Sex) describes a profound and passionate friendship between Sylvie and Andrée, two tenacious young women who meet as children and strengthen their bond as they grow into adulthood in post–World War I France. It’s a vibrant exploration of female will and friendship in a world that is still, too often, intent on constraining both.
Matrix, Lauren Groff
At the center of Lauren Groff’s new novel, her first since her 2015 hit Fates and Furies, is teenager Marie de France. It’s the 12th century and Marie’s just been sent to an abbey in England after being ousted from the French royal court. The fierce protagonist of Matrix is entering a bleak scene: disease is everywhere at the abbey, and the nuns barely have enough to eat. Marie is tasked with making life better for these women—a challenge that proves both thrilling and heartbreaking. Groff, a two-time National Book Award finalist, crafts an electric work of historical fiction charting Marie’s plight.
Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo
Three-time U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo—the first Native American to hold the title—delivers a follow-up to her 2012 memoir Crazy Brave with Poet Warrior, a lyrical study of her relationship to poetry and music. Alternating between poetry and prose, Harjo meditates on the stories and songs she grew up with, her artistic and ancestral influences and how poetry informs and reflects her connection to her community and home. The result is a memoir that is soulful and celebratory.
On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, Maggie Nelson
The latest book from poet and writer Maggie Nelson is a meditative and potent examination of freedom. Looking at freedom through the realms of art, sex, drugs and climate, the author of The Argonauts explores the contradictions, complexities and rhetoric that surround the term. Combining thoughtful cultural criticism with anecdotes from her personal life, Nelson delivers an intriguing work of nonfiction that seeks to challenge readers’ definition of freedom and rethink how the concept operates in our lives.
Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney exploded onto the literary scene in 2017 with her debut novel Conversations with Friends. Next came her similarly beloved follow-up Normal People, now an acclaimed Hulu series. Rooney’s latest, one of the most anticipated books of the year, is again concerned with Irish millennials navigating the turbulence of falling in and out of love and questioning the seemingly broken world that surrounds them. Tracing the lives of best friends Alice and Eileen, and the emails they write to stay connected to each other, Rooney unravels a sharp narrative about intimacy, religion and romance.
The Magician, Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín, the award-winning author of Brooklyn and The Master, returns with another sweeping historical novel, this time a fictionalized account of the life of Thomas Mann, the Nobel prize-winning author of Death in Venice. Extensively researched and lyrically wrought, The Magician follows Mann from his childhood in early 20th-century Germany—as a young boy grappling with desires he can’t reveal to his conservative family—through his marriage, the trip that inspires his groundbreaking novel, his discomfort with his new role as a public intellectual during World War II and his escape to the U.S. It’s a complex but empathetic portrayal of a writer in a lifelong battle against his innermost desires, his family and the tumultuous times they endure.
Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, Tarana Burke
In her debut memoir, Tarana Burke mines her past, from her coming-of-age as a Black girl in the Bronx to her rise in activism as the founder of the MeToo movement. In candid terms, Burke lays bare her relationship with trauma, exploring how her sexual assault impacted her sense of self, and how she went on to use that experience to empower others and create meaningful change. Bold and inspiring, Unbound is a searing look at leadership, activism and empathy.
Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead is known for narratives that vary greatly in subject matter. His body of work contains multitudes, from his debut about the aftermath of an elevator crash to a zombie apocalypse story to piercing retellings of violent periods in U.S. history. Whitehead’s latest showcases yet more of his range as a storyteller, as Harlem Shuffle follows a 1960s furniture salesman leading a double life of crime. What ensues is part heist novel and part family drama, all set against the backdrop of Harlem, which the author captures in rich, visceral prose.
Silverview, John le Carré
When he died last year, the legendary British spy novelist John le Carré left behind only one unpublished full-length novel. Silverview, to be published posthumously in October, is the iconic writer’s 26th novel. The new installment in le Carré’s enormous body of work is another classic espionage tale. This time, the focus is on a bookseller living in contemporary Britain and the spy chief who arrives at his seaside town to investigate a potential leak.
Source: Annabel Gutterman & Arianna Rebolini for Time Magazine Aug. 30, 2021.