By Fiona Stevenson, Concord Free Library
Back To School brings so much excitement around our neighborhoods and makes some of us who are long past backpacks, worksheets and new pencils choose some new reading — aren’t we lucky when it’s purely for pleasure? It’s a good time to consider tackling some of the new fall releases that are landing at your local library and bookstore.
North Woods by Daniel Mason (Random House): The novel tells the history of one New England house, and the fortunes of its inhabitants over the centuries, for good or bad. This book is dizzying in its scale, engrossing in its characters and does what the best books do — makes the reader take a closer look right outside your own door at the stories that surround us.
The Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare (Tor): Yes, it’s the biggest fantasy epic coming out this fall and Clare is an expert at crafting door stoppers that weigh more than a gallon of milk, but buy a copy to share with your teen or young adult and you’ll have something to talk about for years.
Chenneville by Paulette Jiles (Morrow): Jiles is one of our great historical novelists and this gripping tale of a PTSD-suffering Civil War veteran out for revenge on the bad men who ruined his family is harrowing, informing and so entertaining.
Happiness Falls by Angie Kim (Hogarth): Mia Parkson is searching for her missing father, when only her neurodivergent brother Eugene knows what may have happened to him. Of all the books I’ve read this summer, this is the one I recommend most for book groups — there is so much to unpack and discuss here.
What You Are Looking for Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama, translation by Alison Watts 9/23 (Hanover Square Press): A bibliophile’s dream, this gentle Japanese novel stars a librarian who recommends books to her patrons that will cure any malaise.
Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead): A young chef makes amazing gourmet creations for the elite — and discovers other sensual pleasures — while the environment crumbles around them. For any of us who’ve experienced guilt fiddling while Rome burns.
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): Every year I try to read one Booker Prize-nominated title, and this Irish novel is destined to be a new classic. A family goes from being extremely fortunate to suddenly unlucky and discovers who they really are — a cautionary tale for our times.
Love In a Time of Hate by Florian Illies, translated by Simon Pare (Penguin Random House): How can great art and thought be made in the worst of times? This history of creative life in Europe just before the Second World War explains how luminaries such as Picasso, De Beauvoir, Dietrich, Nabokov, Arendt and Benjamin managed it — and the personal cost to themselves and those around them.
A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan (Viking): An utterly readable account of fascism, racism, sexism and brutal political forces that threatened to spread over America — sound familiar?
I Must Be Dreaming by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury): Freud, Jung and the Kabbalah, the New Yorker, crazy cats and Aristotle all come together in Chast’s uniquely wacky way with cartoons and just may inspire me to keep a dream journal at long last.
The Upstairs Delicatessen: On Eating, Reading, Reading About Eating, and Eating While Reading, by Dwight Garner (Macmillan): The New York Times critic knocks it out of the park with this warm, funny memoir of what’s really important in life.
The Secret of Cooking: Recipes for an Easier Life in the Kitchen, by Bee Wilson. (September) I love the idea of a food scholar taking on a most everyday dilemma: how to make food every darn day of your life and enjoy it just a little bit more?
As always, you can find all of these fall books at the Concord Free Public Library or at your local bookstores. If you put the latest Richard Osman book on hold — The Last Devil to Die (Penguin Random House), fourth in The Thursday Murder Club series — you just might be able to read it while the leaves are still on the trees!