The leaves are turning, the air is crisper, the bookstores are open … and you need a new paperback, don’t you? Here are six freshly minted ones for fall reading.
“No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History” by Gail Collins (Little, Brown, $18.99). Collins, a longtime editorial writer for The New York Times, here takes a lighthearted look at noteworthy American women of a certain age, beginning with Martha Washington in the colonial era and ending with the 90th birthday party of National Organization for Women co-founder Muriel Fox. “Collins juggles vignettes, longer portraits of both well-known and comparatively obscure Black and white women, and tales of racism, sexism, and ageism,” wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, noting that the author “inserts significant data with a light touch and leavens the subject matter with her signature humorous tone. This enjoyable and informative historical survey will delight Collins’s fans and bring in some new ones.”
“The World That We Knew” by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster, $14.99). Hoffman, whose many novels often feature a delicate magic realism, here combines that trademark with a story rooted in history. This novel takes place in Germany and France in the 1940s, following a young girl escaping the Gestapo with the aid of a magical creature of Jewish myth. Hoffman, wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic, “employs her signature lyricism to express the agony of the Holocaust with a depth seldom equaled in more seemingly realistic accounts … A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.”
“Underland: A Deep Time Journey” by Robert Macfarlane (Norton, $17.95). A bestseller and winner of the National Outdoor Book Award, Macfarlane’s book examines the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory and the land itself. Reviewing for The Guardian, William Dalrymple called it “one of the most ambitious works of narrative nonfiction of our age,” noting that it took Macfarlane 10 years to complete. “There is throughout a transcendent beauty to Macfarlane’s prose, and occasional moments of epiphany and even ecstasy,” he writes. “But as always with Macfarlane’s books, the tales of adventures are only a takeoff point for discussions of deeper concerns: the relationship between man and landscape, the instability of time and place, and perhaps above all, the fragility of all we are and all we create.”
“Grand Union” by Zadie Smith (Penguin, $17). British author Smith has long been acclaimed for her novels (“White Teeth,” “On Beauty,” “Swing Time”) and essays (“Feel Free”); this is her first collection of short stories, which includes both previously unpublished new work and stories from early in her career. New York Times reviewer Rebecca Makkai wrote that while the collection was uneven, “it contains some of Smith’s most vibrant, original fiction, the kind of writing she’ll surely be known for. Some of these stories provide hints that everything we’ve seen from her so far will one day be considered her ‘early work,’ that what lies ahead is less charted territory, wilder and less predictable and perhaps less palatable to the casual reader but exactly what she needs to be writing.”
“Shuggie Bain” by Douglas Stuart (Grove/Atlantic, $17). Stuart’s debut novel, about a boy growing up in public housing in 1980s Glasgow, was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize. It is, wrote reviewer Leah Hager Cohen in The New York Times, a wrenchingly sad novel: “the book would be just about unbearable were it not for the author’s astonishing capacity for love. … He shows us lots of monstrous behavior, but not a single monster — only damage. If he has a sharp eye for brokenness, he is even keener on the inextinguishable flicker of love that remains.”
“Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion” by Jia Tolentino (Random House, $18). The staff writer for The New Yorker makes her debut essay collection, which won the 2020 Whiting Award for Nonfiction. The selection committee for that award wrote that Tolentino “is more than a chronicler of our particular moment; she is our critic and translator, a decoder who can see the profound in the ordinary. Her debut collection of essays is a marvel, a book that captures what seems unknowable about the internet and what it is to grow up in its orbit, to become misshapen and seduced by it, defined by it. … These essays are compulsively readable, and shot through with surprise, offering us the delights of eloquence and the satisfactions of her deep, inquiring mind.”