Friday, September 30, 2011

Picks of the Picks- Great Books for Fall 2011 (and Beyond)

Last week I got to attend a session run by the Book Publishers Representatives of New England, in which reps from various presses and distributors named their top picks for the remainder of the fall book season. What follows is my picks of the picks, and some picks they didn't pick.

Without question, my #1 most anticipated title of the season is River of Smoke, by Amitav Ghosh. I loved Sea of Poppies, first in the Ibis Trilogy; River of Smoke is number two in the series and although I've just started it, I can tell you a couple of things.
  • You don't need to have read Sea of Poppies although it probably helps, and
  • this one is every bit as good as the first book.
It stars a motley cast of characters making their way through the waters, mountains and cities of India and Asia. The book is out now; run don't walk to pick it up. It's amazing and I'm sure will be one of my top picks this year.


Robert K. Massie's massive biography Catherine the Great tops my nonfiction list. I've never read about this most fascinating of Russian monarchs and this book looks great. Massie wrote Nicholas and Alexandra, and other definitive works of nonfiction on Russia and its tsars and tsarinas. Sounds like an essential read for the Russophile to me! (November)


The Cat's Table is the latest novel by Booker-Prize winner Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, one of my all-time favorites. It comes out next month. It's about a boy named Michael on a sea voyage from Sri Lanka to Britain, just like Ondaatje did himself- although the author swears it's not autobiographical. (October)

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, by Margaret Atwood. This collection of essays documents her thoughts on the genre of science fiction and her often controversial place in it. I love her, so of course I can't wait to get this. Coming in October. And if you have an advance copy of this, I'm wildly jealous. (October)

The Dovekeepers looks like fascinating, engrossing historical fiction from Alice Hoffman, an author I've not read but from everything I've heard, this is the place to start. The book takes place in Roman Empire-era Judea. (October)


Finally, Umberto Eco has a new book coming, The Prague Cemetery. Eco is one of my favorite writers; this book, about conspiracies and mysteries in 19th century Europe, sounds like a literary page-turning winner.  (November)

Other neat things coming soon:
The Sense of an Ending, Booker-shortlisted fiction from the eminent Julian Barnes (October),
The Stranger's Child, by Booker winner Alan Hollinghurst (this book was longlisted this year), (October), and
Drama: An Actor's Education, autobiography by John Lithgow (September).

I'm also looking forward to reading Anna Solomon's The Little Bride, which is out now. It's a story about a Russian Jewish woman coming to frontier America and making a life for herself and her family in the plains. It was inspired by the wonderful memoir Rachel Calof's Story and I'm sure it will be great.

Going out a little farther, to early 2012, keep an eye out for All that I Am, by Anna Funder, a World War 2-era story; The Nun, historical fiction about an Italian cloister, from Simonetta Agnello Hornby (coming late December 2011) and Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine, coming in January.

Check out more fall picks from fellow Boston bloggers the Boston Book Bums! What are your top picks for fall and beyond?

20 comments:

Mystica said...

I have Amitav Ghosh's book and am looking forward to reading it s I loved Sea of Poppies. Ondaatjie as well - partial to a fellow Sri Lankan! your other reads are new to me and look wonderful.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

The one I am looking forward to most, one that I've about most on the internet, is Umberto Eco's Prague Cemetery. Thanks for this list of upcoming books.

Sandy Nawrot said...

At SIBA we had a similar roundup of fall titles to look for, and the rep said The Dovekeepers was Hoffman's masterpiece. Also that Catherine book was like honey to the bees...people couldn't help but stop and touch the thing. Swapna ended up with the one copy at the show and she said it was AMAZING.

Kristi said...

That book on Catherine the Great looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing some Titles I may have missed.

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like I need to read Sea of Poppies!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

These all look so good! Of course, I am still struggling to overcome my fear of tackling Sea of Poppies...

reviewsbylola said...

I definitely want to read River of Smoke and probably Catherine the Great and The Dovekeepers too.

Zibilee said...

Kathy just sent me the book on Catherine, and I also have a copy of The Dovekeepers as well. I am intrigued by The Little Bride now too, and have added that one to my list after reading your synopsis of it here. So many great books coming out this fall! I am wiggly with anticipation!

Blodeuedd said...

I enjoyed The Little Bride, she had a lovely tone when she wrote

Michelle said...

I have a copy of CATHERINE THE GREAT and managed to get an e-galley of PRAGUE CEMETERY. I am really looking forward to reading both of them. The books that have been released or are going to be released this year is absolute outstanding!

Alexia561 said...

Margaret Atwood is always good, so will keep an eye out for In Other Worlds. And while I really enjoyed reading Nicholas and Alexandra way back when, I've never read anything about Catherine. Great picks!

EnriqueFreeque said...

I took a good long look at the new Amitav Ghosh tonight at B & N. Instead, I grabbed Denis Johnson's Train Dreams and the new 1,000 page behemoth by Neal Stephenson, Reamde. I do so want to be excited about the new Eco, but he hasn't wowed me since his second novel. Probably just me.

Suzanne said...

I have ordered The Cat's Table and look forward to reading it soon.

The Prague Cemetery sounds fascinating too. I'm actually going to hear Eco speak about it in November as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I'll be doing my fall feature tomorrow (I hope) as I've selected my stack last week. The Eco and book by Ghosh appeal to me. Happy Fall reading.

Harvee said...

The audio of Sea of Poppies was extraordinary. The reader had all the various accents down pat. I hope that there is also an audio of the new book.

Would love to read Eco's new book as well. All the books you suggest are interesting.

Erin said...

I just finished Sea of Poppies and will definitely be picking up River of Smoke soon. I'm excited! And I had not heard about the new Margaret Atwood book, but I will absolutely need to get my hands on that as well. Great books, indeed!!

Bellezza said...

I love Alice Hoffman, and I love Umberto Eco even more. Wow! Great books to look forward to!

You've won Ivan and Misha, my friend. Just send me your mailing address to bellezza.mjs@gmail.com and I'll have the publisher send you your autographed copy. xo

bookmagic said...

I've started Catherine the Great and am hooked. The Cat's Table was very good and I have The Dovekeeper's in a stack for next. I love her work but I think this is very unlike her other stuff. I will definitely check out River of Smoke

Kathleen said...

I didn't know Massie had a new one coming out. I will keep an eye out for it as well as the new one from Eco. I loved The Name of the Rose.

Darlene said...

The Cat's Table is on my list to read as is Hoffman's newest. Both sound great.