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?