Fall Preview 2021: 133 Titles To Know, Buy, and Suggest to Readers

Fall sweeps in with 133 books that collection development and readers’ advisory librarians will want to know, read, share, and buy.

Much of the fall season looks like a party, with titles about music, drinks, and food claiming shelf space. But the books of autumn also grapple with profound issues and offer serious commentary. Exemplifying the dual nature of the next few months, horror and romance are genres to note, while titles on U.S. history reconsider the country’s founding and explore its longstanding myths.

Discovery and distribution methods have changed, reflecting what seems to be a permanent shift. As Nora Rawlinson, EarlyWord founder and host of the monthly GalleyChat on Twitter (#ewgc), notes, “COVID closed down in-person library and book shows. Library marketing reps got creative with online preview sessions and author interviews. As a result, library staff no longer have to beg to attend shows or wait for crumbs of information from colleagues who got the golden ticket. And, with digital review copies now available for most titles, librarians can judge for themselves which offerings will be a hit with their users.” Audio digital review copies via Libro.FM, Edelweiss, and NetGalley also have been “eagerly embraced by librarians, as shown by the number of mentions they get during GalleyChats,” Rawlinson says.

Slowly, by degrees so painfully slow they often offer more frustration than hope, publishing is changing in other ways too. While metadata that would allow readers, librarians, and booksellers to systematically discover underrepresented voices is still a huge challenge, new imprints are appearing to help highlight authors that society very much needs to hear. For one such example, see LJ’s interview with Roxane Gay, founder of Roxane Gay Books, a new imprint of Grove Atlantic. All titles mentioned below can also be found here.


One of the books of the season is The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones (One World, Nov.), a work that is driving the nationwide conversation and recasts the United States’ founding history. Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey To End Gender Violence by Anita Hill (Viking, Sept.) and Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist by Sesali Bowen (Amistad, Oct.) continue the vital conversation about women and society. An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World by Patrisse Cullors (St. Martin’s, Oct.) helps lay a path forward to justice and healing. The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from The New Yorker, edited by Jelani Cobb and David Remnick (Ecco, Sept.), Randall Kennedy’s Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History, and Culture (Pantheon, Sept.), and Say Their Names: How Black Lives Came To Matter in America by Curtis Bunn, Michael H. Cottman, Patrice Gaines, Nick Charles, and Keith Harriston (Grand Central, Oct.) offer living history and lessons and commentary that must shape the future.

Fannie Lou Hamer is a focus of the season with the releases of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America by Keisha N. Blain (Beacon, Oct.) and Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kate Clifford Larson (Oxford Univ., Sept.). Also of note, Michael Eric Dyson returns with Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America (St. Martin’s, Nov.).


Horror and romance novels might seem to be opposites, but they both draw on the emotions, can both provide escapism and grapple with real-world issues, and engage readers with plots and characters that resonate on a visceral level.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (Saga: S. & S., Aug.) is a favorite horror pick of the season. When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen (Harper Perennial, Aug.), which includes a plantation wedding, is part of the new trend of social thrillers, in which the real villain is society and its shortcomings and biases. Another horror title to watch for is Cassandra Khaw’s Japan-set Nothing but Blackened Teeth (Tor Nightfire, Oct.), a haunted-house story with a bride at its heart. And, on a somewhat related note, one of the big fantasy titles of the fall, Cadwell Turnbull’s No Gods, No Monsters (Blackstone, Sept.), hits notes of the social thriller, too.

As GalleyChatter Jenna Friebel points out, this autumn brings two rom-coms set in doughnut shops, Donut Fall in Love by Jackie Lau (Berkley, Oct.) and The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu (Avon, Nov.). Helen Hoang returns at the very end of summer with The Heart Principle (Berkley, Aug.), and a major self-pub author, Chencia C. Higgins, has her first trade release with D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding (Carina: Harlequin, Jan. 2022). Other romances of note include Annika Sharma’s Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words (Sourcebooks Casablanca, Oct.), Sonya Lalli’s A Holly Jolly Diwali (Berkley, Oct.), and Jean Meltzer’s debut, The Matzah Ball (Mira: Harlequin, Sept.).


This season is overflowing with new works readers will clamor for. Amor Towles’s eagerly awaited The Lincoln Highway (Viking, Oct.) involves a road trip from Nebraska to New York by two brothers and two escapees from reform school. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Scribner, Sept.) spans centuries and continents and is bound by the love of books. In Harlem Shuffle (Doubleday, Sept.), Colson Whitehead introduces Ray, torn between making an honest living and getting in on a big score in 1960s Harlem. After a decades-long break, Wole Soyinka returns to fiction with Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth (Pantheon, Sept.).

In The Book of Form and Emptiness (Viking, Sept.), Ruth Ozeki examines loss, grief, and the power of physical things in our lives. When Marie De France is cast out of the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine and sent to a convent in England, she finds not only a new life but new passions, in Lauren Groff’s Matrix (Riverhead, Sept.). Colm Tóibín looks at the life of Thomas Mann in The Magician (Scribner, Sept.) and, in Talk to Me (Ecco, Sept.), T.C. Boyle wonders what we would learn if animals could talk and what it means to be human. John Edgar Wideman has a new story collection out in November, Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone (Scribner).

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash (Morrow, Sept.) investigates a murder turned personal. Don Winslow introduces a new crime saga set in Providence, RI, circa 1986 in City on Fire (Morrow, Sept.). And Hawthorne and Horowitz are back on the case in the latest series installment from Anthony Horowitz, A Line To Kill (Harper, Oct.).

In Rabih Alameddine’s The Wrong End of the Telescope (Grove, Sept.), an Arab American trans woman offers aid in a Syrian refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, while Monster in the Middle by Tiphanie Yanique (Riverhead, Oct.) takes readers across time and to Ghana, the United States, and the Virgin Islands. Americana musician Josh Ritter takes some time off from penning songs to write his second novel, The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All (Hanover Square, Sept.), which depicts the last days of the lumberjacks in a tiny timber town.

The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo (Berkley, Oct.) marks the author’s sophomore novel after a buzzy debut, while María Amparo Escandón’s L.A. Weather (Flatiron, Sept.), follows the modern-day secrets and troubles of the Alvarado family, and National Book Award finalist Gayl Jones returns with Palmares (Beacon, Sept.), which traces her character through 17th-century colonial Brazil.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo (Catapult, Oct.) is being marketed as a meeting of Girl, Woman, Other and An American Marriage. Asali Solomon’s The Days of Afrekete (Farrar, Oct.) is inspired by the works of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. Natashia Deón takes readers to 1930s L.A. in The Perishing (Counterpoint, Nov.), a work recommended for readers of N.K. Jemisin and Octavia E. Butler. Margaret Verble’s When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky (Mariner, Oct.) is being marketed as “Louise Erdrich meets Karen Russell.” Erdrich has a new book out herself, set in an independent bookstore: The Sentence (Harper, Nov.).

Looping in January titles to order now, don’t miss Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise (Doubleday), Gish Jen’s Thank You, Mr. Nixon: Stories from the Transformation (Knopf), and Isabel Allende’s Violeta (Ballantine).


The season is full of authors readers know, but there are also new writers ready to meet readers. Wanda M. Morris’s debut All Her Little Secrets (Morrow Paperbacks, Nov.) is one of the buzzy new thrillers of the season, about a Black lawyer with secrets and lots of troubles (see sidebar interview). Talk show host Tamron Hall makes her debut with the first in a planned “Jordan Manning” series, As the Wicked Watch (Morrow, Oct.). Jayne Allen’s Black Girls Must Die
(Harper, Sept.) is also the first book in an expected three-title run. It begins with the story of a Black woman who thinks she has it all, until she gets medical news that changes everything. Secrets, family, money, and the idea of legacy drive Kirthana Ramisetti’s Dava Shastri’s Last Day (Grand Central, Nov.). Look as well for the debut Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed (Counterpoint, Aug.), which hits shelves in early August and considers family, acceptance, betrayal, and forgiveness. Lastly, don’t miss Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim (Ecco, Dec.), which takes place during the Korean independence movement and features landscapes as varied as the city of Seoul and the forests of Manchuria.


Nonfiction offerings are also robust, addressing a wide range of subjects. Vanessa Nakate’s A Bigger Picture: My Fight To Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis (Mariner, Nov.) takes on climate justice while Stephon Alexander’s Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics (Basic, Aug.) is one of the key science books of the season. Mary Roach is back with Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law (Norton,
Sept.) and asks what to do about jaywalking moose?

Ann Patchett’s latest collection of literary essays, These Precious Days (Harper, Nov.), looks at the everyday, never mundane in her hands. South to America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon To Understand the Soul of a Nation by Imani Perry (Ecco, Jan. 2022) considers how this region defines the country. Mary Beard returns with Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern (Princeton Univ., Oct.), full of examples that showcase the representation of power. Maria Tatar writes about female power in The Heroine with 1001 Faces (Liveright: Norton, Sept.).

Gabrielle Union follows her 2017 memoir We’re Going To Need More Wine with You Got Anything Stronger? (Dey Street, Sept.). Anderson Cooper explores his family history, with co-writer Katherine Howe, in Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty (Harper, Sept.), while Steven V. Roberts writes about his late wife, journalist Cokie Roberts, in Cokie: A Life Well Lived (Harper, Nov.). Beautiful Country: A Memoir by Qian Julie Wang (Doubleday, Sept.) recounts the life of an undocumented child whose family leaves China to migrate to the United States in the mid-1990s. Albert Samaha’s Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes (Riverhead, Oct.) also looks at immigration, from the perspective of a Filipinx American family. Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature by Farah Jasmine Griffin (Norton, Sept.) mixes art, history, and memoir together.

Joy Harjo, the current U.S. Poet Laureate, offers her memoir, Poet Warrior (Norton, Sept.). And on the topic of poetry, look for Kevin Young’s Stones: Poems (Knopf, Sept.), and Louise Glück’s Winter Recipes from the Collective: Poems (Farrar, Oct.).

Nathaniel Philbrick’s Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy (Viking, Sept.) follows the tour Washington undertook in 1789 and considers what the United States has become more than 200 years later. The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III by Andrew Roberts (Viking, Nov.) looks at the life and times of the monarch who “lost” the colonies. George III often is portrayed as the epitome of bad leadership, but Roberts, using newly available source material, goes in a different direction. Our First Civil War: Patriots and Loyalists in the American Revolution by H.W. Brands (Doubleday, Nov.) asks the question that many have been pondering since January: What causes a man to betray his country and take up arms against it? Matthew Pearl presents his first work of narrative nonfiction, The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap That Shaped a Nation (Harper, Oct.), which considers the past and present.

Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World by Wil Haygood (Knopf, Oct.) looks at race and the history of film, and Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Philip Wang’s Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now (Mariner, Jan. 2022) offers a visual exploration of how Asian American culture became a key touchstone of worldwide pop culture. Also, do not miss Make Good the Promises: Reclaiming Reconstruction and Its Legacies, edited by Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Paul Gardullo (Amistad, Sept.), which highlights a new exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.


The offerings of autumn also show what we have been yearning for (the shared experience of live music) and how we spend our time (we’re a nation of makers: crafting, beverages, bread).

Autobiographical histories lead the spate of books on rock and roll. The Rolling Stones themselves contribute to The Rolling Stones: Unzipped (Thames & Hudson, Oct.), with Anthony DeCurtis. Stevie Van Zandt considers his storied musical life in Unrequited Infatuations (Hachette, Sept.). Set the Night on Fire (Little, Brown, Oct.) is by the Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger, one of two of the group’s surviving original members (drummer John Densmore is the other). In My Life in Dire Straits: The Inside Story of One of the Biggest Bands in Rock History (Diversion, Nov.), John Illsley, one of the founding members of his band, considers, among other things, its early years and role in the popularity of MTV. From Staircase to Stage: The Story of Raekwon and the Wu-Tang Clan (Gallery, Nov.) tells the story of Corey Woods, aka Raekwon the Chef, and his rise from staircases on Staten Island to stages all over the world; it’s written by Raekwon, with Anthony Bozza.

Leonard Cohen is the subject of three works this fall. Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: From This Broken Hill (S. & S., Oct.) is author Michael Posner’s second book in a three-volume series about Cohen’s life. Leonard Cohen: On a Wire (Drawn & Quarterly, Nov.) is a graphic novel by Philippe Girard that has the legend looking back at his life from his deathbed. Leonard Cohen: The Mystical Roots of Genius by Harry Freedman (Bloomsbury Continuum, Nov.) delves into the influences of different religions and philosophies on Cohen’s work and life.

Led Zeppelin is the focus of two works: Bob Spitz’s Led Zeppelin: The Biography (Penguin Pr., Nov.) and Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin (Hachette, Sept.) by C.M. Kushins.

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King by Daniel de Visé (Grove, Oct.) is the first authorized biography of the blues legend. With unrestricted access to King’s inner circle, de Visé presents a full portrait of a man who inspired generations of recording artists. The legacy of Jimi Hendrix is examined in Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child by Harvey Kubernik and Kenneth Kubernik (Sterling, Oct.), while a visual celebration of the life and career of Amy Winehouse, Amy Winehouse: Beyond Black (Abrams, Oct.) is coming from Naomi Parry. Mellencamp by Paul Rees (Atria, Sept.) considers the life of the cofounder of Farm Aid, whose music has deep literary influences such as Steinbeck and Faulkner.

Another legend, Sir Paul McCartney, looks back with The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present (Liveright: Norton, Nov.). In this two-volume set, McCartney reveals the inspiration behind his classic lyrics, which are accompanied by handwritten notes, paintings, and photographs. In Citizen Cash: The Political Life and Times of Johnny Cash (Basic, Dec.), Michael Stewart Foley contemplates the politics of the country music legend and makes the argument that he was one of the most important political artists of his time. Dave Grohl has his own story to tell in The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (Dey Street, Oct.), in which he reflects on his time with Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, meeting his heroes, and the importance of storytelling in his life. Lastly, don’t miss Music Is History by Questlove (Abrams Image, Oct.), which considers the past 50 years of American history through the lens of music.


Books about drinks are on the rise. Look for Jason Ward’s Chilling Cocktails: Classic Cocktails with a Horrifying Twist (Thunder Bay, Aug.), which offers 50 cocktails inspired by the creepiest characters in novels and films. Hip-hop artist T-Pain distills the success of his hit single “Can I Buy You a Drank” into Can I Mix You a Drink? (Kingston Imperial, Sept.). Vodka Cocktails: More Than 40 Recipes for Delicious Drinks To Fix at Home (Ryland Peters & Small, Sept.) is full of creations for the amateur mixologist.

This season, a number of cookbooks will expand collections in necessary ways. Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora, edited by Bryant Terry (4 Color Bks., Oct.), considers Black foodways and their culinary legacy. Other titles of note include Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi (Clarkson Potter, Oct.), New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian by Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli (Abrams, Oct.), Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora by Angela Dimayuga and Ligaya Mishan (Abrams, Oct.), Plant Powered Mexican: Fast, Fresh Recipes from a Mexican-American Kitchen by Kate Ramos (Harvard Common, Oct.), and Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen (Norton, Nov.).

Our passion for bread baking seems to be here to stay. Bittman Bread: No-Knead Whole Grain Baking for Every Day by Mark Bittman and Kerri Conan (Mariner, Nov.) guides readers through the entire process. Vanessa Kimbell’s 10-Minute Sourdough: Breadmaking for Real Life (Kyle Bks., Sept.) promises a perfect method. The Best of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: Favorite Recipes from BreadIn5 by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (St. Martin’s, Oct.) collects 80 favorite recipes from their previous five books and promises results with just five minutes of hands-on time a day. Upper Crust: Homemade Bread the French Way; Recipes and Techniques by Marie-Laure Fréchet (Flammarion, Oct.) offers an introduction to the method used in France to create those sublime loaves. Also look for Bread Book: Ideas and Innovations from the Future of Grain, Flour, and Fermentation by Chad Robertson with Jennifer Latham (Lorena Jones, Dec.).

The season also turns to crafting. Super Subversive Cross Stitch: 50 Fresh as F*ck Designs by Julie Jackson (Sasquatch, Oct.) is decidedly not your grandmother’s sampler. Sutton Foster discusses the therapeutic advantages of creating in Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life (Grand Central, Oct.). Two more to consider: Bargello: A Modern Guide to Needlepoint by Nerrisa Pratt (Quadrille, Oct.) and The Complete Guide to Crochet Dolls and Animals: Amigurumi Techniques Made Easy by the Japan Amigurumi Association (Tuttle, Sept.). And if it is gardening that drives readers, look for Four-Season Food Gardening: How To Grow Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs Year-Round by Misilla dela Llana (Cool Springs, Feb. 2022).

Whether their tastes run to nonfiction that challenges them, mixing drinks, making bread, or diving into a novel that will sweep them away, readers can look forward to a fall full of great reads.

Jennifer Dayton was the Collection Development Coordinator for Darien Library in Connecticut for six years. Currently, she can be found occasionally working the reference desk at Fairfield Public Library in Fairfield, CT.


Wanda M. Morris: Sharing Secrets

Roxane Gay: Modeling Change

Editors’ Picks for Fall 2021

Download a spreadsheet of the books getting early buzz this season 

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