21 Incredible New Books You Need To Read This Fall

Turn over a new (autumn) leaf with these exciting reads.

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1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Set in the pre–Civil War era South, Colson Whitehead's powerful new novel The Underground Railroad follows Cora, a slave in Georgia who manages to escape from a cotton plantation but ends up killing a young white boy in the process. As she flees from slave catchers in hot pursuit and heads north via the Underground Railroad — which Whitehead has brilliantly turned into a literal network of secret railroad tracks and tunnels — readers are forced to grapple with the horrors and brutalities of America's past that still linger on in present day.

Publication date: Aug. 2

(Publication was originally set for Sept. 13 but the date was moved up after the book was selected by Oprah for her book club.)

2. Intimations by Alexandra Kleeman

The 12 stories in Alexandra Kleeman's haunting short-story collection Intimations explore the main phases of human life as we know it — birth, "living," and death. Wonderfully strange and eerie, Intimations outlines the confusion, loss, and anxieties that underlie the different stages of mortality, forcing us to re-examine the often unsettling realities of our existence.

Publication date: Sept. 13

3. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Maria Semple's Today Will Be Different takes place on the one day animator Eleanor Flood decides to get her life together — the same day, unfortunately for her, that everything goes awry — with her husband, son, and even buried secrets that suddenly threaten to surface. Crackling with honesty and heart, Today Will Be Different hilariously captures one woman's attempts to reinvent herself and stay sane amid the chaos of everyday life.

Publication date: Oct. 4

4. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith returns with Swing Time, the sweeping, energetic story of a complex friendship between two black girls who grow up aspiring to be dancers, yet whose lives diverge because only one has talent. Set across West Africa and London, Swing Time speaks to the ways in which our roots and childhood relationships can have a hold on us even later on in life.

Publication date: Nov. 15

5. Nicotine by Nell Zink

Nell Zink's quirky Nicotine is at heart a story about families both literal and metaphorical: Penny Baker — the only conventional member of her eccentric family — inherits her late father's childhood house only to find it occupied by a group of anarchist squatters who have named the property "Nicotine." Yet Penny finds the squatters charming and even becomes part of their collective, eventually leading to a fateful confrontation between the family she was born into and the new one she's chosen.

Publication date: Oct. 4

6. Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon's new novel Moonglow is loosely based on the stories his terminally ill grandfather told him one week in 1989 — so it makes sense that the book opens as the deathbed confession of the narrator's grandfather. Moonglow is a confession that spans one man's entire life, of war, marriage, secrets, passion, and a pivotal era in American history.

Publication date: Nov. 22

7. The Mothers by Brit Bennett

After 17-year-old Nadia's mother dies, she begins a romance with the local pastor's son, Luke, that leads to a pregnancy she must hide from everyone in her small community, including her religious best friend Aubrey. Brit Bennett's lyrical debut novel The Mothers follows Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey into adulthood, examining how decisions made in youth and the "what if" questions that follow can affect and haunt us years after the fact.

Publication date: Oct. 11

8. Mischling by Affinity Konar

In Affinity Konar's haunting novel Mischling, identical twin sisters Pearl and Stasha fight to survive the horrors of Auschwitz, where they are subjects in Dr. Josef Mengele's cruel and inhumane experiments. When Pearl disappears one winter, Stasha desperately holds onto the hope that she is still alive, and after the camp is finally liberated, must grapple with being a survivor amid the devastation of the world she once knew.

Publication date: Sept. 6

9. The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang

In Jade Chang's highly entertaining debut novel The Wangs vs. the World, Taiwanese-born American businessman Charles Wang loses his fortune to the 2008 recession and must unite his children to start fresh in China. Along with their stepmother Barbra, the Wangs set off on a road trip across the country, all the way struggling to deal with their new financial situation — and each other. A meditation on what it means to be an immigrant in America, The Wangs vs. the World shows the often surprising ways hardship can bring a dysfunctional family closer together.

Publication date: Oct. 4

10. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

In Ann Patchett's new novel Commonwealth, one chance encounter changes the fate of two families forever: When Bert Cousins appears at a christening party uninvited and kisses the baby's mother, Beverly Keating, he sets into motion a series of events that ends their current marriages and entwines the lives of their children. A moving portrait of the Cousins and Keating families' "commonwealth" over several decades, Commonwealth speaks to the love, loyalties (and betrayals), tragedies, and stories that bind people together.

Publication date: Sept. 13

11. The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies

Inspired partly by real historical characters, Peter Ho Davis's multi-voiced novel The Fortunes centers on the Chinese American immigrant experience and the dysfunctional family life that sometimes goes hand in hand with it. From a hate crime victim to the first Chinese Hollywood star, The Fortunes masterfully captures a century of history and the survival of an immigrant community caught between two cultures.

Publication date: Sept. 6

Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures tells the true story of a group of black female mathematicians at NASA whose work launched numerous astronauts and rockets into space. A fascinating account of the careers of these extraordinary women over several decades, Hidden Figures looks at how their calculations helped America become a leader in the space race.

Publication date: Sept. 6

13. A Gambler's Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem

Set between Berlin and Berkeley, California, Jonathan Lethem's colorful new novel A Gambler's Anatomy features Bruno Alexander, a professional backgammon player who believes he has psychic powers. Unfortunately for Bruno, it seems that his luck has run out — after a bad run in Singapore, Germany doesn't go as planned either and a tumor behind his eye forces him to undergo experimental surgery, which is paid for by a childhood acquaintance who has an agenda of his own.

Publication date: Oct. 18

14. Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair

Safiya Sinclair's debut poetry collection Cannibal is a rumination on Jamaican identity, on womanhood and race in America, on history and exile. Lyrical and provocative, Sinclair's poems teach the reader in rich language what it means to be "other" and to have a female body.

Publication date: Sept. 1

15. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Ruth Franklin's biography of Shirley Jackson re-establishes the suspense and horror writer as a critical figure in American literature. Franklin reveals the darker side of Jackson's life, from a difficult childhood to a strained marriage to later substance abuse, providing an enormous depth of context for the extraordinarily talented writer's masterpieces.

Publication date: Sept. 27

16. The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

Anuk Arudpragasam's immersive debut novel The Story of a Brief Marriage is set two and a half decades into the Sri Lankan civil war, where Dinesh, a Tamil refugee, is approached by an old man with a proposal that could change his life: If he marries the man's daughter Ganga, they would both have a better shot at safety and a less violent future. A portrait of life touched by war and despair, The Story of a Brief Marriage is the tale of two strangers suddenly thrust into a strange new relationship.

Publication date: Sept. 6

17. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer's first novel in 11 years, looks at one family in Washington, D.C., over the course of four weeks of crisis: As the Blochs' marriage falls apart, so does the Middle East when a natural disaster has devastating consequences for Israel. Here I Am explores religious identity, responsibility, faith, familial relationships, and what it means to be Jewish-American; an ambitious work.

Publication date: Sept. 6

18. The Trespasser by Tana French

Tana French's thrilling new novel The Trespasser follows detective Antoinette Conway, who isn't getting along with her "murder squad" when a seemingly simple case divides the detectives further. Aislinn Murray's death looks like a domestic violence homicide and all signs point to the boyfriend, but Antoinette suspects something more sinister is underway.

Publication date: Oct. 4

19. After Disasters by Viet Dinh

Viet Dinh's debut novel After Disasters takes place in the wake of a horrific earthquake in India. Told through the perspectives of four rescue workers and the emotional and physical turmoil they face, After Disasters is an examination of the love and loss that can be found amid human trauma.

Publication date: Sept. 1

20. The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs

Belle Boggs's The Art of Waiting is a contemplation of fertility (and infertility) that considers all the possibilities of making a family, as well as the medical, financial, and legal aspects and complications that may arise. Boggs shares stories from numerous couples — involving adoption, surrogacy, assisted reproduction, or the decision to be child-free — as well as the depictions of fertility and childlessness in literature and film to paint a broader picture of motherhood.

Publication date: Sept. 6

21. Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan's Nutshell is written from the perspective of an unborn child who hears his unfaithful mother's plot to murder his father through the womb. Loosely based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, Nutshell is a highly original, imaginative thriller that is as entertaining as it is suspenseful.

Publication date: Sept. 13