Forget the old cliché of "summer reading"—the fall is when many of the best books are rolled out. With many major contenders for top awards and plenty of new titles from longtime hit makers about to land on shelves, we contacted Triangle booksellers to find out what was worth reading.
Unsurprisingly, the big dog of the season is Jonathan Franzen's just-released Freedom. "This is, I think, even better than The Corrections," says Quail Ridge Books and Music's Nancy Olson, who calls it "darkly humorous" and "powerful." Franzen's book tour, however, will not bring him to the Triangle.
Another book that came up frequently was The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart (Oct. 21). Pete Mock, book buyer for McIntyre's Books of Pittsboro, says he "went bonkers" over this tale of a family of Scandinavian immigrants in Texas. "For anybody who likes Cormac McCarthy, this is for them—it's the only thing I've read that comes close to McCarthy's skill." Jamie Fiocco of Chapel Hill's Flyleaf Books was also enthusiastic for Forgiveness: "Horse trading, arranged marriages and beer smuggling—what more could you ask for?"
The nonfiction book that was most recommended was Susan Casey's The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, which comes out Sept. 14. In the book, Casey looks at the causes of massive rogue waves and the people who try to surf them. Linda Maloof, of Cary's Barnes & Noble, says of this one, "Makes you want to grab your surfboard and hit the beach." Fiocco calls it "the perfect mix of science, entertainment and sport, while Mock says it's "one of those true adventure stories that's just fascinating—you've got science, sport and philosophy, and it's a really fun read. We're going to sell a ton of these."
Plenty of booksellers had personal favorites. Mock raved about the Southern Gothic drama Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (Oct. 5) and its "atmospheric" writing style. "You see the rain dripping off leaves, you feel the humidity—wow, what a good novel!" He's also enthusiastic about At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (Oct. 5), a nonfiction look at the social norms reflected in the history of Bryson's home, which Mock calls "his best work since A Walk in the Woods."
Maloof is gung-ho for Emma Donoghue's Room (Sept. 13), the story of a woman held captive in a room for seven years, told from the point of view of the son she gives birth to during this time; it's already a best-seller in England, where it's been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. "It's amazingly uplifting for dealing with such a tough subject matter," says Maloof. Donoghue appears at the Cary Barnes & Noble on Sept. 25.
The Regulator Bookshop's Tom Campbell is excited about a number of authors coming to his shop, including former President Jimmy Carter with White House Diary on Sept. 28. Among the local authors coming to the Regulator are UNC professor and James Baldwin scholar Randall Kenan, who appears at the Regulator on Sept. 7 with The Cross of Redemption, along with Georgann Eubanks with Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont: A Guidebook (Oct. 20), Bland Simpson and Scott Taylor with The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country and Amy Sedaris with Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People (due Nov. 2, with a signing at the Regulator on Nov. 11). Sedaris will also appear at Quail Ridge on Nov. 10, and her brother, David Sedaris, has a new mock collection of animal fables, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, out on Sept. 28.
Summer reading be damned—it's time to start making some room on your bookshelves for the fall—or at least start marking items on your Christmas list.