Two prodigious novels arrive from two loquacious authors: Jonathan Franzen’s Purity (Ferrer, Straus and Giroux, $28), his fifth novel, and Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire (Oct. 13, Knopf, $30) his first. Both works are concerned with the present day or the recent past, and both are very long; Hallberg’s alone weighs in at almost 1,000 pages. Franzen’s novel follows an ingenuous young woman working for a WikiLeaks-like organization. City on Fire, a panorama capturing the lives of New York City-dwellers during the blackout of 1977, will stir curiosity with its “interludes”—graphics and source documents interleaved in its pages.
At the polar extreme from Franzen and Hallberg is Elena Ferrante, the elusive Italian novelist whose popularity among English readers has peaked over the past year. The final book in her Neapolitan series, The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions, $18), concludes the narrative of lifelong friends Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s style is intimate and affable; her power to transport her readers into the lifeworld of her characters in Naples is absolute. The release is an important moment for her fans and may compel many uninitiated readers to discover her work for the first time.
This could be a breakout season for Claire Vaye Watkins, who is becoming one of fiction’s newest authorities on the West. Her novel Gold Fame Citrus (Sept. 29, Riverhead, $28) is set in a carefully rendered post-drought dystopia. Its protagonists trek across the country, protecting a mysterious child and encountering various obstacles both human and environmental.
The role (and the perils) of geography is also addressed in the nonfiction realm by Simon Winchester, whose newest book is titled Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers (Oct. 27, Harper Collins, $29). Not to be outmatched, Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick has written Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll; How One Man Discovered Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, and How His Tiny Label, Sun Records of Memphis, Revolutionized the World! (Nov. 10, Little Brown and Company, $32). Try saying either of those titles three times fast.
This season will also see the release of two memoirs from modern, musical women. Patti Smith’s M Train (Oct. 6, Knopf, $25) is a sort of memoir-as-travelogue that traverses her daily habits, the places she’s lived and the art, entertainment and coffee she’s consumed. And Carrie Brownstein, best known for her comedy on IFC’s Portlandia, revisits her roots as the guitarist for Sleater-Kinney in Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl (Oct. 27, Riverhead, $28).
Lastly, young readers get two gorgeous graphic works. The Nest (Oct. 6, Simon & Schuster, $25), pairs Kenneth Oppel with Caldecott medalist Jon Klassen to relate the eerie fable of young boy striking a dangerous bargain with a wasp queen to “fix” his sick baby brother. And with The Marvels (Scholastic Press, $33) Brian Selznick continues to advance middle-grade literature with a seriousness too often reserved for grownups. Like his previous books, The Marvels combines pictures and prose to advance its narrative. Selznick has achieved a perfect balance between enthralling his young readers with adventure, while also sharpening their ability to read critically.