Even if you’re not heading back to school, there’s really no better season than fall to cozy up to a stack of good books. And, as luck would have it, the new novels hitting shelves right now are intelligent, intriguing, and compulsively page-turning.
Don’t be put off by the fact that so many are considered literary fiction, as these novels are every bit as entertaining and addictive—if a bit more thought-provoking—than last season’s typical soapy beach reads. As admitted bookworms ourselves, we’ve compiled a handy list of the books that have everyone talking right now. Let us know in the comments section below if you’ve already read any, and which of the 10 new and buzzy books you’re planning to read this fall!
Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois
If you found yourself glued to the Amanda Knox case, this is the novel for you. Largely inspired by the super-publicized 2007 case, Dubois introduced readers to Lily Hayes, a young American woman charged with the brutal murder of her popular roommate Katy Kellers while is studying abroad in Buenos Aires. Lily’s presumed guilty because—during a break in her interrogation—she does a cartwheel. Most plot points—which are told in a non-linear style—are pretty much carbon-copies of the Knox case, including Lily’s relationship with a handsome, intriguing local, the fact that Lily works in a bar, and key points raised during Lily’s defense.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Fans of Tartt were beyond thrilled when they heard that the author—who only seems to release novels once every decade—was releasing her third, following 2002’s “The Little Friend,” and 1992’s cult instant classic “The Secret History.” Unlike her other tales, which are set in moody places like the deep south or collegiate New England, The Goldfinch is set in New York City and follows Theo Decker, a young boy who survives an accident that kills his single mom. Theo—alone and desperate to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan—crashes in the apartments of various friends and on the city streets. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother: a small mysterious painting that draws him into the art underworld.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
Author, activist, and publisher Eggers’ novel is a biting tech-world satire set at a dystopian fictional company called The Circle, but might as well be called Schmoogle or Basebook for obvious reasons. Basically a big middle finger to Silicon Valley giants and social media, the novel follows Mae, a millennial who gets a job at The Circle (on its sprawling idyllic California campus with its nap rooms and ranging parties.) Eventually, Mae is questioned about her lack of social media presence, and is enticed into wearing a headset that lets her “zing” about her every mundane feeling, thought, or action all day (she can also “smile” or “frown” at her co-workers’ zings, natch.) As the novel progresses, Mae is forced to wear a camera around her neck that, in effect, broadcasts her life 24/7 to millions of online users.
As the Washington Post so perfectly puts it: “At 500 pages, this relentless broadside against the corrosive effects of the connected life is as subtle as a sponsored tweet. Make no mistake: Eggers has seen the Facebook effect, and he does not ‘like’ it.”
Lookaway Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
Set in Charlotte, North Carolina, this satirical novel focuses on a high-society family, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and social climbers. Barnhardt delves deep into southern dysfunction, changing societies, what it means to be a family, and juicy scandals with laugh-out-loud humor.
Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta
Perotta can best be described as a suburb-skewering satirist, having written a number of compulsively readable novels such as “Election,” “Little Children,” and the excellent “The Abstinence Teacher,” all of which are set in seemingly idyllic suburbia. This book—a collection of short stories—is no different. Whether he’s writing about a sad doctor becoming obsessed with playing guitar while going through a divorce, or a brainy high school senior getting paid to take the SATS for slackers, these stories are tightly written and relatable.
The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell
This is Woodrell’s first novel since Winter’s Bone (which was made into a movie, scoring Jennifer Lawrence an Oscar nod in 2010), and he returns to the Ozarks to tell the story of a 1929 maid who works for a prominent Missouri family. When the maid’s beloved younger sister is one of 42 people killed in an explosion at the local dance hall, she sets out to discover who’s to blame. So far, buzz around this book has been strong, with critics and readers saying it’s excellent.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Pessl first got the literary world’s attention seven years ago with “It” book “Special Topics in Calamity Physics,” and her new twisty novel is being called “elaborately plotted” and “addictive.” The daughter of a reclusive horror film director is found dead, and a disgraced journalist and two sidekicks become obsessed with uncovering the truth of her death and the true identity of her infamous father, whose terrifying films (banned from theaters and found only via underground methods) depict what is “graphic and dark and gorgeous about life, thereby conquering the monsters of your mind.” It’s a starred book on Amazon, who reviews gave it a rave.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison
The protagonist of this sharp, funny book is named Don Tillman and he’s rightfully being compared to awkward genius Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory.” Don is a brainy genetics professor and can’t find a girlfriend. To fix this, he creates what he calls the Wife Project, which essentially is a 16-page questionnaire that asks female prospects to answer a host of crazy questions and personal info. Naturally, he meets a woman who doesn’t fit the project at all, a cool bartender named Rosie, whom Don eliminates as wife candidate but company he finds himself enjoying anyway.
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Fans of Pride and Prejudice take note: Baker’s novel is an imagined downstairs answer to the Jane Austen classic, in which the servants in the Bennet estate take center stage.
Readers are deeply drawn into the domain and the lives of the help, and the issues the lower classes face in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars. The novel also will definitely appeal to fans of buzzy British period TV shows like “Downton Abbey and “Upstairs, Downstairs.”
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lahiri’s new novel is already a contender for the prestigious Booker Prize, and follows two very different brothers. Udayan is younger by 15 months, and is full of is passion and idealism, and gets involved with political rebellion in 1960s India. Subhash is the “good brother, who goes to study and teach in America. Without spoiling too much, Udayan ends up a victim of political violence, Subhash returns to marry his dead brother’s pregnant wife, though he soon becomes a victim of his good deed. Themes include from sibling rivalry, beliefs, and family, and it’s a really engaging read.