Off the beach and in where it's warm, snuggle up with fine fiction and nonfiction.

Posted: September 11, 2011

You've done your beach reading; now it's time to brush off the sand, go inside, and curl up in a cozy chair with some of fall's best offerings.

Do love and marriage really go together like a horse and carriage? Pulitzer-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides takes a mordant look at matrimony in The Marriage Plot. A slew of other notable novelists weigh in with new work, too, including Haruki Murakami, Russell Banks, Amitav Ghosh, Don DeLillo, and Stephen King.

On the nonfiction side, Mark Bowden, who chronicled a shooting war in Black Hawk Down, turns to cyber-conflict in Worm: The First Digital World War. Best-selling author Joe McGinniss tells us all about Sarah Palin in The Rogue, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. leads us on a tour of African American history, Life Upon These Shores, and historian Ian Kershaw recounts the last days of the Third Reich in The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945.

Autobiographies abound, with memoirs from luminaries including Riccardo Muti, Joan Didion, Carrie Fisher, Diane Keaton, Harry Belafonte, and Roger Ebert.

Settle back. Here are some of the season's top titles.

- Michael D. Schaffer and John Timpane, Inquirer staff writers


All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang (W. W. Norton, $14.95, paperback) Chang, director of the Iowa University Creative Writing Program, sets her novel in . . . a creative writing program at a Midwestern university. Two writers try to make careers - and contend with the legacy of their teachers. (Sept. 27)

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks (Ecco, $25.99) Banks, a literary lion, bases his novel on a real-life colony of registered sex offenders located beneath a major highway. (Sept. 27)

Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25) This could be on the list for its title alone. It's a long-awaited novel that begins a year before 9/11 and throws its shadow into the past and the future. (Sept. 27)

River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28) Sea of Poppies (2008) began a big historical trilogy about the opium trade. River of Smoke follows the trade, and the money, into China. Bursting with detail and originality. (Sept. 27)

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (Scribner, $27.99) This best-selling author takes an unexpected turn into ancient Israel. (Oct. 4)

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (Algonquin, $24.95) In the not-too-distant future, a female convict fights prejudice, technology, and government control. (Oct. 4)

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28) A lot of novels, from Jane Austen on, revolve around marriage, and the efforts of families to marry off their young adults. Eugenides works changes on all these themes and makes them his own. (Oct. 11)

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Alfred A. Knopf, $30.50) A much-anticipated, sprawling riff on George Orwell's 1984 by one of the world's most-respected authors. (Oct. 25)

11/22/63 by Stephen King (Scribner, $35) What would happen if you could travel back in time and could try to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy? This 1,000-page sprawler tells the tale. (Nov. 8)

The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories by Don DeLillo (Scribner, $24) A famed novelist offers his first collection of short fiction, stories that pack the same nightmarish punch as his novels. (Nov. 8)

The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23) Three linked novellas by the mother of Kiran Desai and a fine writer in her own right. Men and women in the India of the recent past search for, and often find, purpose in a chaotic world. (Dec. 6)


Riccardo Muti, An Autobiography: First the Music, Then the Words by Riccardo Muti (Rizzoli, $29.95) The former music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra reflects on his sound and life. (Sept. 6)

The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 by Ian Kershaw (Penguin Press, $35) Sucked into the vortex of Adolf Hitler's fanaticism, Nazi Germany fought on, long after all chance of winning World War II had disappeared. Hitler biographer Kershaw traces the last days of an evil empire. (Sept. 8)

Cabin by Lou Ureneck (Viking, $25.95) Beset in both his personal and professional life by the troubles of middle age, ex-Inquirer editor Ureneck retreats to the woods of western Maine and builds a cabin. (Sept. 15)

The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin by Joe McGinniss (Crown, $25) Back in 1968, a young McGinnis looked behind candidate Richard M. Nixon's mask in The Selling of the President. Now he's out to do the same with Sarah Palin. (Sept. 20)

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel (Walker, $24) Mixing narrative and drama, Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, brings to light the shy 16th-century astronomer who revolutionized humankind's view of the universe. (Sept. 27)

Worm: The First Digital World War by Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25) The Internet is a quiet battleground where the forces of law and order work to keep cyber-criminals at bay. Former Inquirer reporter Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, makes the complex combat understandable. (Sept. 27)

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Stephen Pinker (Viking, $40). If he's right, psychologist Pinker has good news for all of us: Human beings are becoming less violent. The question, of course, is whether he's right. (Oct. 4)

My Song: A Memoir by Harry Belafonte, with Michael Shnayerson (Alfred A. Knopf, $30.50) The singer and activist recounts his life story, from childhood poverty in Harlem and Jamaica to musical stardom, and recalls the remarkable people he met along the way. (Oct. 11)

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz (Henry Holt, $28) America in 1859 was primed to explode, and along came abolitionist John Brown to strike the match with his raid on the U.S. arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W.Va). Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Horwitz tells the story in vivid detail. (Oct. 25)

Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain by Michael S. Gazzaniga (Ecco, $27.99) The "Father of Cognitive Neuroscience" argues that human behavior is not predetermined by physical laws and that we must take responsibility for our actions. No fair saying your genes made you do it. (Nov. 15)

Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 by Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Alfred A. Knopf, $50) Harvard professor Gates surveys the rich tapestry of African American history in a lavishly illustrated volume. (Nov. 22)

Contact Michael D. Schaffer at 215-854-2537 or Contact John Timpane at 215-854-4406,, or @jtimpane on Twitter.

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