It’s simultaneously one of the saddest and happiest times of the year: Summer is waning, but there’s that crisp chill in the air, it’s time for some football, and, of course, pumpkin beer. It’s also time to graduate from breezy beach reads and get down to some serious business!
Or not…far be it from us to tell you how to read. But if you want to take on a challenge this fall/winter, here are a few of our favorites (in no particular order).
10. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara — This 700-page tome will surely be one of the most harrowing books you’ll read this year. It’s still my favorite of the year, but be warned…it’s intense.
9. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro — Our manager Emily explains, “Some books demand a beach and a pina colada. This book demands a fire, a snowy evening, and a glass of scotch.” And she wrote that back in March! Sounds like a great fall read to me — Ishiguro is one of the more inventive, keep-you-on-your-toes writers out there.
8. Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon — This is likely the most difficult novel you’ll read this side of James Joyce’s Ulysses. But it’s also one of the more rewarding. It took me six months to read this, and when I was finished, I was so giddy and slap happy, I invented a fictional conversation between myself and my new friend Tommy Pynchon.
7. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell — My favorite book of last year. Mitchell is simply a wizard. This novel really challenges the notion of what fiction can be. But it’s just so much fun, as well. Mitchell is publishing a “companion” novel to The Bone Clocks titled Slade House, which is out Oct. 27, so now is a great time to immerse yourself in this crazy trip of a book.
6. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton — I was utterly awestruck by the complexity and craft of this novel, which won the 2013 Man Booker Prize. (Catton is the youngest winner ever!) At its root, it’s a murder mystery set in 19th century New Zealand, but the real hallmark of this exceptional novel is how Catton folds the plot back on itself, constantly misdirects you, but then snaps into place like an elaborate string trick. Sound daunting? I actually had to take extensive notes to try to keep track of everything, which you can access here, if you want.
5. The Civil War Trilogy, by Shelby Foote — The store’s first gentleman, Jeff, says over the course of these nearly 3,000 pages, Foote “finds the humanity in our great conflict, the humor, and the personal tragedies.” I’ve always meant to read these books, they’ve been on my shelf for at least a decade, but haven’t yet…maybe this fall!
4. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James — On the long list for this year’s Man Booker prize, James massive novel tells the story of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and its aftermath from the points of view of several different characters.
3. In The Light of What We Know, by Zia Haider Rahman — This is a big audacious novel of ideas set amidst the looming financial crisis in 2008. I read this this past winter, and really enjoyed contemplating the big questions Rahman presents in this novel: How do we know what we know? How can we be sure of anything?
2. Underworld, by Don DeLillo — All anyone wants to talk about with this book is its masterful first scene, which takes place during a baseball game in 1951 — Bobby Thompson’s famous “shot heard ’round the world” home run. But the remaining 767 pages (after the first 60) are wonderful, as well. DeLillo ties several strains of story around a few key themes — one of which, as he writes, is “everything is connected in the end.”
1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy — Of course, no list would be complete without this one. The greatest novel of all time? I don’t know about that, but as was the case with Gravity’s Rainbow, I think I had more fun writing about finishing the book than I actually did reading it.