From Alan Moore to Jeff Kinney to rock star bios – here’s a list of autumn’s best books
Rich season of fiction and non-fiction expected this autumn, including music memoirs from Beach Boys members, Bruce Springsteen and a historical novel about slavery
Author Alan Moore has the grandest ambition.
“The intention was to somehow combine four or five different books or impulses for books into one coherent whole,” the writer known for graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta says of Jerusalem, a 1,266-page, text-only union of science and fantasy that references everyone from Albert Einstein to Oliver Cromwell. Moore worked a decade on his all-encompassing tale, set in his native Northampton, England.
“This is the book in which I have written most directly about the things that are most central to my life: my family and the place that I emerged from. By making the narrative so personal and specific I hoped to conjure a kind of universality, an evocation of the families and places that we all come from at some point in our ancestry, irrespective of who or where we are, but the fact remains that the materials of Jerusalem come from a source very close to me.”
Autumn is the time for “big books”, whatever the page length, and some of the top fiction authors from around the world have new works coming, including Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, T. C. Boyle, Rabih Alameddine, Emma Donoghue, Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Chabon. Ann Patchett, owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, looks forward to selling Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiographical novel Another Brooklyn and Colson Whitehead’s celebrated, Oprah Winfrey-endorsed historical novel about slavery, The Underground Railroad.
Ann Patchett, the author, will be promoting her novel Commonwealth, although she’ll keep it low-key at Parnassus Books.
“I’ll sign them, put them in a linen bag, send them off with a picture of my dog Sparky. Sparky is the ‘value added’ element,” she says.
Another author-bookstore owner, Jeff Kinney, has completed Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, the 11th instalment in his multimillion selling series. He will tour worldwide on behalf of Double Down, but at Kinney’s An Unlikely Story, in Plainville, Massachusetts, the message is “try not to overdo it on the Wimpy Kid front”.
“We have two small roller units with my books, and that’s about it. I don’t think someone coming off the street would know I own the bookstore if they hadn’t heard beforehand,” Kinney says.
Whitehead’s novel is among several notable accounts of black life, past and present. Wesley Lowery’s They Can’t Kill Us All is The Washington Post reporter’s book on the Black Lives Matter movement. The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, includes essays and poems on race by Isabel Wilkerson, Kevin Young and 16 others. Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, which has been adapted for a feature film, documents the historic contributions made by black women mathematicians to the US space programme.
Two books that could contain tough words for presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are scheduled for November 15, the week after election day: Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In is expected to include his thoughts on his surprisingly competitive primary battle with Clinton, while Megyn Kelly’s Settle for More will likely recount her feud with Trump and her thoughts on ousted Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.
In music, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run could be the hottest rock memoir since Keith Richards’ Life was released in 2010. The Band’s Robbie Robertson offers Testimony this fall, while My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire is a posthumous release from Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, featuring an introduction by Steve Harvey and foreword by producer David Foster.
Brian Wilson and fellow Beach Boys founder (and first cousin) Mike Love continue their long-running and occasionally litigious family competition as Wilson releases I Am Brian Wilson and Love has Good Vibrations. Often cast as the business-minded Beach Boy, at odds with the visionary Wilson, Love provides detailed accounts of how he wrote the lyrics to many of the Beach Boys’ best known songs.
“The problem is you have hundreds of thousands of words about us, not always by people who were actually there,” Love says. “I wanted to show how I was actually working on the songs with my cousin, writing the lyrics while he was creating those incredible chord progressions and harmonies.”
Other musical memoirs are coming from Tom Jones, songwriter Carol Bayer Sager and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones. Fans of The Beatles with some extra cash might consider A Hard Day’s Night: A Private Archive, a US$125 volume of photographs, documents and memorabilia about the 1964 film that stunned critics and delighted fans. Annotation is provided by one of the world’s foremost Beatles experts, Mark Lewisohn.
“It isn’t only the end product that’s extraordinary, it’s the background story, too. It always comes down to the people, to the four guys themselves,” Lewisohn says.
“Why was A Hard Day’s Night their first film when it could have been their third or fourth? They’d had movie offers for six months before this one and turned them all down, because The Beatles were always innately clear on what not to do as well as what to do. They were prepared to risk never appearing in a film at all than say yes to something ‘soft’, which in their vocabulary meant ‘stupid’.”