Fall books preview

The hot new titles to look for in the coming months, from fiction to biography to politics.

By Laura Miller

Published September 11, 2003 7:00PM (EDT)

Over the next three months, the publishing industry floods bookstores with the best -- and sometimes just the flashiest -- books of the year. It can be hard to keep up even when it's your job, so for the average overwhelmed reader out there, we offer this highly selective list of titles to watch out for.


With the 2004 campaign season heating up, expect the usual rash of snoozy trail tracts by the likes of John Kerry ("A Call to Service," from Viking in October) and John Edwards ("My Trials," from Simon & Schuster in January), plus "Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism and the American Empire" by Wesley Clark, coming from Princeton next month. Walter Shapiro kills, er, covers several birds with one stone in "One-Car Caravan: On the Road With the 2004 Democratic Hopefuls" (Public Affairs, November). Bush haters will lap up "Bushwhacked" by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose (Random House), also set to arrive in September, Michael Moore's "Dude, Where's My Country?" (Warner, October) and "The Lies of George W. Bush" by David Corn (Crown, September). TV commentator Alan Colmes offers the undoubtedly more tepid "Red, White and Liberal: Why the Left is Right and the Right is Wrong" (ReganBooks, October).

On the other side, Bill O'Reilly (yes, again) asks "Who's Looking Out For You?" (Broadway Books, September) and Bernard Goldberg deplores "Arrogance: Rescuing America From the Media Elite" (Warner, November). What Greta Van Susteren will have to say in "My Turn at the Bully Pulpit" (Crown, September) is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, Pulitzer-winning playwright Tony Kushner will seek to rally the nation's youth with "Save Your Democratic Citizen Soul!" (New Press, November). And for those craving dish from deep inside the Beltway, there's "The Georgetown Ladies Social Club" by C. David Heymann (Atria, October) about the klatch of five women who ran D.C. over the past half-century.


It's shaping up to be a terrific season for narrative histories in the spirit of Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit." We're particularly looking forward to: "The Bounty," an account of the notorious mutiny by "Endurance" author Caroline Alexander (Viking, September); "Fallingwater Rising," a "biography" of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous house by Franklin Toker (Knopf, September); "A Venetian Affair," based on some long-lost 18th century love letters written by the ancestor of author Andrea di Robilant (Knopf, September); David Foster Wallace's history of the concept of infinity, "Everything and More" (W.W. Norton, October); "The Perfect Prince," the true story of a Renaissance-era imposter by Ann Wroe (Random, October); David Maraniss' innovative dual-track look at the Vietnam War at home and in Southeast Asia, "They Marched Into Sunlight" (Simon & Schuster, October); and two new histories by bestselling authors Nathaniel Philbrick ("Sea of Glory," about a 1838 exploring expedition, Viking, November) and Mark Kurlansky ("1968: The Year That Rocked the World," Ballantine, December).

Traditional history looks good, too. Paul Fussell takes issue with romanticized portraits of World War II in "The Boy's Crusade" (Modern Library, September). "Refuge in Hell: How Berlin's Jewish Hospital Outlasted the Nazis" by Daniel Silver illuminates how that institution miraculously survived (Houghton Mifflin, September). Edwin Black exposes the American roots of the Nazis' nightmarish racial attitudes in "War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race" (Four Walls Eight Windows, September). Military history buffs will snap up Victor Davis Hanson's latest, "Ripples of Battle: How Wars Fought Long Ago Determine How We Fight, How We Live, How We Think" (Doubleday, September).

Early word on "Love and Hate in Jamestown" by David A. Price (Knopf, October) says this view of Colonial America is a page-turner. You can go even further back into the past with the purportedly definitive "One Vast Winter Count: The Native-American West Before Lewis and Clark" by Colin G. Calloway (Univ. of Nebraska Press, October) or to recent times with Joseph E. Stiglitz's "The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade" (W.W. Norton, October). One of the few Founding Fathers who hasn't been exhaustively reexamined recently is our first president; now Henry Wiencek weighs in with "An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves and the Creation of America" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, November). Garry Wills, meanwhile, offers a controversial look at the role of slave states in the election of Thomas Jefferson in "Negro President" (Houghton Mifflin, November).

An infamous episode in American history is revisited by Steve Oney in "And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank" (Pantheon, October). Michael McGerr traces the evolution of a political movement in "A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920" (Free Press, September). After the release from prison of Kathy Boudin, Knopf is pushing up the publication date of Susan Braudy's "Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left" to later this month.

If your historical interests are more international, Thomas Cahill continues his bestselling series with "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter" (Doubleday, October). A rare cache of photographs taken during China's Cultural Revolution will be published as "Red-Color News Soldier" by Li Zhensheng (Phaidon, September). Peter Balakian indicts U.S. inaction in "The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response" (HarperCollins, October).


Only time will tell if the season's bumper crop of first novels will yield any choice specimens, but readers can also take their pick from books by more familiar talents. In September, the 50th anniversary of "The Adventures of Augie March" makes a fine occasion to revisit Saul Bellow's masterwork, and Viking is putting out a special edition of it. The fall's hottest new literary novel is Jonathan Lethem's "Fortress of Solitude" (Doubleday), like "Motherless Brooklyn" a paean to his hometown. Pulitzer-winner Jhumpa Lahiri comes out with her first novel, "The Namesake" (Houghton Mifflin), and Neal Stephenson follows up his bestselling "Cryptonomicon" with "Quicksilver" (William Morrow), the first of a three-book series set among the scientific geniuses of the 1600s, sure to set geekish hearts aflutter. "Paris Trout" author Pete Dexter will tell further tales of working-class heroes in "Train" (Doubleday), and fans of the Melvillian herstory of "Ahab's Wife" should look out for Sena Jeter Naslund's new Civil Rights-era novel, "Four Spirits" (Morrow). "Outlanders" creator Diana Gabaldon starts a new trilogy with "Lord John and the Private Matter" (Bantam).

In October, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison's "Love" (Knopf), reputed to be her best book in years, hits the stores. Look for new novels from Steve Martin ("The Pleasure of My Company," Hyperion), David Guterson ("Our Lady of the Forest," Knopf), and "Gap Creek" author Robert Morgan ("Brave Enemies," Algonquin). Edmund White has based his latest work of fiction, "Fanny" (Ecco) on the life of Anthony Trollope's mother, an ardent abolitionist. Booker-winner J.M. Coetzee will publish a novel with an animal rights theme, "Elizabeth Costello" (Viking). Writers' writer Shirley Hazzard has a new novel, too, "The Great Fire" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), set in Asia and Europe in the aftermath of World War II. Peter Straub returns to his trademark spooky stuff in "Lost Boy, Lost Girl" (Random), and literary writer Stewart O'Nan also tries his hand at a ghost story with "The Night Country" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Two giants of the mystery genre will bring out new books: Patricia Cornwell ("Blow Fly," Putnam) and Sara Paretsky ("Blacklist," Putnam). Cornelia Funke's children's novel "The Thief Lord," was a surprise crossover hit a year or two ago; her latest, "Inkheart," will be brought to us by the Potter-pushers at Scholastic. And last but not least, the University of California Press will publish a posthumously recovered play by Mark Twain, "Is He Dead?"

Popular favorites add to their ongoing series in November, notably Anne Rice giving her fans more Lestat in "Blood Canticle" (Knopf), and Elizabeth Peters offering a guide to "Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium" (Morrow). Stephen King begins the beginning of the end of his Dark Tower series with "Wolves of the Calla" (Scribner). Terry McMillan will further chronicle the lives of her African-American women characters in "The Interruption of Everything" (Viking). On the literary side, there are new novels from Booker-winners Pat Barker ("Double Vision," Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) and Peter Carey ("My Life as a Fake," Knopf). Jim Crace, author of "Being Dead," tells the story of a man who keeps fathering children in "Genesis" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and Tobias Wolff's "Old School" (Knopf) describes a schoolboy's experience meeting his literary idol. Those whose readerly appetites are whetted by literary feuds will want to see if Martin Amis' "Yellow Dog," (Miramax), his first novel in seven years, lives up (or down) to the drubbing it received from fellow writer Tibor Fischer in the Daily Telegraph.

Business and Money

On pocketbook issues, Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston exposes the way the tax system benefits the rich in "Perfectly Legal" (Portfolio, Dec.). Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi look at "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Their Families Are Going Broke" (Basic, September). Doug Henwood presents a left-of-center take on the recent bubble and its bursting in "After the New Economy" (New Press, October).

In the realm of corporate misadventures, the reporters who helped expose Enron tell its story in "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Rise and Fall of Enron" by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (Viking, October). Kara Swisher offers her take on some bad business decisions in "There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle" (Crown, October). A controversial tycoon gets the once-over from Karen Southwick in "Everyone Else Must Fail: The Unvarnished Truth About Oracle and Larry Ellison" (Crown, November)

The Way We Live Now

Not surprisingly, this fall is packed with new books about the ongoing encroachments on Americans' civil liberties. To list a few, all appearing this month: "Lost Liberties: Ashcroft and the Assault on Personal Freedom" by Cynthia Brown (New Press); "Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedom in the War on Terrorism" by David Cole (New Press); "Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice and Peace to Rid the World of Evil" by James Bovard (Palgrave); "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance" by Nat Hentoff (Seven Stories); "Why Societies Need Dissent by law professor Cass Sunstein (Harvard).

The state of the war on terrorism also gets several long, hard looks. Gerald Posner explains the lapses that permitted the attacks of September 11 "Why America Slept" (Random, September). Ronald Kessler examines "The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign on Terror" (St. Martin's, October). Benjamin Barber, author of the prescient "Jihad vs. McWorld," looks at U.S. policy mistakes that breed terrorism in "Fear's Empire" (W.W. Norton, September). Michael Ignatieff parses some painful moral dilemmas in "Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror" (Princeton, Dec.), and two neocon players lay out their agenda in "An End to Evil: What's Next in the War on Terror" by David Frum and Richard Perle (Random, Dec.).

Curtis White expands a Harper's essay attacking NPR's Terry Gross into "The Middle Mind: Why American's Don't Think For Themselves" (HarperSanFrancisco, September). Linda Perlstein spent many hours among her subjects to write "Not Much Just Chillin: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September). Brooke Kroeger delves into a shadowy topic with "Passing: When People Can't Be Who They Are" (Public Affairs, September). John McWhorter complains of everyone "Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care" (Gotham, October). Todd Oppenheimer denounces "The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved" (Random, October).

Cele C. Otnes and Elizabeth H. Pleck find grist for their mill in "Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding" (Univ. of California Press, October), while Ethan Watters explains why a generation of city-dwellers is shunning marriage entirely in "Urban Tribes" (Bloomsbury, October). Joanna Lipper takes a close-up look at the lives of six teenage mothers in "Growing Up Fast" (Picador, November). Stephen Prothero describes the "Elvisification" of Christ in "American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Dec.).

Finally, Studs Terkel proffers sustaining thoughts in "Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times" (New Press, November) and Gregg Easterbrook explains that it's precisely when people think things are at their worst that they are actually improving in "The Progress Paradox" (Random House, November).


Nigel Hamiliton's unauthorized biography of Bill Clinton arrives late this month from Random House, around the same time that Clinton's secretary of state (the first woman to hold that position), Madeleine Albright, will publish her own memoir, "Madam Secretary" (Miramax). Clinton's secretary of the treasury, Robert Rubin will come out with "Dealing With an Uncertain World" (Random) in November. Barbara Bush will offer her "Reflections: Life After the White House" (Scribner) in October. Police Chief Charles Moose describes his hunt for the D.C-area sniper in "Three Weeks in October" (Dutton, September), and Scribner will posthumously release the autobiography of '60s radical Stokely Carmichael, "Ready for the Revolution," in November.

Pop culture autobiographers in September include Tammy Faye Messner ("I Will Survive and You Can, Too!", Tarcher), Judy Collins ("Sanity and Grace," Putnam) and fashion photographer Helmut Newton ("The Autobiography," Doubleday). In October, it's David Beckham ("Beckham," HarperCollins), Donna Summer ("Ordinary Girl," Villard), Lance Armstong ("Every Second Counts" (Broadway), and the Pythons (as in Monty, in "The Pythons," from St. Martin's Press). In November, Suge Knight tells his side of his story in "American Nightmare/American Dream" (Riverhead). Rolling Stone contributor Anthony Bozza describes the life and times of Eminem in "Whatever You Say I Am" (Crown, October), and Pulitzer-winning author Robert Coles offers his tribute to "Bruce Springsteen's America" (Random, October), while Sophia Dembling and Lisa Gutierrez put the TV shrink on the couch in "The Making of Dr. Phil" (Wiley, October).

Literary types will be confiding in their readers, as well: Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the first half of his own story in "Living to Tell the Tale" (Knopf, November); Maxine Hong Kingston continues her sui generis work with "The Fifth Book of Peace" (Knopf, September); Joan Didion dissects her California childhood in "Were I Was From" (Knopf, September); Joyce Carol Oates offers insight into her formidable output in "The Faith of a Writer" (HarperCollins, September); Dale Peck delves into his family's past with "What We Lost" (Houghton Mifflin, November); and Amy Tan gets metaphysical in "The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings" (Putnam, October).

If you're dead, someone else gets to set the record straight, as Geoffrey Wolff is currently doing for the late novelist John O'Hara ("The Art of Burning Bridges," Knopf). Nathaniel Hawthrone gets a major bio from Brenda Wineapple ("Hawthorne," Knopf, September), Mariane Pearl (with help from Sarah Crichton) writes of her murdered husband in "A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl" (Scribner, September). Another legendary journalist, Martha Gellhorn, is the subject of Caroline Moorehead's "Gellhorn: A 20th Century Life" (Holt, October). A biographer who's a bit of a legend herself, Diane Middlebrook, tackles the marriage of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes in "Her Husband" (Viking, October), and the author of "1984" gets another biography in Gordon Bowker's "Inside George Orwell" (Palgrave, September). A very famous family gets a major multigeneration history in "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" by Thomas Maier (Basic, October). And no art lover will want to miss a great critic's book on a great painter, Robert Hughes' "Goya" (Knopf, November)

Away From Home

Two writers put forward their arguments on the conflicts in the Middle East in "The Case for Israel" by Alan Dershowitz (Wiley, September) and "Right To Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars" by Yaacov Lozowick, a former peace activist turned reluctant Sharon supporter (Doubleday, September). Barbara Victor investigates a relatively new phenomenon in "Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers" (Rodale, October).

Central Asia is a region that's fascinating many writers these days: Tom Bissell's "Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia" (Pantheon, September) and "The Storyteller's Daughter" by "Beyond the Veil" director Saira Shah (Knopf, September) are two notable examples. Lutz Kleveman writes of the area's geopolitical significance in "The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia" (Atlantic Monthly Press, September).

Dispatches from other trouble spots include a new book from bestselling author Tracy Kidder about a selfless doctor working under dire conditions in Haiti, "Mountains Beyond Mountains" (Random House, September). Janine Di Giovanni describes her experiences as a journalist in the Balkans in "Madness Visible: A Memoir of War" (Knopf, November). Bruce Cumings offers a rare glimpse of a sequestered realm in "North Korea: The Hermit Kingdom" (New Press, November).

Laura Miller

Laura Miller is the author of "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia."

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