What You Should Be Reading This Fall According to Indie Booksellers

The works of fiction booksellers across America are raving about

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Fall is a huge release season for books. Indie bookstores across the country are jam packed with new titles, and every Tuesday, even more hit the shelves. It’s an exciting time for publishers, booksellers, and readers alike, but so many new books can also mean it’s hard to know where exactly to turn your attention. What lead titles live up to their hype? Who are the debut authors you won’t want to miss? Which literary novel will speak to your very specific brand of autumn ennui? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to fall reading, but luckily indie booksellers have read like mad and are here to provide some guidance via their thoughtful and thorough recommendations. 

From C Pam Zhang to Claire Keegan, epic marriage stories to dysfunctional horror, this roundup features books that indie booksellers around the U.S. cannot stop raving about. Amid a busy season of excellent releases, these new and forthcoming fiction titles stand out to booksellers as some of the most thought-provoking, moving, haunting, and gorgeously written books of fall. 

Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang

“This book is all appetite, dripping with pleasure. If you loved How Much of These Hills Is Gold, Zhang’s new novel will devour you whole. Our unnamed narrator, a chef in a world running out of food, takes a morally questionable job serving the global elite for the privilege of working in one of the few smog-free places left on Earth. Hot and queer and hungry, and the most decadent climate fiction you’ll ever read.” 

—Chelsea, P&T Knitwear in New York, New York

Wellness by Nathan Hill

“Not since My So-Called Life has an initial handhold had me as breathlessly giddy as that of Jack and Elizabeth in Nathan Hill’s Wellness. To dive into this phenomenal novel is to fall under the spell of its effervescent prose and effortless propulsion. An absolute marvel.”

—Joelle Herr, The Bookshop in Nashville, Tennessee

The Great Transition by Nick Fuller Googins

“This is easily one of the best and most important novels of the year. This debut novel shines with morally complex—but ultimately hopeful—examinations of humanity, environmentalism, capitalism, family and much more. Not only is this a smart and profound novel, but it’s quite the page turner as well.”

—Cameron Vanderwerf, Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts

Terrace Story by Hilary Leichter

“Rarely do I have visceral reactions to books: no passage has ever made me weep or gasp. (Yes, books have made me laugh, but we’re not counting laughter here.) Early on in Hilary Leichter’s second novel, though, when The Bad Thing in the plot happens, I jolted up from my seat, and my hand reflexively covered my mouth in incredulity. Even though, back in 2020, I’d read an excerpt that was published in Harpers and knew what was coming, the force of it still hit me like a shock. It takes immense skill to do that, and the rest was, as you can imagine, some of the most skillful writing I’ve read all year. So, I say to you, without reservation: Terrace Story is a perfect book. Best read on a terrace, of course, but must be read wherever you can and as soon as you can.” 

—Joe, P&T Knitwear in New York, New York

Touched by Walter Mosley

“An explosive, alternative science fiction novel that highlights the blurred lines between humanity and technology. The dialogue-heavy prose makes this a propulsive read that combines elements of classic L.A. noir with modern fantasy in a wonderful way. This novel is excitement at a higher level.”

—Stuart McCommon, Interabang Books in Dallas, Texas

Candelaria by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

“It gave me Jennifer’s Body meets Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (the movie) meets the Zombie Apocalypse meets my insane video chat with my cousins where everyone is talking over each other but we are all still listening to each other.”

—Rosa Hernandez, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington 

We’re Safe When We’re Alone by Nghiem Tran

“A boy and his father inhabit a surreal, ghostly world in this unsettling novella. Son lives inside a mansion and becomes concerned with his Father’s newfound appreciation and love for the ghosts who inhabit the world, whom Son has always been taught to fear and distrust. At once a coming of age story, an exploration of grief, and a meditation on isolation and othering, We’re Safe When We’re Alone is a beautiful and haunting short work perfect for the shortening, moody days of fall.” 

—Annie Metcalf, Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis, Minnesota 

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

“A young woman, the servant and nanny of a preacher’s family, escapes their famine-ravaged outpost in precolonial America, and strikes out for the wilderness in hopes of finding help and salvation in a French camp in the North. In her sojourn she communes with Nature and God, and comes to realize, as she contemplates her years of loneliness and hardship, that she is in fact her own world. As Groff was able to do in Matrix, she gives us strong female characters who are spiritual, earthy, and brave and reveals their stories in nearly poetic language.”

—Brian Weiskopf, Interabang Books in Dallas, Texas.

Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison

“Rachel Harrison does it again with masterful characters in disturbing, ominous situations in this sinister, contemplative novel. Black Sheep is a hard-hitting story of a dysfunctional family and religious trauma, completely subverting your expectations in the most thrilling way. This is a perfect, cult-ish introduction to the horror genre, or something that can be analyzed and enjoyed by seasoned horror fans. Plus, it’s a great read for the cooler seasons!”

—Mallory Sutton, Bards Alley Bookshop in Vienna, Virginia 

Last to Leave the Room by Caitlin Starling

“As a huge fan of The Death of Jane Lawrence, I was very excited to read an ARC of Caitlin Starling’s Last to Leave the Room. It’s unnerving in a subtly creeping way, posing the question ‘who can you trust, if not yourself?’ in the most brutal way, and I loved it. Once you realize what the title means, it’s got its claws in you.”

—Alice Scott, Bards Alley Bookshop in Vienna, Virginia 

The Wizard of the Kremlin by Giuliano Da Empoli

“Based on Putin’s former political advisor, Vladislav Surkov, the fictional protagonist Vadim Baranov recounts his ascendance from the post-soviet era to the modern day regime. A scintillating, quick paced, narrative overview of the interior dynamics of the Kremlin. If you have been following the recent events in Russia, this will supplement your understanding greatly.” 

—Serge, P&T Knitwear in New York, New York

Day by Michael Cunningham

“Michael Cunningham’s first novel in nine years has the aura of the miraculous. A family drama that feels as expansive as an epic, a pandemic narrative that both captures and transcends its era, a tear-jerker that resists sentimentality, it works in so many ways that should be impossible yet, thanks to Cunningham’s seemingly effortless eloquence, are easy to take for granted. Day is a gift from a writer who should never be taken for granted.”

—Amy Woolsey, Bards Alley Bookshop in Vienna, Virginia

So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan

“In these slow-burning short stories, Claire Keegan excavates the casual misogyny lurking in everyday relationships, builds nearly unbearable tension, and unleashes the full force of her evocative writing. So Late in the Day is incredible.”

—Rachel Ford, The Bookshop in Nashville, Tennessee

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