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6 Books To Curl Up With This Fall

With the switch of summer to fall comes an exciting new book list.

Ring in the new season with these twisted fantasies, profound autobiographies and vivid collections of short stories.

  • Negroland
    In her powerful memoir and social history, <i><a href="http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?EAN=9780307378453"
    Courtesy of Pantheon
    In her powerful memoir and social history, Negroland, Margo Jefferson identifies and deftly explores the tensions that come with being a part of America’s black elite. Jefferson recalls her childhood in Chicago as a member of the “Third Race,” the upper-class black folk who are inhabitants of “Negroland”: “a small region of Negro America where the residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.” They were a different kind of black, never quite fitting anywhere but among themselves. “Inside the race we were the self-designated aristocrats, educated, affluent, accomplished; to Caucasians we were oddities, underdogs and interlopers.”

    We meet Negroland antebellum founders, many of whom rose from slavery to become professionals and leaders. Jefferson writes of the civic organizations and leaders. Jefferson writes of the civic organizations that sealed membership in this world, among them the Divine Nine Greek organizations, the Boulé, and Jack and Jill. Using short riffs alternating with longer meditations, she reveals all that it takes to be a citizen of this rarefied group, including the emotional costs of seeking “Achievement. Invulnerability. Comportment.”

    Negroland is at its searing best when Jefferson turns to her own life and the pressure of being not only excellent and black, but the right kind of black, preferably with skin that is café au lait and a nose like Lena Horne’s that doesn’t flare too much. Equally revelatory are her descriptions of moments when the protective bubble of Negroland is punctured—for instance, when her family travels to Atlantic City and a white hotel clerk, seeing they are black, demotes them to a sub-standard room.

    Jefferson also documents her struggle with depression, made more difficult because giving in to it was “a privilege Good Negro Girls had been denied by our history of duty, obligation and discipline. Because our people had endured horrors and prevailed, even triumphed, their descendants should be too strong and too proud for such behavior.” What emerges is a unique remembrance of a black girlhood shielded by advantage yet expose to bigotry. Negroland exists to this day, but in a culture where it’s necessary to insist that Black Lives Matter, its borders are far from secure. 
    —Roxane Gay
  • Purity
    With the publication of his last two novels&mdash;soaring works that ingeniously analyze the complexities of our culture thro
    Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    With the publication of his last two novels—soaring works that ingeniously analyze the complexities of our culture through characters both full-bodied and unforgettable—Jonathan Franzen proved himself unafraid to wrestle life's unanswerable questions and masterful at capturing our difficulty reconciling greed and ambition with a desire to do good. The tender precision with which The Corrections and Freedom then slowly allow them to redeem themselves, can bring a reader to tears. In his new book, Purity (FSG), Franzen subjects his heroes and heroines to even harsher tests, but this time they don't always rise to the occasion.
    Purity "Pip" Tyler is a guileless millennial staggering under the weight of her college loans and getting no help from her neurotic mother, who has never told Pip who her father is or even her own real last name. Pip toils in a dead-end job and plays nursemaid to various down-on-their-luck roommates. She inhabits a Northern California without any of the sheen of the real place; from the oppressive cubicle she works in to the seedy apartment she squats in, this is no Golden State.

    Meanwhile, in Germany (and later Bolivia), Andreas Wolf has emerged as a kind of Julian Assange on steroids. As a boy, Andreas was in thrall to his overweening appartchik mother, but as a man, he's grown to despise her. Seducing women comes as easily to him as breathing—he engages in the two activities with almost the same frequency—but none of his conquests mean a thing to him until, at age 27, he is captivated by a 15-year-old named Annagret. To prove his devotion, Andreas concocts a plan to murder Annagret's abusive stepfather, a ploy that doesn't quite win him the love he seeks, but launches him as a superstar whistle-blower: the founder of a WikiLeaks-type organization called the Sunlight Project.

    If Pip is the embodiment of innocence and youthful authenticity, Andreas becomes the "Big Bad" Wolf, a cynical opportunist hiding behind a cause. When their paths finally cross—through what appears to be a coincidence but is actually a carefully orchestrated scheme devised to settle a score—Pip bewitches the now 50-something Andreas, throwing him off his game. What follows is the unveiling of a subplot connecting Pip's past to secrets Andreas has held for years.

    As with all of Franzen's fiction, there is much to admire in Purity, not least what reviewer David Gates once termed "microfelicities," the expertly calibrated turns of phrase and pleasingly digressive cultural references and riffs around every corner. Like his last two novels, Purity bends time, easing in and out of characters' pasts and presents until, before you know it, the disparate pieces of a life suddenly fit.

    The big difference in this book is its lack of affectionate skepticism, the kind that allowed Franzen's earlier characters, such as Walter and Patty Berglund of Freedom, to be fatally imperfect yet finally noble. Purity's characters—particularly its monstrous mothers and even the intriguing Andreas—never achieve that humanity. At their best, though, they remind us how far simple openness and kindness can go, as when Pip tries to help her parents make peace with each other so they can finally move forward. If, with all she has been denied, Pip still emerges whole and healthy and able to love, maybe all is not lost.
    — Leigh Haber
  • Barbara the Slut and Other People
    Lauren Holmes's debut, <i><a href="http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?EAN=9781594633782" target="_blank">Bar
    Courtesy of Riverhead Books
    Lauren Holmes's debut, Barbara the Slut and Other People, is a book of deceptively simple short stories that pivot around themes of bullying, sadness and shame. With polished prose and a wry dash of Miranda July—esque humor, Holmes has creative a normcore cast of characters who stumble to communicate, withhold their true identities and soldier through the slow letdowns of life; a daughter who attempts to rekindle a relationship with her mother, who is trying to earn a buck by selling lingerie in a Mexican resort town: an undergrad who won't let her beater of a car or a foiled family vacation keep her from breaking up with her boyfriend; a persnickety pit bull that falls for its owner's lover, a Swiss PhD with a fear of dogs. Like a shot of espresso, these tales awaken the senses and invigorate the daily grind.
    — Sarah Meyer
  • The Story of the Lost Child
    <a href="http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?EAN=9781609452865" target="_blank">In the final book of her quar
    Courtesy of Europa Editions
    In the final book of her quartet of Neopolitan novels, Ferrante has produced something extraordinary: a ferocious, intimate yet sweeping epic that exposes the interior lives of two women and the clash of tradition and modernity. 
    — Sarah Meyer
  • Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
    Salman Rushdie's exuberant new work, <i><a href="http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?EAN=9780812998917" targe
    Courtesy of Random House
    Salman Rushdie's exuberant new work, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, a retelling of what we know as The Arabian Nights, opens with a romance between a 12th-century Spanish doctor and Dunia, a female jinn (a.k.a. genie)—a union that spawns hordes of children who scatter across continents and into the future. Rushdie's reach is vast: He satirizes the promise and peril of globalism even as he taps a spectrum of literary genres in a tender ode to the wondrous art of spinning tales.
    — Hamilton Cain
  • Wind/Pinball: Two Novels
    In 1978, Haruki Murakami, the 29-year-old proprietor of a jazz caf&eacute; in Tokyo, sat at his kitchen table to compose his
    Courtesy of Knopf
    In 1978, Haruki Murakami, the 29-year-old proprietor of a jazz café in Tokyo, sat at his kitchen table to compose his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, and he closely followed it with Pinball, 1973. Largely unavailable in English until now, the novels (published in one volume by Knopf) chart the bohemian adventures and erotic escapades of two restless young men, the unnamed narrator and an aspiring writer. The stories don't feel like apprentice work; Murakami's trademark postmodernist flourishes abound—disrupting the narrative to insert a song lyric, say, or a graphic of a T-shirt—and never fail to surprise and delight. 
    — Hamilton Cain

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