Fall is all about comfort. It’s the season for apple and pumpkin treats, falling leaves and long sleeves, and of course, curling up with a good read (or twelve). This year’s fall reading list includes books recommended by readers and friends, popular books plucked from the MMD 2015 Reading Challenge board on Pinterest, and books I’ve been meaning to read for ages. Here’s a look at the 12 books I’ll be curling up with this season…
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (2013)
This masterful piece of journalism from Pulitzer-prize winning medical journalist Sheri Fink has sat on my to-be-read list for close to a year now. To be honest, the idea of lugging around that heavy hardcover deterred me. While the paperback version will finally be coming out on January 26, 2016, I can’t put off reading this one any longer. It’s hard to believe that this past August marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the States.
“Meticulously researched… Throughout this horrifying, fascinating book, Fink, a physician, maintains the highest journalistic standards. Her reporting is detailed, nuanced and far-reaching, yet it is never biased–a stunning accomplishment in a story with this kind of moral complexity.”—Shelf Awareness (starred)
The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)
In Weir’s bestselling debut novel, a mission to Mars is cut short by an intense dust storm. The crew evacuates the planet leaving behind, astronaut Mark Watney who is presumed dead. But Mark survives and finds himself stranded and alone on the Red Planet. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity, his engineering skills and his sense of humour—Mark embarks on a quest to stay alive.
The adaptation (starring Matt Damon) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12th. I cracked open this one this week in anticipation of the film which lands in theatres on October 2nd. It’s unputdownable to say the least.
“Riveting … a tightly constructed and completely believable story of a man’s ingenuity and strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.”—Booklist
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (2004)
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been urged to read Toews’ award-winning novel. I finally decided to give it a go after the librarian pretty much shoved a copy in my hands. The story centres on Nomi Nickel, a misfit sixteen-year-old who feels trapped in her small Mennonite town of East Village, Manitoba. As Nomi searches for the truth behind the recent disappearance of her mother and sister, she finds herself on a direct collision course with the only community she has ever known.
“Toews seduces the reader with her tenderness, astute observation and piquant humour. But then she turns the laughs she’s engendered in the reader like a knife.”—Toronto Star
The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant (2014)
After catching the world premiere of Jonás Cuarón’s gripping, timely film Desierto at TIFF, I felt the urge to pick up Vaillant’s acclaimed novel on the U.S.-Mexico border crossing. The story: Hector, a young Mexican fleeing his homeland for a better life in the U.S., pays to be smuggled across the border by unscrupulous “coyotes”, sealed inside the empty tank of a water truck packed with illegal migrants. When the truck breaks down, they are abandoned in the desert and left to die. Their only hope lies in a single cell phone. Hector reaches out to the one phone contact with an American code and through his voice messages, we learn what has brought him to this moment.
“The Jaguar’s Children is devastating. It’s at once a literary mystery, an engrossing tour de force, and a brilliant commentary on humanity’s role in the physical world.”—Joseph Boyden, author of The Orenda
A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson, translated by Charlotte Barslund (2014)
Bengtsson’s award-winning novel has been hailed by critics as “profound and penetrating”, “beautifully original”, and “brilliant”. Translated from the Danish, the story opens in Sweden where the Prime Minister has been assassinated forcing a young boy and his father to flee their home. Father and son travel from Sweden to Denmark where they live an unconventional life. Things take a dark, unpredictable turn and ten years later, when the boy is just entering adulthood, he seeks to uncover the truth about his father’s murky past. A suspense-filled story about survival and the unshakeable bond between a father and son.
“A convincing portrait of a son: fleeing like his father, fleeing because of his father.”—Le Monde des livres (France)
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (2004)
Fall begs for a good mystery. And with all the recent buzz surrounding Kate Atkinson, I decided to dig into the archives and start with her not-so-typical crime novel, Case Histories. This collection of case histories involving disappearances and murders has gotten rave reviews from fellow authors and critics alike.
“Not just the best novel I read this year, but the best mystery of the decade …. I defy any reader not to feel a combination of delight and amazement.”—Stephen King
The News Sorority by Sheila Weller (2014)
In this triple biography, Weller trains her lens on—Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour—the three women who make up the News Sorority: the rare women who broke into the male-dominated world of television news. Drawing on exclusive interviews with colleagues and loved ones, Weller gives us insight into the lives of these inspirational women outside the newsroom and the personal tragedies they’ve weathered—love, illness, death—which strengthened their characters and fueled their success.
“A well-reported and refreshingly fair-minded biography of these gutsy and influential newswomen. Given the complexity of the subject matter, the remarkable thing is that Weller has produced a book that manages to be both compelling and resolutely evenhanded.”—Los Angeles Times
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl (2005)
After devouring Reichl’s debut novel Delicious this summer, I couldn’t wait to pick up one of her best-selling memoirs. Garlic and Sapphires is Reichl’s hilarious account of her time undercover as a restaurant critic for the New York Times. When she becomes the most important restaurant critic in the country, she embarks on “adventures in deception”—donning wigs and assembling her characters’ back stories. As she slips into her disguises, Reichl finds her character shifts to fit. And as she dishes out her critical stars, she gives a remarkable account of how one’s outer appearance can influence one’s inner character, expectations and appetites.
“This wonderful book is funny—at times laugh-out-loud funny—and smart and wise.”—The Washington Post
Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce (2015)
I’ve been meaning to read this one since it first hit shelves back in March. In his first novel, Joyce paints a heartwarming portrait of the Amendolas, a close-knit Italian Irish American family from Staten Island. After losing the youngest son, Bobby on 9/11, everyone is still struggling to come to grips with his unexpected death. Bobby’s mother, Gail; his widow, Tina; his older brothers Peter and Franky; and his father, Michael, have all dealt with their grief in very different ways. But as the family comes together for Bobby Jr.’s birthday party, they must each find a way to accept a new man in Tina’s life while reconciling their feelings for their lost loved one.
“Small Mercies isn’t just the best Staten Island novel ever written, it’s also the best novel yet capturing the human suffering that resulted from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Joyce tells the story of all New York during that heartbroken, haunted period.”—Matthew Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2012)
This summer, I finally read Me Before You; in less than 24 hours, I was a weepy mess. Now, I’m on a mission to read all of Moyes’ novels before the end of the year. In this bestselling novel, the Germans take over the tiny French town of St. Péronne in the midst of World War I and Sophie Lefèvre and her sister are forced to serve their troops at the family hotel. From the moment the Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her husband, Édouard who’s away at war—a dangerous obsession grows, forcing Sophie to make a deal for her husband’s life that could cost her greatly.
A century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the London home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. But a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth and a battle begins over its rightful owner.
“Jojo Moyes expertly weaves a bittersweet tale in this irresistible novel, taking careful interest in the dark corners that exist within great love stories, and the trickiness of simple happy endings.”—Entertainment Weekly
Benediction by Kent Haruf (2013)
The backdrop for Haruf’s acclaimed novel is the High Plains in Holt, Colorado. Haruf sketches the story of Dad Lewis who lost his estranged son to an argument, and after being diagnosed with terminal cancer knows he will soon lose his life. His wife and daughter work to make his final days comfortable, but subtle changes in their community, like the arrival of a new preacher from Denver, have stirred up dormant memories. Supported by his wife and daughter, and surrounded by friends and neighbours, Lewis’ story transcends being about death, and becomes instead a touching meditation on the connections, and separations, that make a life.
“A story elegant in its simple telling and remarkable in its authentic capture of universal human emotions.”—Booklist
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams (2014)
In 1964, Vivian Schuyler, a twenty-something Manhattan socialite defies the privilege of her Fifth Avenue family by taking a job at Metropolitan magazine. But when a mysterious parcel containing a battered suitcase arrives in the mail, she is shuttled back into her family’s past, and the crime of passion of an aunt she never knew.
In 1914 Berlin, Violet Schuyler Grant sticks by her unfaithful husband, the renowned scientist Dr. Walter Grant. But when Dr. Grant’s former student Lionel Richardson enters the picture, he and Violet fall in love. When Lionel, a captain in the British Army, encourages Violet to break free from her husband’s grip, she accepts the challenge. A story brimming with love, ambition, scandal, and long-buried secrets.
“Another absorbing page-turner filled with romance and secrets…. Violet’s narrative will captivate readers with its intrigue and the protagonist’s struggles…”—Library Journal
What’s on your reading list for the cooler months ahead? What are you reading right now? I’d love to hear in comments.