Exciting new books for fall 2014: the Red Brick Reads autumn semester syllabus

road narrows

Quit complaining about summer drawing to a close (I can hear you through the internet, I have the technology) and be excited for the excellent autumnal book releases heading your way. Here’s our list of books to keep your hands busy as we approach sweater and boots season.

P.S. I know, and you know, that Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell have books out this fall so I didn’t list them because you already know about them. Branch out a little, will ya?

how to be bothSeptember 4

How to be both

by Ali Smith

The Man Booker longlist is really helping to populate my TBR list this year as it includes a swath of books that won’t be released until the fall. The prize committee’s decision to list so many unreleased titles was controversial though I think many of those who protested were just jealous that they don’t have the same access to galleys as the prize committee. How to be both is described as genre and time-bending, taking us from the 1460s to the 1960s, and it seems like it might qualify for the Weird Book cannon.

in case ofSeptember 9

In case of emergency

by Courtney Moreno

Moreno’s book is a quieter release from McSweeney’s. She doesn’t have the fanfare of a big prize nomination behind her but I think she may be an American writer to watch. The first incarnation of In case of emergency was published as a short story in LA Weekly. That was more than five years ago so Moreno has had plenty of time to develop her story of an EMT and Iraq vet in Los Angeles into something wonderful.

frenchSeptember 16

Flirting with French: how a language charmed me, seduced me and nearly broke my heart

by William Alexander

Don’t always be so serious. The author of 52 Loaves returns with a memoir of his love affair with the French language. Alexander’s work is always funny and interesting and if like me you have a soft spot for the American-in-Paris genre then this book should scratch that itch. If you are not charmed by the idea that the 57-year old writer is trying to fulfill a lifelong dream of turning himself into a Frenchman then you and I cannot be friends.

road narrowsSeptember 16

The road narrows as you go

by Lee Henderson

I love books about the 1980s. What a strange, strange chapter in history, no? Ronald Reagan and shoulder pads and the birth of the Wall Street Guy and Bananarama. I was born in the mid-eighties so I missed out on all of the craziness but I feel that art, particularly cinema, is now re-discovering this bananas decade and giving it the portrayal it deserves. The road narrows as you go is about Wendy, a comic artist in the eighties. She seems like a nutter. This book will be great.

jSeptember 30


by Howard Jacobson

Ooh, a dystopian novel for grown-ups. This is another pick via the Man Booker longlist and it has received heavy and favorable coverage in the British press over the summer. They’re comparing it with the likes of 1984 and Brave New World; not bad to be able to call those your read-a-likes. All jokes aside I’m excited for Jacobson’s account of a world run by childish adults. I think this might be one we’re talking about for a long time.

usOctober 28

Us: a novel

by David Nicholls

This novel is brought to you by the writer of One Day. That will either speak to recommend Us: a novel, or to dissuade you from reading it. One Day was about the beginnings of a relationship and Us is about the ending. It seems less gimmicky (which is good!) but I’m sure it will be imbued with the same charm and humor as Nicholls’ previous work. By October I’m certain you’ll be in the mood to follow a protagonist on a jaunt around Europe as he tries to repair his relationships.

strange newOctober 28

The book of strange new things

by Michel Faber

This book is being marketed as “a novel of faith and redemption,” and a lot of hyperbole is being used on the publisher’s website (“brilliant,” “genre-defying”) while not a lot is being said about plot, or character, or any of those things. If I’m judging a book by its cover I’d say this one looks just so-so but I am intrigued enough by the tagline “what would Jesus do if he wore a space helmet?” to give this one a shot.

uglyNovember 4

Ugly girls

by Lindsay Hunter

Do you need more than the cover to go on here? I don’t. I saw the zit-popping cover and was sold but I’m shallow like that. Ugly girls is about the friendship between two girls and the danger they encounter through a boy they meet online. What especially excites me about Hunter’s debut novel is that she got her start in flash fiction. I’m looking forward to a sharp read that makes great use of every sentence (unlike say, this blog).

frankNovember 4

Let me be Frank with you

by Richard Ford

I’m breaking my own rule by including a hotly anticipated and well-marketed Richard Ford book here but I’m really excited about this one. I’m a newly-converted Richard Ford fan, largely because my Canadian-ness had me thrilled at his last book (spoiler alert: Canada is not actually about Canada but Canadian readers were still stoked to be featured so prominently in international bookstores). Let me be Frank with you combines four narratives and brings back Frank Bascombe, a classic Ford character, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

What books are you waiting to get your hands on this fall? Had your filthy paws on the galleys for any of the ones listed and are dying to spoil an ending for me? Let me know in the comments.

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