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New books perfect for curling up with in the fall

By Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
Published: September 16, 2023, 6:04am

September is here, which means Outdoor Activities Season is slipping away, to be replaced by Cozy Afternoons Reading On the Couch Season. Should you, like me, be thrilled by this state of affairs, here’s a roundup of shiny-new paperbacks this month to join you on the couch.

“Marple: Twelve New Mysteries” by various authors (HarperCollins, $18.99). If you like your mysteries short and (relatively) cozy, here’s a treat: A dozen contemporary crime fiction authors take on Agatha Christie’s formidable detective Jane Marple, in stories that take her from her home in the very murder-plagued hamlet of St. Mary Mead to far-flung settings like New York’s Broadway, a cruise to Hong Kong, and an Italian holiday. The authors are a true murderer’s row — including Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Val McDermid, Ruth Ware and more — and I devoured this book like popcorn when it came out last year.

“How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water” by Angie Cruz (Flatiron, $17.99). Cruz, author of the warmhearted “Domenicana,” here tells the story of a middle-aged immigrant from the Dominican Republic who has lost her steady factory job in the economic turmoil of 2009. A Washington Post critic described it as “an engaging read, one that invites the reader to look at the world as 56-year-old Cara does, with a mixture of harsh assessment, surprising naiveté and, ultimately, a deep current of tenderness.”

“If I Survive You” by Jonathan Escoffery (Picador, $18). Nominated for numerous literary awards in 2022, Escoffery’s debut is a collection of eight interconnected short stories about a Jamaican family in Florida. An NPR reviewer called it “an extraordinary debut collection, an intensively granular, yet panoramic depiction of what it’s like to try to make it — or not — in this kaleidoscopic madhouse of a country.”

“Afterlives” by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Penguin, $18). Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature, sets this sweeping novel in colonized East Africa in the early 20th century. A Washington Post review called it “at once a globe-spanning epic of European colonialism and an intimate look at village life in one of the many overlooked corners of the Earth. Both parts — reclamations of history and heart — are equally revelatory.”

“Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era” by Laurence Leamer (Penguin, $18). This juicy-sounding nonfiction work just might be the early-fall equivalent of a beach read: Biographer Leamer examines the lives of a group of New York City socialites who befriended writer Truman Capote — only to have him betray them by spilling their secrets in what he hoped would be a great novel. Publisher’s Weekly noted that the book “showcases (Leamer’s) knack for telling a rattling good tale.”

“A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home” by Frances Mayes (Crown, $17). Mayes, author of the beloved memoir “Under the Tuscan Sun,” here writes about the various homes she’s occupied throughout her life: that villa in Italy, homes in the American South (where she grew up), temporary residence around the world. In a starred review, a Kirkus reviewer described the writing as “characteristically intimate, as if she is sharing her thoughts and feelings with a dear friend, and she employs eloquent and detailed descriptions, creating a wonderful sense of place. … A can’t-miss hit for Mayes fans.”

“Our Missing Hearts” by Celeste Ng (Penguin, $18). The latest from the author of “Little Fires Everywhere” takes place in a world that’s both dystopian and recognizable. In it, a 12-year-old boy is determined to find his mother, a Chinese American poet driven underground after being labeled as politically subversive. “I won’t give away the splendid conclusion of Ng’s book,” wrote Stephen King in The New York Times; “suffice it to say, the climax deals with the power of words, the power of stories and the persistence of memory. It’s impossible not to be moved by Margaret Miu’s courage, or to applaud her craftiness.”

“The Enemy at Home” by Kevin O’Brien (Kensington, $16.95). Those who love historical fiction with a Seattle flavor might want to check out this novel from local bestselling author O’Brien, set in 1943; his heroine lives on Capitol Hill. A wife and mother who turns to Boeing assembly-line work to assist in the war effort, she soon finds that a serial killer is preying on women such as herself. In a blurb, local bestselling author Elizabeth George (of the great Inspector Lynley novels) called it “fast-paced, suspenseful, and intriguing.”

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