There’s a lot of good reading to look forward to this fall. We’ve managed to narrow it down to 14 books coming out in 2021–what’s left of it, that is. And these new releases span a gamut of worthy topics. From an impending nuclear holocaust to AI, and all of the contemporary hot button issues of race, identity, and technology. There are even a few historical throwbacks, both fiction and non-fiction. Read on, my friends.
1. Reprieve by James Han Mattson (Oct. 5)
James Han Mattson wraps up many of the 2021 hot topics neatly in this social horror show of a novel. The author uses groupthink, hate politics, racial fetishism, and fear as entertainment as themes throughout this horrific tale. Reprieve serves as an indictment of 21st-century American culture, using a cash-prize contest as an allegory. The contestants must make it through a full-contact haunted escape house, complete with costumed actors and booby traps, without screaming. However, one of them is brutally murdered during the escapade. Fiction exposes the ugly warts of our accepted cultural reality in this breakout novel by James Han Mattson.
2. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins (Oct 5)
This novel also owes its name to a relatively obscure early 2,000’s post-punk band. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness follows a new mother’s descent through postpartum depression. Basically, she leaves her new family behind and embarks on a wild and destructive romp through the Mojave desert. She revisits old loves, tortured family memories, and burns her life to the ground in a way that is…darkly funny?
3. Burning Boy: The Life And Work Of Stephan Crane by Paul Auster (Oct. 5)
Paul Auster is the author of too many great novels to name in this blurb. In short, he is the author of strangely accessible works of postmodern fiction. These include hits like The New York Trilogy, Leviathan, and the behemoth 4 3 2 1. Additionally, Auster is a poet and screenwriter with several published poetry collections and filmed screenplays to his credit.
His new book is Burning Boy: The Life And Work Of Stephan Crane. This biography takes an in-depth look at the prolific and short life of the famed author of The Red Badge Of Courage. Crane died at 28 of tuberculosis leaving behind a wealth of fiction, poetry, and essays that revolutionized western literature.
Here’s a fun film connection:
Studio executives famously botched John Houston’s 1952 adaptation of The Red Badge Of Courage. Journalist Lillian Ross meticulously documented the making of Houston’s adaptation–and the disastrous post-production aftermath. Ross’ 1952 book Picture is considered the first expose of “golden-age” Hollywood studio executives bringing would-be successes to ruin.
4. Search History, By Eugene Lim (Oct. 5)
Search History is a montage of zany, near-future scenarios in the vein of Douglas Adams or Vonnegut. In Lim’s world, AI is creating poetry for space-colonizing corporations. A group of friends becomes convinced their beloved drug-loving pianist Frank Exit has reincarnated as a robot dog named Izzy. Will Izzy and clown-school graduate Donna Winters escape Doctor Y and make it to the far side of the moon? David Byrne even makes a cameo in this wacky college about grief, Asian American culture, consciousness, and technology.
5. This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno (Oct. 12)
This Thing Between Us is a creepy horror story about haunted technology. A possessed “smart speaker” drives a woman to suicide, leaving behind a widower husband…and the demon he’s now stuck with. Thiago attempts to flee his Chicago apartment for the safe tranquility of a Colorado cabin. However, he can’t escape the negative energy that easily. A perfect read for the Halloween season.
6. Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer (Oct. 12)
Truman Capote enjoyed keeping the company of famous ladies, including Pamela Churchill and Lee Raziwell, among many others. They offered inspiration, companionship, and legitimacy for the openly gay writer at a time when homosexuality was not accepted. Capote’s Women documents the complexities of these relationships and their eventual implosion. Everything changed when Capote betrayed their trust by publishing their deepest darkest secrets in his final, unpublished book Answered Prayers.
7. Betrayal On The Bowery by Kate Belli (Oct. 12)
This is the second installment in Kate Belli’s Gilded Gotham Mystery Series that takes place in 19th-century New York City. Betrayal On The Bowery takes us to 1889 NYC. Genevive, a socialite, and her wealthy lover, Daniel, are compelled to investigate the mysterious death of Genevive’s ex-suitor. Why, you ask? Well, he barged into their room raving about demons, then dropped dead. Turns out this phenomenon is happening all over the city, and it’s linked to a haunted Bowery bar. CBGB’s, maybe? But why is everyone raving about demons and dropping dead?
8. The Beatle Bandit by Nate Hendley (Oct. 16)
The year is 1964. A gunman disguised in a mask and Beatle wig attempts to rob a bank in North York, Ontario. He came from a troubled family and has devised a vague plan for staging a violent revolution. However, the heist doesn’t go according to plan. The result? A shootout between the bandit, brandishing a semi-automatic rifle, and a Canadian army vet with a revolver. But that’s only the beginning. Eventually, the “Beatle Bandit” is captured, tried, and hanged. And you thought Canadians were chill. The Beatle Bandit explores capital punishment, gun control, and the insanity plea, via a bizarre event in Canadian history.
9. Go Home, Ricky! by Gene Kwak (Oct 19)
Go Home, Ricky! Indigenous amateur wrestler Ricky Twohatchet needs one final win before making it to the pros. Ricky fully believes in his persona as a half-white half Native American, even though he’s never met his Native father. However, the choreography goes wrong during that final match. When Ricky comes out with a neck injury, he is forced to question his identity for the first time. Who is he really? No longer able to wrestle in the ring, Ricky wrestles with his ego on a quest for self-discovery.
10. Trashlands by Alison Stine (Oct. 26)
Alison Stine won the 2021 Philip K. Dick award for her debut novel Road Out Of Winter. Her follow-up is an apocalyptic noir set in Appalachia, a region-wide junkyard where trash is money. Trashlands paints a picture of what our lives might look like soon if we don’t change our climate-changing behavior. In this world, the powers that be have banned the production of new plastics. The protagonist is a “plucker,” retrieving trash and selling it to be recycled. Trashlands is the town where she resides, named after the local strip club where women dance for transients. Sounds upbeat!
11. Never by Ken Follett (Nov. 9)
Ken Follett typically writes historical epics but every now and then he throws in a modern one. As Follett fans know, all of his books follow the same basic principle: the story has to be huge. (Take The Pillars Of The Earth, for example.) Of course, this one qualifies. Never is a global story about an impending nuclear holocaust that may or may not actually happen. The post-pandemic future just keeps getting brighter!
12. Final Spin by Jocko Willink (Nov. 16)
Ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink is an eminently qualified human. He is also the New York Times Bestselling author of Extreme Ownership. During his military career, Jocko lived and led through some of the worst combat scenarios of the Iraq war. Post-military, he’s made a career for himself as the author of non-fiction motivational books centering around discipline and leadership. Surprisingly, the king of intensity has even written several children’s books. Now he’s coming out with his adult fiction debut. Final Spin is about an alcoholic factory worker who devises a fund-raising scheme to buy the failing laundromat where his mentally ill brother works. Bring the heat, Jocko.
13. A Place To Bury Strangers by Mark Dawson (Nov. 19)
The six-figure earning self-published author of countless thrillers and noir crime e-books is back! Yes, A Place To Bury Strangers is the name of an early-oughts NYC shoegaze band. It is also the second installment of Mark Dawson’s Atticus Priest series. A disgraced detective gets mixed up with a London drug gang while trying to solve the mystery of a found human bone. Check it!
14. White On White by Aysegul Savas (Nov. 30th)
Aysegul Savas is a Turkish writer living in Paris. Her first novel Walking On The Ceiling was published in 2019 to critical acclaim, via Penguin Random House. White On White depicts the frailty of human existence as seen through the eyes of an art student in Paris. The student is renting a room from Agnes, an artist who seems to have it all together. She’s married and is always working on new projects. However, it becomes clear that Agnes is a woman on the brink of madness. She may not have a husband, or a project in the works, or a home to return to after all. Agnes simply paints white paint on a white canvas.
If you enjoyed this piece, check out 21 Short Films Based on Short Stories.
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