Along with cooler weather and changing leaves, fall always brings with it a plentiful helping of new fiction and nonfiction--so much of it, in fact, that I inevitably struggle with which book to pick up first. I still remember last fall's epic Margaret Atwood-Kazuo Ishiguro-Barbara Kingsolver triple release. A grad student at the time, I wrestled nightly with my conscience. Do I read the dry articles assigned to me or dive back into what I actually wished to be reading? And how to even decide which new book to read first? As a friend was saying just the other day, there ought to be a word for that--for when you have too many good books to read and can't decide where to start.
I'm sure plenty of fellow readers out there share my dilemma, so I thought I'd share with you two recommendations for fall reading. One book I couldn't put down, and the other I can't wait to pick up.
Forget just this fall, Room is one of the best novels I've read in a long time. It's narrated by five-year-old Jack, whose voice is so pitch-perfect--rendered by author Emma Donoghue with that authentic, childlike mix of curiosity, confidence, and stubborn will--that it still lingers with me long after I've finished the book. He draws you instantly into his world, the 11' x 11' room he shares with his mother. To Jack, it's all he knows, but to his mom, it's a prison she's occupied since being kidnapped from her college campus seven years prior. The story that unfolds--of struggle, of discovery, of choice--is harrowing and heart-wrenching and thoroughly engrossing. I finished the book in two days, only because I had to spend part of my time at work and part of it sleeping (though not concurrently, which would have freed up even more reading time, but also gotten me fired). I walked into a tree reading this book. It is that good. My fingers are crossed for Room to win this year's Man Booker Prize--it's on the short-list!
The other book I've been eagerly anticipating is Bill Bryson's latest, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. It was published today, but I haven't yet gotten my hands on it (come on, lunch break!), so I can't offer a thorough review just yet. But I'm a long-time fan of Bryson's inquisitive wit, and I am certain I won't be disappointed. At Home explores the 10,000-year history of the home and domestic life, inspired by Bryson's exploration of his own house, a former Church of England rectory built in the 19th century. "In demonstrating how everything we take for granted, from comfortable furniture to smoke-free air, went from unimaginable luxury to humdrum routine, Bryson shows us how odd and improbable our own lives really are," writes Publisher's Weekly. I'm a sucker for social history, and I'd be excited about this book regardless of who wrote it (well... with some caveats)--but the fact that it's by Bill Bryson is the icing on the cake for me.
What fall books are on your must-read list?