Autumn is the perfect time to pick up a new book. It’s when publishing’s so-called Super Thursday occurs – the single day when the highest number of best-selling hardback titles is estimated to hit the shelves.
This year, in the lead up to Christmas, new books from Richard Osman, Stephen King and JK Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, will appear. There will also be memoirs from Britney Spears, Barbara Streisand and Jada Pinkett Smith. If these aren’t to your taste, here’s our choice of Autumn’s other hottest books.
by Zadie Smith
Another banger from Willesden’s finest export and possibly the most anticipated novel of the year. This is Zadie Smith’s first attempt at historical fiction, and she has said how much pleasure writing The Fraud gave her: “Every day I sat down at my desk I was happy and laughing to myself and satisfied.” It shows, although her enjoyment is not at the expense of the reader’s. The “fraud” of the title refers to a scammer who claims to be Sir Roger Tichborne in 1860s England. Charles Dickens also appears as a character, although Smith delightedly kills him off in a short, sharp chapter called ‘Dickens is Dead!’
by John Niven
A coruscating account of how John Niven’s younger brother Gary died by suicide whilst in hospital under observation. Niven’s hyper-masculine style won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there is no denying that this is a raw and valuable book. And Niven focuses his scorn on himself as much as anyone else – I doubt that I’m the only reader to wince when he confesses to stealing from his brother-in-law, or leaving his first wife and child. Niven’s father said of his brother: “start a fight in an empty house so he would”, to which the author unforgettably responds in this book: “the thing is, dad, children are never in empty houses.”
Comfort Eating: What We Eat When Nobody’s Looking
by Grace Dent
How lucky we are to have Grace Dent, a woman whose writing was once described by Caitlin Moran as like “evil Wodehouse”. The restaurant critic and Masterchef judge has attracted new fans with her podcast Comfort Eating, on which she interviews celebrities about the food they eat behind closed doors. However, this new book is far from just a recounting of Scarlett Moffat crumbling Wotsits over her dinner because “cheese is so expensive”, or Stephen Fry eating tinned fish, as they do on the podcast. Dent always over-delivers as a memoirist – as her earlier, underrated book Hungry (2020) demonstrated. And Comfort Eating – alongside all the excellent snack chat – is a beautiful and evocative account of her childhood and caring for her dying mother.
£20, released 5 October
by Teju Cole
Some people want to read cosy crime novels and some people want to read Teju Cole. All power to those who want to do both, but Cole’s latest experimental and daring novel is for those readers who want to be philosophically challenged. Tunde is the man at the centre of the novel who reflects on his West African upbringing and his current work as a professor on a New England campus. This is Cole’s first novel in 12 years and Deborah Levy – no less – considers it worth the wait, describing it as a “quietly dazzling book.”
£18,99, released 19 October
Went to London, Took the Dog
by Nina Stibbe
Anyone who loved Nina Stibbe’s account of nannying in London, Love, Nina (2013) has longed for her to write another memoir and finally it’s here. This time she recounts her return to London, 40 years after her first book was set. Stibbe’s style is a bit Marmite and perhaps more so in this outing, given that it’s not accompanied by the wide-eyed wonder of youth. We love it, but there will be those who remain immune to her slightly off-kilter take on the world. Though there is plenty of pain here to offset the eccentricity – from the breakdown of her marriage which led to her returning to London in the first place, to her menopausal incontinence, as well as the alcoholism, prolapses and failed relationships of her friends. And Nick Hornby smoking a custard-flavoured vape to lighten the mood.
£16,99, released 2 November
Out There Screaming
by Jordan Peele
This is something special in time for Halloween – the visionary writer and director of Get Out, Us and Nope curates this anthology of brand new horror stories by Black writers. There is an introduction from Peele and the stories themselves cover monster-hunters fighting monsters, humanoid AIs fighting for their rights, and an Igbo woman standing up to a powerful spirit. Authors featured in this collection include Ezra Claytan Daniels, N. K. Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse among many others. Its publisher has said, warningly, of Peele’s anthology, it “is a master class in horror, and—like his spine-chilling films—its stories prey on everything we think we know about our world . . . and redefine what it means to be afraid.”
£18.99, released 19 October
Absolutely and Forever
by Rose Tremain
Rose Tremain has written many bestsellers but not all her novels are a slam dunk: while we loved Restoration (1989) and The Gustav Sonata (2016), we had little time for the clichés and hectic eroticism of Islands of Mercy (2020). Thankfully she is back on form with Absolutely and Forever, a short novel set in Paris and London in the Sixties. After Sally Rooney’s Normal People (2018), here is another adolescent girl called Marianne falling deeply in love. Marianne is the only child of a colonel and his vain wife, and at 15-years-old, she becomes infatuated with 18-year-old Simon. Although her dreams of a relationship with him are blown off course, we hope she can realise the future she longs for, encouraged by her bold friend Petronella.
£1699, released 21 September
Lord Jim at Home
by Dinah Brooke
Ottessa Moshfegh has said this book is so good that as a fellow novelist, she found it to be almost an “instrument of torture.” She has also said that she had to ask herself while reading it: “am I still the same person?” She had to conclude that she wasn’t, quite. It’s a reissued novel from 1973, and the world might finally be more ready for it. Giles Trenchard is the protagonist and – like Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose – is born into privilege and an atmosphere of hidden violence. After boarding school and the Navy, he finds himself adrift like the hero of Conrad’s Lord Jim, and commits a shocking act. Emphatically not for the faint-hearted.
£9.99, released 12 October