There are many likely blockbusters hitting the shelves this season, but we managed to narrow our list down to 13 noteworthy titles, including memoirs from Michelle Obama and Sally Field, as well as political nonfiction by star historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss. Then there's the hot fiction, including a winning debut called Family Trust by Kathy Wang and Liane Moriarty's latest pageturner, Nine Perfect Strangers.
The actress who came to fame as Gidget at the age of 17 offers an engrossing look at her life and long career, which, we learn, has included some unhappy, even heartbreaking, moments. Now 71, Field writes that her tabloid-fodder romance with heartthrob Burt Reynolds was a bust, for one, and that she wasn’t thrilled to take on her celebrated role as the Flying Nun. She also delves into her relationship with her mom, Margaret, portraying her as a source of comfort and strength during difficult times. READ MORE
Leadership in Turbulent Times
Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian’s diving deep into presidential history again, this time with a focus on four biggies — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. She describes their approach to crisis and tries to answer some very relevant questions, including “Is leadership possible without a purpose larger than personal ambition?”
Rice’s loyal followers will devour this latest offering in Rice’s famed Vampire Chronicles series (to be a TV series on Hulu next year, reportedly), but you don’t need to have read the earlier books to appreciate this one. A sort of prequel, it’s the dark story of French nobleman-turned-vampire Prince Lestat’s battle with the demonic outcast Rhoshamandes and his dramatic rise from rebel to ruler of the undead.
Don Draper-smooth and handsome, Frank Guidry is on the run from his wise guy employers in New Orleans (he knows too much!). On a furtive road trip west he meets a young woman fleeing an abusive husband — enter romance — who’s unaware that an assassin’s on their tail. Set in the aftermath of JFK's assassination, it's an entertaining, old-school noirish tale by the author of 2015’s Edgar Award-winning The Long and Faraway Gone.
The Next Person You Meet in Heaven: A Novel
Yes, folks, we finally have a sequel to the massive bestseller Five People You Meet in Heaven that first made waves (and readers weep) 15 years ago. Albom reunites the two main characters from the first novel, Eddie and Annie, with a focus on Annie’s struggles to start a new life after the accident that began Eddie’s journey to heaven. She eventually experiences her own encounter with five special people.
Presidents of War
A second esteemed presidential historian is tackling the nature of power in the Oval Office — a hot topic these days. Beschloss’ readable-if-wonky exploration of American leadership details how the power to make decisions about war has shifted heavily from Congress to the president: The Founding Fathers would probably be “astonished and chagrined,” he writes, to find that “the life or death of much of the human race has now come to depend on the character of the single person who happens to be the President of the United States.”
The Witch Elm
The brilliant suspense writer’s latest is a mystery with the psychological depth her devoted readers have come to expect. French's subject is a charming, carefree guy, Toby, who becomes much less so after two thugs brutally attack him in his Dublin apartment. When a skull is found in his uncle Hugo’s backyard, Toby — whose mind is muddled from his beating — is targeted as a murder suspect. Tensions soar as he starts to question his and his family's past.
The Library Book
Orlean manages to turn what could have been a dull story about a long-ago library fire into an often-absorbing tale that is, at its heart, a deeply felt homage to books. Her focus is the massive 1986 blaze that destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library and its 400,000 books, but she also dives into the life of the oddball arson suspect and the priceless role libraries play in our culture and her own life. Lovers of the written word will appreciate this story by the skilled author of The Orchid Thief, the 1998 bestseller about Florida orchid poachers (and later a movie starring Meryl Streep as Orlean).
OK, this one isn’t by a famous author — Wang is a first-time novelist — but it's so appealing, warm and witty, we’re betting it’ll catch on in a big way. Its focus is a rather humorously dysfunctional, Chinese American family in Silicon Valley whose patriarch is terminally ill. His status-conscious, middle-aged kids and disdainful ex-wife, meanwhile, are dying to know what’s in his will and if his current wife has designs on the bulk of what may or may not be a massive stash of cash. Family Trust is the perfect title, though Crazy Rich Asians (alas, already taken) would describe this deliciously entertaining novel just as well.
Forever and a Day
This one is destined for the big screen: a prequel to Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, featuring 007 himself. Horowitz, known for the Alex Rider children's series and mysteries like Magpie Murders, used original material from Fleming (unused outlines for a potential TV series) to create a new James Bond tale, commissioned by the Fleming estate. It's set in the French Riviera, with enough action, intrigue and martinis — shaken, natch — to satisfy die-hard Bond fans.
Nine Perfect Strangers
The wildly popular Big Little Lies author is back with another irresistible story that's both suspenseful and often very funny (Moriarty injects her writing with a wonderful wry sense of humor). It's set at a wellness retreat called Tranquillum House, where, yes, nine strangers — including the main character, a lovelorn and dispirited 52-year-old novelist named Frances — have gathered for 10 days to reboot their troubled lives. “In ten days, you will not be the person you are now,” they're told, but the methods of transformation become alarmingly unconventional.
This memoir by the former first lady has been kept tightly under wraps pre-publication, though it's been promoted as a revealing (with a nice dose of humor) portrait of her early years growing up in Chicago, her time at Harvard Law School, meeting Barack, experiencing motherhood and, of course, living in the White House under the world’s biggest spotlight. Earlier this year she wrote on Instagram, “I hope my journey inspires readers to find the courage to become whoever they aspire to be. I can’t wait to share my story.”
Kingdom of the Blind
Penny’s countless devoted fans will be thrilled to plunge into her 14th Inspector Armand Gamache novel, offering more murder and mayhem in wintery Quebec. Here the beleaguered Gamache works to uncover the meaning behind a mysterious will and a dead body, while facing an investigation over an incident that led to his suspension six months earlier and racing to find a stash of opioids he lost while it was in his custody before it hits the streets.