Get cozy this fall
If you like murder mysteries but are turned off by bloody crime scenes and dark storylines — and have a bit of a silly sense of humor — you may want to check out a cozy. As we note in our new guide to cozy mysteries, books in this extremely popular genre tend to include a small-town setting, an amateur sleuth, likable characters, murder in the background (no gory descriptions), loads of red herrings and a light-hearted tone — often reflected in the books’ pun-happy titles (think Game of Scones and Cheddar Off Dead). You may find a plate of baked goods, tea cups, a cat, or a fireplace (or all of the above) on their covers.
For a taste of cozies, you can download Minotaur Books’ free Cozy Case Files, Vol. 16, a compilation of the beginnings of six new or upcoming cozy mysteries for sampling, such as Korina Moss’ Gone for Gouda. You can also take in the latest Agatha Raisin book, Devil’s Delight, by the ever-popular M.C. Beaton, where cranky Agatha gets wrapped up in another quirky murder investigation that in this case, based on the brief promotional description (the book comes out Dec. 13), somehow involves ice cream, witchcraft and a nudist colony.
Make your love last
If you and your honey have drifted apart over the years, you might consider the advice of John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman. They’ve not only been married for more than three decades, they’re also clinical psychologists who’ve spent their careers studying love and relationship issues.
Their new book The Love Prescription: 7 Days to More Intimacy, Connection and Joy (out Sept. 27) is an easily digestible distillation of their wisdom into a “bite-sized” weeklong action plan for partners hoping to deepen their bonds. One key takeaway? Love is not about grand gestures (“It’s not John Cusack standing outside your bedroom window with a boom box,” they write) but about “little things done often” — predictable ways of connecting that you can design together and can count on.
When asked what the authors do to keep their own marriage loving and romantic, Julie offered some examples by email: “John makes and serves me coffee every morning. And at dinner we always check in on the highs and lows of each other’s day. Daily, we also ask each other, ‘What’s on your mind and heart?’ ”
Spotify takes on audiobooks
Audible, the behemoth of audiobook sales, has a new competitor. Last week Spotify, the music streaming platform, began offering more than 300,000 audiobooks for purchase — jumping into a market that’s growing some 20 percent a year. But rather than offer an unlimited number of books as part of a monthly subscription, as it does with music (it also has a nonpremium free version), Spotify’s audiobooks need to be purchased individually through its website. First, you need to sign up for a free account, if you don’t have one already, then you can purchase your audiobook online and return to the app for listening.
And what makes this better than other audiobook providers? That’s not entirely clear. Nir Zicherman, Spotify’s vice president and global head of audiobooks and gated content, has basically said: Wait and see. In an interview posted on the company’s website, Zicherman says, “We’ll learn a lot through this launch and leverage those learnings,” and eventually “innovate on the format to benefit listeners, authors and publishers.”
However you choose to get your audiobooks, a few current hits to consider include Stephen King’s new supernatural thriller Fairy Tale, narrated by Seth Numrich and King; and the eye-catchingly titled memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died, narrated by the author, former iCarly child TV star Jennette McCurdy, and next on my (absurdly long) list of books I’m eager to read.
In case you missed it...
The novel coronavirus
Most of us aren’t eager to revisit the pandemic's early days — that scary, confusing time when we were disinfecting our groceries and crossing the street to avoid other humans. Yet COVID has become central to the plots of a growing number of novels since 2020, including Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence, which focuses on a Native American–run bookstore in Minneapolis as COVID hits and racial tensions escalate, and Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult, in which a woman’s island vacation is involuntarily extended when she’s stuck there in quarantine.
One book that incorporates the pandemic into its storyline exceptionally well goes on sale today: Lucy by the Sea, by the brilliant Elizabeth Strout, 66, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge. Her new novel brings back Lucy Barton, the somewhat traumatized, sympathetic older woman readers first fell in love with in 2016’s My Name Is Lucy Barton, then more so in last year’s Oh, William!, which was just short-listed for the 2022 Booker Prize. (Any of these can be read as stand-alone stories.) Here Lucy and her ex-husband, William, flee their homes in New York City to isolate together in a seaside house in Maine, where she finds herself with the time and space to ponder aging, parenthood (she has two adult daughters with their own issues) and her evolving relationship with William. It’s thoughtful, wise and wonderful.
Wenner lets it loose
Among the many notable memoirs out this fall is Jann Wenner’s Like a Rolling Stone (Sept. 13), about the author’s years as editor and publisher of Rolling Stone during its wildly influential heyday. Wenner, 76, who describes the magazine he helped found in 1967 as “the glue holding a generation together,” dishes on his rock star interview subjects and (often) party pals such as Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Bob Dylan. You can check out some fun excerpts from his gossip-packed memoir in this AARP The Magazine feature.
For a taste of the audiobook, read by Dennis Boutsikaris and Wenner, listen to this six-minute audiobook clip from Chapter 9 (“Mick Jagger, Pete Townsend and the Naked Beatle”).
National Book Award contenders
The National Book Foundation has just announced its long list for its prestigious National Book Award, including 10 books of fiction published this year. The short list picks will be announced Oct. 4, and the winners on Nov. 16. Inspired by the judges’ picks, I’ve just begun reading the contender that intrigues me the most: The Birdcatcher by Gayl Jones, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her 2021 novel Palmares. A starred Publisher’s Weekly review describes her latest, released last week, as a “gloriously demented story of an artist who keeps trying to kill her husband” that “ought to be required reading.” They had me at “gloriously demented.”
The full fiction long list is below. (Find the nonfiction award’s long list here.)
When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar (Oct. 6)
Shutter by Ramona Emerson
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
The Birdcatcher by Gayl Jones
The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories by Jamil Jan Kochai
All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews
Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman
Maria, Maria and Other Stories by Marytza K. Rubio
The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela
Fall’s big releases
Every fall tends to bring a flood of fantastic new books, but this season seems awash with more great new releases than most. Among the standouts so far: The Marriage Portrait by the brilliant Maggie O’Farrell, who transported readers to Shakespearean England in last year’s Hamnet and now brings us to 16th-century Italy and a young duchess in a doomed arranged marriage (Sept. 6). I also loved Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, another historical novel, this one set in decadent, early 20th-century London (Sept. 27). And on my TBR list: Surrender, Bono’s memoir, available Nov. 1. For dozens more noteworthy books out this fall, browse our seasonal preview.
Bookstores worth a trip
In Shrines of Gaiety, one of the characters, a lazily aspiring writer in 1920s London, fantasizes about fans crowding into Hatchard’s bookstore to read his latest (yet-to-be-written) best seller. Turns out Hatchard's is a real place — the city’s oldest bookshop, founded back in 1797 and in the same location on Piccadilly Street since 1801. I checked it out on a family trip to the city last month and became happily lost among its five stories of books of every genre, including a “Quintessentially English” section that’s packed with deep dives into the lives of British royals.
But so many cities in the U.S. have their own wonderful bookstores — from the massive, chaotic John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit to Los Angeles’ quirky Last Bookstore. If you have your own favorite, please share it in the comments below.
Another notable new release: Marple: Twelve New Mysteries, a collection of 12 short stories by acclaimed writers, including Val McDermid and Ruth Ware, each offering her own tale centered on Dame Agatha Christie’s famous amateur sleuth Miss Jane Marple. They imagine the sharp-eyed detective tackling a globe-trotting range of cases, from a cruise ship en route to Hong Kong to the theaters of Broadway.
But should Christie, who died in 1976, reign forever as the Queen of Crime? Her descendants say yes. Scottish author McDermid, whose new thriller, 1989, comes out in October, was recently threatened with legal action if she continues referring to herself as the Queen of Crime, a phrase trademarked by the Agatha Christie estate. (McDermid called it “astonishingly pitiful,” when discussing the incident at the Edinburgh International Book Festival recently, noting that she also had received a letter from Christie’s great-grandson criticizing her unseemly attempt to usurp the throne.)
The latest from Oates
In the mood for a creepy page-turner? Try Babysitter by Joyce Carol Oates, 84. The five-time Pulitzer Prize finalist has never been one for sunny tales, but her noirish new novel is particularly dark — and totally gripping. The story centers on Hannah, a 1970s housewife in a leafy Detroit suburb, who falls for a violent con man while a truly horrifying serial killer, nicknamed Babysitter, is on the loose. Let’s just say their stories intersect.
Meanwhile, Oates fans can now watch the Netflix adaptation of her 2000 best seller, Blonde, a fictionalized story about the life of Marilyn Monroe. The film stars Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale.
Where’s your home?
There’s a new offering from Frances Mayes, 82, author of Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy (1996), her wildly successful, lushly descriptive memoir about renovating a crumbling villa she bought in Italy. In A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home, Mayes — who now divides her time between North Carolina and Tuscany — waxes poetic about the pleasures of belonging to a place, whether it’s a house, a country or, more broadly, the planet.
And yet, she notes, even when we’re at home, we’re still traveling. “Remember what Earth shows us. You are a traveler. Stare up for a while, and you know. On our blue ball, we’re rounding the bend toward, then away from, light. … Astounding — we are unconscious of the vast trip we are on every instant of our lives.”
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Please share your own favorite new (or old) books, upcoming releases you’re excited about, or anything book related in the comments section.
Christina Ianzito is the travel and books editor for aarp.org and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for aarp.org. She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 21, 2022. It has been updated to reflect new information.