By Jesse Bernstein
There are more than a few “big books” coming out this fall.
Don DeLillo and Marilynne Robinson both have forthcoming novels, and Barack Obama has the first of a two-volume memoir coming in November. Emma Cline, whose 2016 debut novel “The Girls” spent three months atop The New York Times bestseller list and is in the process of being adapted into a movie, has a new book on its way to a shelf near you.
Jerry Seinfeld is publishing a book of his favorite material, and Cazzie David, the daughter of Seinfeld’s most famous comedy partner, is releasing a book of essays, too.
Below, we offer some new and exciting books that have a little less buzz than those mentioned above, written by (mostly) Jewish authors, in order by their release dates. At the very least, the authors won’t be Nobel Peace Prize winners or involved in the creation of “Seinfeld.”
‘Transcendent Kingdom’ by Yaa Gyasi (Sept. 1)
If Gyasi’s wonderful 2016 novel “Homegoing” is any indication, she has a keen sense for the poetry of coincidence; that book dealt with historical rhymes and echoes through generations of a Ghanian family, split in two. “Transcendent Kingdom” narrows the aperture to one Ghanian family in Alabama, as Gifty, a neuroscience graduate student, tries to make sense of the suffering around her in any way that she can.
‘Just Us: An American Conversation’ by Claudia Rankine (Sept. 8)
Graywolf Press is known for publishing genre-mixing uncategorizable books, and “Just Us” fits into that, well, category. Rankine, a poet, combines poetry, photos and essays to create a swirling, intimate world of arguments and observations about America, white supremacy and the way forward for us all.
‘Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative and Fate’ by Daniel Mendelsohn (Sept. 8)
Like fellow New York-based magazine stalwart John McPhee, Mendelsohn can make anything he writes about interesting. Both are at their best when they’re writing about their pet subjects and, for Mendelsohn, that’s the intersections of Jewish literature, classical literature, exile, his own writing and his family. Reading “Three Rings” is reading Mendelsohn when he’s very much at home.
‘Golem Girl: A Memoir’by Riva Lehrer (Oct. 6)
“I am a Golem,” Riva Lehrer writes in her new illustrated memoir. “My body was built by human hands.” Exploring the nature of disability, concepts of “monstrosity” and art, Lehrer, who was born with spina bifida, tries to make sense of how she was made and what she’s made, in return.
‘Missionaries: A Novel’ by Phil Klay (Oct. 6)
Klay’s first novel follows his debut story collection, “Redeployment,” which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014. His subject then was the tangled mess of life for soldiers home from Iraq; Klay, a veteran of that ongoing war, turns his attention to modern warfare in Colombia in “Missionaries.”
‘The Blessing and the Curse: The Jewish People and Their Books in the Twentieth Century’ by Adam Kirsch (Oct. 6)
Adam Kirsch’s writing about the life of the Jewish mind and word is as lively and thoughtful as it gets. Even if you’ve already read “Who Wants to Be a Jewish Writer?: And Other Essays,” or “The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature,” this new effort is surely worth your time.
‘Leave the World Behind: A Novel’ by Rumaan Alam (Oct. 6)
This book has already been optioned for a movie version that is set to star Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts. Alam writes about contemporary fiction for The New Republic, and his work there is good enough in its own right to sell this book, Denzel or not.
‘The Last Interview’ by Eshkol Nevo, translated by Sondra Silverston (Oct. 13)
“The Last Interview” is Nevo’s fifth book translated from Hebrew, handled each time by Silverston. In this newest novel, a famous Israeli author, fed up with his own typical interview answers, decides to go all the way in a new direction, griping and pleading and wondering through an interview that reveals himself, in every way.
‘Memorial: A Novel’ by Bryan Washington (Oct. 27)
Benson and Mike’s relationship has been winding down for some time now, but the unexpected death of Mike’s father throws everything into a fascinating flux.
‘To Be a Man: Stories
’ by Nicole Krauss (Nov. 3)
When the author of “The History of Love” releases her first short story collection, and the advertisements tell you that it’s full of contemporary stories “moving across the globe from Switzerland, Japan, and New York City to Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, and South America,” you read that book.
‘I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are’ by Rachel Bloom (Nov. 17)
Comedian memoirs tends to follow a certain pattern that’s not really conducive to an enjoyable reading experience. There are jokes, some stories about adversity and “Can you believe they let me write a book?” But Bloom is not a typical comedian and, in the last few years, experimentation within the genre has yielded some insightful, surprising books from the likes of Jenny Slate and Abbi Jacobson (fellow Jewish comedians). It is to the reader’s benefit that Bloom is not, as the title says, of the normal people.
Jesse Bernstein is books editor and staff writer for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.