Nine Books To Escape With for Fall

Let’s put pandemic literature behind us with a cultural history of butts

If the books published earlier in 2022 grappled with the never-ending pandemic, the second half of this year—and the nine books included here—feel more like business as usual. Sure, the pandemic is in the background of Sulari Gentill’s Boston Public Library-based murder mystery and is a layer of Leslie Kern’s gentrification analysis. But these books, like in much of life right now, are learning to live alongside COVID-19.

This fall will see new work from Little Fires Everywhere author Celeste Ng, Barbara Kingsolver, Fredrick Backman, and the chronically offline Cormac McCarthy. Michelle Obama and Matthew Perry are publishing memoirs, and Stephen King and TikTok favorite Elena Armas have already dropped new novels in early September. Romance fans have steamy scenes from Jasmine Guillroy and Colleen Hoover. It’s a pretty normal spread that could easily have come in 2019, instead of 2022.

The absence of so much pandemic discourse, for me at least, has been a breath of fresh air. I have definitely reached escapist-levels of coping with the world around me, and these nine authors certainly transported me. Baek Sehee’s memoir is courageous and insightful, tackling mental health and gender expectations in South Korea. Angelina M. Lopez had me fully immersed in her novel’s community, fighting for the central couple and their little town, while Gentill and Vigdis Hjorth honestly spooked me so much that I lost sleep.

Read about these new and upcoming nine books below, and share what books are closing out your year in the comments.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill (June 7, Poisoned Pen Press)

Gentill levels-up the Agatha Christie-style murder mystery with incredible, scary storytelling and an inventive secondary, meta-narrative. It features a twist that was one of my favorites I’ve ever read.

After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez (July 26, Carina Press)

Lopez’s romance—about a Mexican-American community in Kansas, featuring a prickly chef and poindexter professor—is as steamy as it is political, beautiful, and heartfelt.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood (August 23, Berkley Books)

Hazelwood’s Star-Wars-fanfic-turned-STEM-romance, The Love Hypothesis, was a New York Times bestseller and TikTok sensation, making this year’s Love on the Brain big and buzzy. Her recent literary Twitter frenzy didn’t hurt sales either, I’m sure.

‘Love on the Brain,’ by Ali Hazelwood

Gentrification is Inevitable and Other Lies by Leslie Kern (September 6, Verso)

Kern, author of the much-loved Feminist City, provides a thorough and extremely thoughtful intersectional analysis of gentrification, particularly through the lens of decolonization. I learned so much, but without being bored to death.

When They Tell You to Be Good by Prince Shakur (October 4, Tin House)

The first acquisition of writer-turned-editor, Hanif Abdurraqib, at Tin House, Shakur’s searing memoir chronicles his radicalization as a closeted queer teen in Jamaica and eventual immigrant to the US. The work centers on the murder of Skaur’s father, but grows and spirals to encompass so much more—reckoning with identity, intergenerational trauma and much larger political questions.

Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey (October 11, Little, Brown and Company)

Perhaps the most grounded in the COVID-19 pandemic for me, Hersey’s manifesto is a resounding answer to the past two years of relentless work amid a global health crisis. The founder of the Nap Ministry, Hersey rightly argues in favor of the liberating power of rest as an assertion of our most basic humanity. This should be required reading.

Is Mother Dead? by Vigdis Hjorth (October 25, Verso)

Would it be a recap by yours truly without some depressing international literature? Hjorth probes estranged mother-daughter relationships with all of the heart-pounding suspense of a psychological thriller.

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee, trans. By Anton Hur (November 1, Bloomsbury)

Bloomsbury puts out some of my favorite translated works every year, and Sehee’s therapy memoir is no exception. Read it and feel less alone as we approach the dark depths of winter. And it doesn’t hurt that it comes with BTS’ recommendation.

Butts by Heather Radka (November 22, Avid Reader Press)

Radka’s cultural history of butts is as thorough as it is tender and profound. It is unjust of me to focus, instead, on its incredible cover; however, I am only human, and it is a delight.



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Katie Smith

Katie Smith is a Philadelphia-based writer. Find her on Instagram @saddy_yankee for cat pics.

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