These are all your must-reads for this upcoming fall season...get to reading!
1. The blockbuster
The blockbuster is the book you've definitely heard of by now if you keep on top of book news, and the one you've probably still heard of if you don't.
My recommendation: "Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan. If you've seen the movie (and you absolutely should), there is no possible way you can be disappointed by the book. The story in both forms is hilarious, romantic, meaningful, and full of so much voice you will be thoroughly engaged for its entirety.
2. The modern classic
The modern classic is a well-received book that you really should have read a decade or so ago, when it first came out. However, by waiting this long, you've been able to see that it stood the test of time, becoming in its own right, a book worth of being called a "classic."
My recommendation: "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver. I was not alive when this book was first published, but I discovered it this past year. It's one of those books that I am hesitant to give details of--I don't want any potential reader to be less swept off their feet than I was. I will only give the briefest of descriptions: It tells, from multiple perspectives, the story of a missionary family who move to the Belgian Congo, and Kingsolver is masterful with their tale.
3. The snack
The snack is the book that, at first glance, seems like a light read. And in a way, it's true: The book is likely shorter than most, often one that's a graphic novel, or at least heavy on illustrations. But its content is by no means something you'll plow through and immediately forget.
My recommendation: "MAUS" and "MAUS II" by Art Spiegelman. I'm cheating a bit, because this is a duology, but each of these graphic novels took me no more than two hours to read. The two novels, originally serialized, depict Spiegelman's interviews with his father, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The art and text cleverly intermingle as the reader learns about the joy, horror, and tragedy of WWII, and the complicated relationship between father and son.
4. The remake
The remake, or "cover novel" needs little explanation. Its plot and/or characters found their beginning in some other author's work. Shakespeare is a common springing-off point for remakes, including my recommendation.
My recommendation: "The Gap of Time" by Jeanette Winterson, a retelling of Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale." "The Winter's Tale" is one of Shakespeare's later plays, one that you are far less likely to have seen adapted for the movies or performed on stage. For that reason, "The Gap of Time" is recognizable but not boring, familiar only to a small degree. The story is told between London and an American city called New Bohemia, and breathes new life into the tale while still maintaining the universal themes of jealousy, love, and redemption.
5. The laugh-out-loud
Everyone deserves a book that forces them to make weird facial expressions on public transportation, and this is where the laugh-out-loud comes into play.
My recommendation: "The Shakespeare Requirement" by Julie Schumacher. The world of academia can always use a skewering, and Schumacher's wit is unmatched. This satire depicts Jason Fitger, the new chair of the English Department, taking "arms against a sea of troubles," which include miniature donkeys, Shakespeare (what else), and freshmen. I attended an author reading for this book, and, well, would it be uncouth to reveal that I almost peed my pants laughing?
6. The CLASSIC classic
This is Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and the rest of them. While your entire reading list doesn't have to look like a 19th Century Literature major's, dipping your toe in can never hurt.
My recommendation: "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville. Listen, I know! This is possibly the worst book to suggest to make you trust my recommendations. And truthfully, half of the reason I read "Moby Dick" was so I could ridicule it in a more thorough fashion. But Melville has a genuine, earnest voice, and even when he's classifying different types of whales, you feel like he's telling you his life story. Plus, there's not as much whale blubber talk as you've heard--nowhere near the "Victor Hugo on the sewers of Paris" level.
7. The different perspective
One of the most valuable things a book can accomplish is to show the reader people wholly separate from anything they've experienced, so that we can both relate to and learn from characters different from ourselves.
My recommendation: "What We Were Promised" by Lucy Tan. The main characters of Tan's debut novel are a newly wealthy family who were born in China but immigrated to America. It's been years, and the family decides to move back to Shanghai, a city nearly unrecognizable with change.
8. The adult version of childhood interests
No matter how nostalgic you are, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" just isn't always going to hold its same magic. But as we grow up, many of our childhood interests stay the same--and if your interest happens to be hunger or caterpillars, you can find age-appropriate fiction for that.
My recommendation: "Circe" by Madeline Miller. I'm one of those kids who's always been interested in mythology, and for whom the Percy Jackson books were like manna (or should I say ambrosia?) from heaven. Circe is one of the most powerful witches in Greek mythology, and there's no better story for her than one written by Madeline Miller. Miller has an arguably unrivaled skill for taking a character already known to the audience, and somehow making you feel like Miller is the only source you should believe. Miller's writing is human and godly: she writes like a modern oracle.
9. The Throwback
The throwback is, simply put, a favorite book from time gone by that you'll always love. It's safe. It's recognizable. It's the book version of comfort food.
My recommendation: "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis. One of my favorite things about "Chronicles" is that if you're feeling nostalgic, all you need to do is read your favorite installment; you feel less pressure to set aside hours upon hours for your re-visitation (LOTR, what's up?). The stories are fantastical yet simple, and their themes carry a refreshing purity, one that's good to remind yourself of as life gets more complicated.
10. The easily digestible non-fiction
We can't be caught up in fantasy, romance, Greek mythology, and nostalgia all the time. Every now and then, the reader should learn measurable, concrete facts and ideas about reality. But doesn't education deserve to be interesting too?
My recommendation: "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue" by John McWhorter. As you may have guessed, "Tongue" talks about the history of English, how it came to be how it is, the languages it borrowed from, the cultures that shaped it, and why it is so different from every other language on earth. McWhorter is everything you can ask for in a non-fiction writer. He is conversational, anecdotal, thorough, curious, and he never crosses over the too-scholarly line. "Tongue" will never make you feel lost, and it will make you feel oh-so-much-smarter by the time you reach the back cover.