Books

50 unmissable books to kickstart your autumn reading

Posted by
Francesca Brown
Published

As summer comes to its (bedraggled) end and the air turns crisper, we’ve got some happy news for you: some of 2017’s best books are landing between now and November.

From compulsive thrillers and insightful autobiographies, to heart-breaking tales and fascinating non-fiction, by both breakout debut writers and well-known names (Ali Smith, Marian Keyes, Philip Pullman and Jennifer Egan, to name a few), your autumn reading list starts here. Just add a duvet.   

  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

    This could well be the book of 2017. A thriller, a love story and a riveting portrait of the modern world, Shamsie's writing is addictive. Based around three British Muslim siblings separated by faith, belief and duty, it will take over your life then leave you stunned for days after you finish it. Don't miss it. (Out now)

    Bloomsbury, £16.99

  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

    What started out as a collection of political essays is now a staggeringly honest take on the car crash that was last year's US election. Tackling everything from Russian interference and cross-party sexism to her shocking loss to Donald Trump, Hillary explains "I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down." (Out 12 September) 

    Simon & Schuster UK, £11.99

  • My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

    Warning: this book is not for the faint-hearted. Tallent is such an, er, talent that the writing will immediately capture your brain and hold it hostage while you unravel the story of a teenage girl who seems utterly at the mercy of her abusive father. Its pitch (Rambo meets To Kill A Mockingbird) will give you a sense of just how unique this book is... (Out 29 August)

    4th Estate, £7.99

  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

    Fancy being transported to Brooklyn during the Great Depression? Well, Pulitzer Prize-winner Egan has meticulously researched this book to such a degree you'll be dropping references to 'pigs in blankets' and 'bosuns' for months. Mixing together naval shipyards, a missing father, a fiesty female lead, gangsters, union, diving and World War II, it's both ambitious and brilliant. (Out 3 October)

    Corsair, £16.99

  • The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

    If you've never read Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, the question is: why the hell not? Tackling life's biggest questions (religion, death, love...) all held together by one of fiction's finest feminist heroines, Lyra, they're sublime. And this new release is set 10 years before they kick off, so start here and discover a whole universe of daemons and beyond. (Out 19 October)

    Penguin, £10

  • Ferocity by Nicola Lagioia

    Read the first chapter of Ferocity and you think you're dealing with your average thriller set in eighties Italy. Then you notice the details: moths throwing themselves against a lightbulb, the rippling of lights on a pool. Before you know it you're foreshadowing a story that's been likened to Gone Girl as told by Elena Ferrante. Utterly absorbing. (Out 12 October)

    Europa Editions, £13.99

  • This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

    Funny, tragic, uplifting and brimming with bodily fluids (sorry), Kay is a former junior doctor turned comedian. He makes for a compelling bedfellow as he explores the terrifying world of the amazing men and women (just about) holding the NHS together. Bless them all. (Out 7 September)

    Picador, £12.99

  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

    From the Orange Prize-shortlisted author and Empire screenwriter, Bluebird, Bluebird is a mystery set in the heart of Texas where racial tensions start to fester after the bodies of a poor young white girl and a wealthy African-American lawyer are discovered. Powerful and atmospheric, it's a transporting must-read for 2017. (Out 28 September)

    Profile, £14.99

  • Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

    The follow-up to the Costa Prize-winning novel The Loney, Devil's Day is an unnerving tale of a village living in the shadow of dark folk tales. Creepy and compelling, it's just the thing to be reading as the nights draw in (but be prepared to sleep with your bedside lamp turned on). (Out 19 October)

    Hodder, £12.99

  • The Break by Marian Keyes

    Filled with the author's signature themes (think turbulent relationships, tricky families and the need for self-belief) paired with a smattering of the political (a sub-plot tackling abortion is timely and very, very angry), The Break underlines Keyes' status as an international treasure. The ultimate choice for a binge read. (Out 7 September)

    Michael Joseph, £12.99

  • The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

    You know when you read the back of a book and your neck hairs go all tingly? This is one of them. Set in a world where anyone can have a baby thanks to 'pouches', and women are set free from the dangers of childbirth but nothing is error-free, this is an inventive tale that'll leave you contemplating what the future holds. (Out 7 September)

    Penguin, £12.99

  • Winter by Ali Smith

    The second book in the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction winner's seasonal quartet of novels, Winter is set to be as politically influenced as its predecessor Autumn, described as the first post-Brexit novel. Winter tackles survival in a post-truth era – Lords knows that's going to be useful. (Out 2 November)

    Penguin, £16.99

  • The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

    “The evening when we first heard Sparsholt's name seems the best place to start this little memoir...”

    Except there's nothing small about Hollinghurst's sweeping novel which encompasses three generations of a family and a Britain that utterly changes its face and beliefs – it is made for Sunday afternoons... (Out 26 September)

    Pan Macmillan, £17.60

  • The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

    If you're not yet worried about the plight of bees, this book will have you planting wildflower meadows across urban parks in no time. Set in 1852, 2007 and 2098, it's an ambitious and sweeping story of three generations of beekeepers (really) set against the backdrop of an ecological disaster. Dystopian and electric, this book is set to blow minds everywhere. (Out 7 September)

    Scribner UK, £14.99

  • American War by Omar El Akkad

    The second Civil War in America has broken out (this is fiction right?): oil is outlawed, drones fill the skies and Sarat Chestnut and her family find themselves refugees in their own land. Informed by writer El Akkad's experiences working as a journalist in Afghanistan and Egypt's Arab Spring, this is a timely and haunting book that reflects our uncertain era. (Out 7 September)

    Picador, £13.99

  • Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

    Yep, that Tom Hanks. The actor’s first collection of fiction has that pleasing hit of Americana that pervades James Thurber and Bill Bryson's work. Light humour mingles with some heavy-hitting stories, making for a commuter-friendly mix that will appeal to all readers. (Out 17 October)

    Penguin, £16.99

  • Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

    The Crown addict? Who isn't...? But, believe it or not, Her Majesty's troublesome (and troubled) little sister has never had a full-blown memoir dedicated to her until now. This one tells the life of a woman who is surrounded by the great and the good but is, ultimately, hounded by her own disappointments. (Out 21 September)

    4th Estate, £16.99

  • The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons From Russian Literature by Viv Groskop

    Groskop is known for her incisive and funny journalism – and this is essentially a literary self-help book. Inspired by Anna Karenina, War and Peace and A Month In The Country, it's about letting big books do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to life's even bigger questions. (Out 5 October)

    Fig Tree, £14.99

  • Mirror, Mirror by Cara Delevingne

    Cara Delevingne: model, Instapowerhouse, actress and now YA author. Mirror, Mirror is likely to confound cynical expectations with its winning combination of confused teens, a whodunnit and dark times. Because who doesn't like reading that? (Out 5 October)

    Trapeze, £6.99

  • Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman

    With oral histories from The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend and beyond, this is the ultimate history of the bands who defined the early Noughties music scene. Drugs, drink, sex and the right kind of trainers (Converse are no good for your back, according to The National), this is a fascinating and very cool piece of music journalism. (Out now)

    Faber, £20

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    The hardback came out in January but if you haven't yet discovered this utter gem, may we suggest you book out some reading time and settle down. Beautifully written and leaping through a family's generations, it deftly outlines how the 18th century slave trade ripped lives apart - and, crucially, why it's still reverberating now. (Paperback out 5 October)

    Penguin, £8.99

  • Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann

    Friedmann is an exceptional writer. In this non-fiction/memoir exploring her post-natal depression, she turns her darkest of times into poetry while creating a feminist polemic on the damage hundreds of years of patriarchial repression has wreaked on women's bodies. Thought-provoking and soul-boosting. (Out now)

    Scribe, £12.99

  • A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré

    Le Carré’s most famous creation, George Smiley, is back for the first time in 25 years – fitting given the new era of Soviet influence. But if you think spy novels aren't your bag, try Le Carré’s first-ever Smiley novel, A Call For The Dead. Slim but deadly, this is how the experts do it. (Out 7 September)

    Penguin, £15.99

     

  • The Walls by Hollie Overton

    This is Overton's second novel (her first, Baby Doll, was dark, twisty and magnificent) and it builds on her ability to place her female characters in the darkest of situations, only to see them fight their way to a world of survival. (Out now)

    Penguin, £12.99

  • Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow by Kate Griffin

    Chosen as the winner of Stylist's crime fiction competition in 2013, this is Griffin's third Kitty Peck novel. Conjuring up a sin-filled London past, Kitty's story continues to twist, turn and confound as she is hounded by her family's dark secrets and the city's malevolent forces. If you want a dark wonderland to lose yourself in utterly - this is the series for you. (Out now)

    Faber, £7.99

  • South and West by Joan Didion

    Taken from Didion’s seventies notebooks, these two essays (one a road trip through the Southern States, and the other notes for an article on Patty Hearst's 1976 trial) are a tribute to her inimitable way with prose. All hail. (Out 7 September)

    4th Estate, £10

  • The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha

    With something of Chocolat's charm about it, this is a funny, empowering tale of two sisters in forties Rio de Janeiro whose lives diverge only to come back together as they search for a sense of their own lives. A real gem of a book. (Out 7 September)

    Oneworld, £12.99

  • The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles

    Remember the name Lydia Ruffles: this devastating and brilliant YA book goes to the most unexpected of places and will leave you mulling it over for days, weeks and months after. Order now and look forward to some real talent jumping from the page. (Out 7 September)

    Hachette Childrens, £12.99

  • Smile by Roddy Doyle

    Doyle is one of the fiction’s finest, with an ability to capture dialogue like no other writer. Smile is set to be one of his defining works but it's also brutal and heartbreaking. Tackling the systemic abuse of boys in Ireland and the insidious consequences, everyone should read it. (Out 7 September)

    Random House, £14.99

  • Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

    This reissue of Carrie Fisher’s 1987 novel is the original an best take on Hollywood addiction. Tackling overbearing mothers, rehab and self-destruction, it's a reminder why the loss of Fisher last year is so sad. Read and celebrate the original rebel. (Out now)

    Scribner, £8.99

  • Recovery: Freedom from our Addictions by Russell Brand

    In a bold and serious move, former alcholic, drug and sex addict Brand has created his own 12-step system of breaking addiction (whether that's of the synthetic, online, personal or psychological kind). He’s produced a funny and honest life manual that actually cares about the reader’s well-being. It’s easy to be cynical but his passion and honesty about the subject is utterly refreshing. (Out 21 September)

    Bluebird, £12

  • The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

    Think Sweet Valley High reimagined by the cast of American Honey.The Most Dangerous Place On Earth will have you thanking your lucky stars you're no longer at school – especially this one, situated in the wealthy enclaves of San Francisco, where sex, drugs, self-abasement and general bitchery destroy lives. It is such a good read. (Out now)

    Hodder, £8.99

  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley

    Aged 29, Mozley is the breakout star of this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist. And with good reason: Elmet, with its rugged landscape, violence and high emotion, recalls Wuthering Heights written with a wholly new voice. This debut is the start of something big... (Out now)

    John Murray, £10.99

  • Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong

    Ruth is 30, her fiance just left her for someone else, her father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her mother wants her to move home. So she starts a diary: one that's biting, funny and poignant and makes you wish you’d thought of writing it first. (Out now)

    Scribner, £12.99

  • How not to be a Boy by Robert Webb

    Part-memoir, part-reflection on the expectations that are placed on boys and men (chapter headings include 'Boys Are Not Virgins' and 'Men Are Good At Directions'), Webb is funny and perceptive company (you can't help but read it with the voice of Jez from Peep Show, mind...) (Out 29 August)

    Canongate, £12.99

  • We were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    As things seem to get more disturbing by the day in the current White House, The Atlantic's national correspondent examines the presidency of Obama and why the US went on to elect "America's first white president". Bringing together past and new essays, this is a book that's utterly of its time. (Out 3 October)

    Penguin, £20

  • After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus

    Described as "literary friction" (nice), I Love Dick author Chris Kraus has created a totally new type of biography for the post-modern writer, playwright and punk poet who died at the age of 50 in 1997. Celebrating a time, a place and also a way of thinking, this might just be one of 2017's coolest books. (Out 31 August)

    Penguin, £20

  • Madame Zero by Sarah Hall

    Sarah Hall is not just a writer – she's fast on her way to becoming a national institution. Telling tales of nature meeting human frailty, this collection of short stories is the perfect introduction to a very British creative mind worth knowing. (Out now)

    Faber, £12.99

  • Madness is Better than Defeat by Ned Beauman

    The writer of Glow and The Teleportation Accident, Beauman is no stranger to messing with his readers’ minds – and this story is just as bonkers. Infused with a touch of Evelyn Waugh's A Handful Of Dust and those thirties adventure films that inspired Indiana Jones, it’s best just to go with the flow of this one and revel in a crazy tale well told. (Out now)

    Hodder, £16.99

  • The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

    The perfect guide to finding your next reading obsession, Fowler has curated bitesize essays covering 99 authors from the cosy crime writer Margery Allingham to T Lobsang Rampa (no, us neither). It’s the perfect gift for a book-obsessed friend or if you simply want to uncover a hidden gem. (Out 5 October)

    Riverrun, £15.99

  • Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

    Uncomfortable reading for our times, Erpenbeck's tale follows the political and personal awakening of a Berlin university professor who befriends African asylum seekers camped out in the city's most famous square. With delicate but well-aimed moments, it reminds you of the best and worst that lives in all of us. (Out 7 September)

    Portobello, £14.99

  • The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd

    From The New Confessions to Any Human Heart, Boyd excels in creating believable worlds for bigger-than-life, but very human, characters. This collection of nine short stories doesn't disappoint, capturing the coulda-woulda-shoulda that happens to the best of us. If you've never picked up a Boyd book, boy are you in for a treat. (Out 2 November)

    Viking, £12.99

  • Unstoppable: My Life so Far by Maria Sharapova

    Fleeing the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster aged six, Maria Sharapova went on to become a tennis legend. This autobiography is brutally honest, surprisingly funny and very enlightening – even if you're not into tennis, Sharapova has a story worthy of your time. (Out 12 September)

    Particular, £20

  • Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by Sir David Attenborough

    Rolling back the years to 1954, this is a memoir of Sir David’s quest to find rare animals for London Zoo while filming for the BBC. It’s a journal of a time long gone, filled with stunning tributes to a world he was just discovering. (Out 21 September)

    Two Roads, £25

  • Sensation Adventures in Sex, Love and Laughter by Isabel Losada

    Funny, irreverent and very, very honest, Losada's exploration of sex, women and the modern world is, at times, utterly illuminating – for example, she attends the first-ever clitoral stroking conference and discovers there are 11 types of orgasm (but you knew that already, yes?) (Out 21 September)

    Watkins, £9.99

  • The Betrayals by Fiona Neill

    A family broken by adultery, OCD, false memories and betrayal: this is a rollicking read that should not be picked up at bedtime, or you’ll be done for in terms of a good night’s sleep. Neill is brilliant at capturing the wrong turns people make and the consequences that follow. (Out now)

    Penguin, £7.99

  • The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath

    Set in a London theatre in 1947 with touches of gothic malevolence, this unnerving thriller tells the tale of a grieving wardrobe mistress set against the backdrop of a starving city and muddied politics. (Out 7 September)

    Cornerstone, £9.99

  • Me. You. A Diary by Dawn French

    Wreck This Journal meets Dawn French’s ruminations on the seasons, ageing and more - this is a companion piece to help you through life itself. A very good idea. (Out 5 October)

    Michael Joseph, £20

  • Make Trouble by John Waters

    Taken from the director of Pink Flamingos and Hairspray's speech to the graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, Make Trouble is an anarchic call to arms (with glorious monochrome illustrations) that will leave you ready to "go out into the world and f*** it up beautifully". (Out now)

    Corsair, £12.99

  • Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

    Last but very much not least is Lisa Jewell’s most recent release: a page-turner that starts off about a missing teenager and ends up somewhere else entirely, via some rather unpleasant characters. A very British thriller. (Out now)

    Century, £6.50

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Author

Francesca Brown

Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Emerald Street; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown

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