New Reads for Fall

Whether you’re into thrillers, photo books, novels, or just anything you can cozy up with on an autumn evening, you’ll find something to savor among these new books

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People, Lost and Found, by Rick Bragg

Rick Bragg writing about a stray that changed his life for the better? I’m in. The G&G contributor’s new book dives into his relationship with Speck, who appeared when the world was throwing haymakers at the Alabama author. Speck is no wonder dog: He taunts the FedEx man, loves to roll in a good pile of manure, and howls like a fool. But like many pets, Speck gives Bragg something he wasn’t expecting, a helping paw in a time of need. Good dog. —David DiBenedetto, editor in chief

The Redemption of Bobby Love: A Story of Faith, Family, and Justice, by Bobby and Cheryl Love

When it debuted on Humans of New York last year, I, like much of America, was captivated by the story of Walter Miller, the North Carolina convict who escaped, reinvented himself as Bobby Love, married, and raised a family in New York. This book is more than a jailbreak/escapee story. Sure, there’s lots of drama and tension, but in the hands of Bobby and his wife, Cheryl, faith and love take center stage in this well-paced book about forgiveness and revealing a person’s true self. —Latria Graham, G&G contributing editor

Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era, by Laurence Leamer

Nabokov had his butterflies, and Flannery O’Connor her peacocks. But Truman Capote had his swans.…Capote’s role as their curator, confidant, and, disastrously, their chronicler is the subject of Laurence Leamer’s Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era, a dishy, gossipy delight. —Jonathan Miles in his G&G review

Another Kind of Eden, by James Lee Burke

It doesn’t matter what he writes, if the living American treasure James Lee Burke releases a new book, we—and legions of loyal fans—will devour it. Only one thing beats staying up late, turning pages in this latest installment of the Holland family saga that sprawls out across the American West in the 1960s: Going for a road trip while listening to the actor Will Patton narrate the audio book. —CJ Lotz, senior editor

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

“I’ve been blown away by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois. The way she weaves a community’s cultural memory and our nation’s racial history with a family saga is truly breathtaking,” says novelist and G&G contributor Wiley Cash. Contributor Latria Graham added, “This beautifully rendered multigenerational saga by a poet-turned-novelist is so well done that there’s been talk in literary circles about whether this work is a contender in the Great American Novel conversation. I think Jeffers (and this novel) will be recognized as a literary icon.”

Tide and Time, by Justin Cook

It seems that everyone I know has written a book lately, so I always seem to have a stack of them waiting for me accusingly on the kitchen table. Next one on my list: Tide and Time by my photographer friend Justin Cook. I met Justin last year when we worked together on a piece about North Carolina hams. He lives in Durham, and for this, he worked with the Pulitzer Center to address how rising sea levels are affecting long established communities along our Outer Banks. But instead of a political rant, he chose to focus on an old seaside cemetery in Salvo out on Hatteras Island and the people whose families are buried there. It has lots of beautiful photographs and the narrative is thoughtful and respectful. My great-grandmother grew up on Cape Hatteras, so that part of the world is particularly dear to me. —Bill Smith, chef and G&G contributor

Matrix, by Lauren Groff

Anything Lauren Groff writes automatically goes on my reading list, and her latest is no exception. Leaving behind the swamps and sinkholes of the Sunshine State, which she explored in her 2018 short story collection, Florida, the Gainesville writer’s new novel travels to a mystical abbey in twelfth-century England. —Caroline Sanders, associate editor

Reparations Now!, by Ashley M. Jones

“My grandmothers made America, / made / the fibers that made us / warm, made us invincible—heroines.” So begins the riveting original poem the Birmingham poet Ashley M. Jones wrote for G&G’s Southern Women, and which Jones also included in her latest lauded poetry collection, Reparations Now! Jones’s poetry pulses with urgency, as she tells a more complete story of the South, and of what it means to be Black in America, with each line—no wonder Alabama just named her the state’s newest poet laureate. —Amanda Heckert, executive editor

When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash

I’m looking forward to reading When Ghosts Come Home, Wiley Cash’s new novel. Like much of his work, the book is set in his home state of North Carolina, and this one centers on a sheriff in a small beach town investigating a crashed plane and a murder. While that may sound like the makings of a typical page-turning mystery, if you know Cash’s writing, you know he has a gift for blending suspense with deeper themes and characters that really resonate with the modern South. Cash himself has said he thinks it’s his best work to date, and that’s saying something. —Dave Mezz, deputy editor

The Taking of Jemima Boone: The True Story of the Kidnap and Rescue That Shaped America, by Matthew Pearl

Because I’m working on a book about farming, I’m thinking a lot about land—who has it, how they got it, and what it has to say about our country. This book takes place in 1776, the dawn of our country’s existence, and centers on the kidnapping of thirteen-year-old Jemima Boone, the daughter of the frontiersman-turned-folk-hero Daniel Boone, and two of her friends near the Kentucky settlement of Boonesboro. I’ve got my fingers crossed for an immersive narrative that explores the lesser-known toll of America’s zeal for westward expansion. —Latria Graham, G&G contributing editor

Poet Warrior: A Memoir, by Joy Harjo

When Joy Harjo was a girl growing up in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she hid under the kitchen table to hear her mother share secrets with friends. “My ears were bent for stories, for the forbidden, the mystery pieces,” Harjo writes in her remarkable new memoir. Now a three-term U.S. poet laureate who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo describes how words became her weapon, her muse, and her connection to her ancestors. —CJ Lotz, senior editor

The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You: Stories, by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Maurice Carlos Ruffin was born and raised in New Orleans, so the city’s quirks aren’t quirks to him. They’re just home. But then Ruffin isn’t so much interested in New Orleans as he is in his fellow New Orleanians, which is to say his fellow humans—their frailties, struggles, furies, and heart strains. —Jonathan Miles in his G&G review

My Monticello, by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

When I first read Johnson’s work for Guernica Magazine, she blew my mind: I think there might still be scraps of my brain in the chandelier. By turns ferocious and funny, tender and terrifying, the stories show us Johnson’s native Virginia through the lens of oppression and belonging. In the title novella (soon to be a Netflix film), a group of neighbors, led by a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, take refuge at Monticello after having been run out of their neighborhood by a racist mob during the “unraveling,” in a near future that feels too close for comfort. Read it sitting down. —C. Morgan Babst, author and G&G contributor

Girl in the Walls, by A.J. Gnuse

The novel of a young girl who returns from a tragic accident to live inside the walls of her old New Orleans home. The book has roots in the Southern Gothic style, but there’s an unexpected and profound sweetness that elevates the hair-raising atmosphere. Ultimately, it’s a story of survival and what home means for all of us, and I think it’s especially relevant in this historical moment when so many of us have been forced to spend so much more time at home. Atmospheric, mysterious, and a touch mythical—I loved it. —Taylor Brown, author and G&G contributor

Wild Spectacle, by Janisse Ray

Naturalist Janisse Ray’s clear, nimble, sensitive writing about wildness and self-discovery is so arresting that it has informed my own writing. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood shaped the way I think about personal landscapes, and The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food troubles the intersection of traditional seed preservation and politically based innovation in agriculture. The concept of quiet revolution is always embedded in Ray’s work, and her latest, Wild Spectacle, is a collection of sixteen essays that are intentional about exploring wildness, wonders of the natural world, and their rapidly disappearing environments. I’m looking forward to reading about her adventures overwintering with monarch butterflies in Mexico and counting birds in Belize. —Latria Graham, contributing editor

Child in the Valley, by Gordy Sauer

Murder, greed, redemption—this debut novel by the Texas native Gordy Sauer chronicling one man’s lawless journey from Missouri to California to strike it rich during the Gold Rush landed on my to-read list after I saw Publisher’s Weekly call it “an accomplished literary western,” and no less than the late Larry McMurtry deem it “vividly brutal and haunting.” Deal me in. —Amanda Heckert, executive editor

Bewilderment, by Richard Powers

Richard Powers’s 2018 novel The Overstory was nothing shy of a literary sensation: The sweeping, species-linking epic following nine people and five trees won a Pulitzer Prize, and its poetic observations of both human and plant life set a new bar for nature writing. With Bewilderment, Powers returns with a story that’s a bit more intimate; at its heart thumps the relationship between a father and a son who, having lost their wife and mother, are seeking to understand one another, and the earth, among the moss and rhododendron of the Smoky Mountains. —CJ Lotz, senior editor

In Polite Company, by Gervais Hagerty

An insider’s look at Charleston that fictionalizes the South of Broad world from a writer who grew up in it, from debutante life to the joys of growing up a Carolina kid with the salt water in your blood and palmetto bugs in your kitchen. On its surface, it looks like a Lowcountry chick-lit read, but Hagerty wrestles with so much more. —Kinsey Gidick, G&G contributor

These Precious Days, by Ann Patchett 

I loved The Dutch House, then came upon Patchett’s Harper’s essay, which shares the same name as this new essay collection. The story is all about Patchett’s unlikely and powerful friendship with Tom Hanks’s personal assistant—who moved in with the author during the pandemic while undergoing cancer treatment. It was so moving and honest, it seemed to summarize what this global crisis has shown so many of us: that life is fleeting and worth savoring. This collection promises more of the same, with deep meditations on things we might otherwise overlook, including knitting, past travels, and the evolution of friendships. —Kinsey Gidick, G&G contributor

From Yonder Wooded Hill, by Riley Goodman

I’m looking forward to From Yonder Wooded Hill, the newest photography book from Atlanta’s Fall Line Press. Everything they put out looks incredible (including Black Diamonds, their 2021 book of Rich-Joseph Facun’s photos of Appalachian coal mining communities—the rare work from a photographer of color exploring largely all-white communities). This new one promises to be sort of spooky and mysterious. It’s a collection from photographer Riley Goodman that weaves folklore and family legend into a narrative told through photos, archival images, and ephemera documenting the Patapsco River Valley and the photographer’s ancestral roots in West Virginia and North Carolina. The title typeface alone—the photographer’s grandmother’s handwriting printed on green suede binding—is enough to convince me. —Nic Brown, author and G&G contributor

On Animals, by Susan Orlean

The author of the riveting true floral heist story The Orchid Thief shares a warm, wonderful collection of deeply reported profiles and musings on chickens, whales, donkeys, and dogs—including one Georgia pup just trying to find his family. (Orlean has gone deep on dog reporting before—in 2011, she released a stirring book-long profile of Rin Tin Tin.) —CJ Lotz, senior editor

No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear), by Kate Bowler

North Carolinian Kate Bowler’s new book reminds me a bit of The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. A religion professor, speaker, and mother living with incurable cancer, Kate calls this memoir a “medium-sad book,” but there is so much joy in these pages, too—not to mention a healthy dose of perspective. —Mary Laura Philpott, author and G&G contributor

Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South, by Margaret Renkl

Reading the short essays in this book has strengthened my understanding and love for the South, its people, its land, and its complexities. I especially have enjoyed reading Renkl’s thoughtful reflections on flora and fauna, and I find myself looking to my changing backyard this fall with a new appreciation. —Gabriela Gomez-Misserian, digital intern

Beautiful World, Where Are You, by Sally Rooney

I anticipated the release of Sally Rooney’s third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, all summer. I’m only about a hundred pages in, but oh did I miss Rooney’s straightforward writing style (including her omission of quotation marks) that immediately captivated me while reading Normal People and Conversations with Friends. —Anne Tate, editorial intern

Taste the State: South Carolina’s Signature Foods, Recipes, and Their Stories, by Kevin Mitchell and David S. Shields

At a time when menus across the world now tout shrimp and grits or Carolina Gold rice, two South Carolinians wanted to share the backstories behind popular dishes and ingredients. The chef and writer Kevin Mitchell and the culinary historian David Shields dive deep on both forgotten and rediscovered Southern foods and drinks—and they’re generous with the recipes, too. —CJ Lotz, senior editor

English Lit: Poems, by Bernard Clay

The much-lauded “Affrilachian”—African American and Appalachian—poet Bernard Clay’s debut book of poems about life in the West End of Louisville, Kentucky, is out. A lyrical, well-balanced collection, it explores some of the racial and economic divides of the region. There is beauty, complexity, and humor in these pages, and I can’t wait to read more from him. —Latria Graham, G&G contributing editor