The Common Good

Austin's Autumn Reading List: What's on Yours?

For some reason, I associate autumn with good novels.autumn reading

This makes very little sense, I realize, as it's just as possible for one to stumble upon a good novel in any other season. In fact, if anything, most people are likely to associate summer with good reads.

But for me, it's all about the fall. Always has been, always will be.

Last fall was especially kind to me, as I read Ethan Canin's America America while on my honeymoon in Jamaica. Canin is one of my favorite writers, and America, America was a real treat for me, since it was the first time -- at least, the first I am aware of -- that Canin has ventured into political territory with his fiction.

Next I read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, the much anticipated follow-up to his 2001 National Book Award-winning The Corrections. I'd loved The Corrections and had, like the rest of the reading universe, been eagerly anticipating Freedom. I wasn't let down, either. Freedom, with its exquisite prose and lifelike characters, was the best book I read in 2010.

Finally, I read Richard Russo's Pulitzer-winning Empire Falls. I had owned the book for several years but had not, until last fall, felt the necessary compulsion to take it from the shelf. What I mean by that, I think, is that the book had not yet picked me. (I have written elsewhere about how I believe books choose us rather than us choosing them). Ultimately, it was well worth the wait; Empire Falls was a wonderful novel, one I quite often come back to in my thoughts.

This fall, I have reason to believe it will be an equally exciting year on the book front.

Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Chad Harbach's highly touted debut, The Art of Fiedling. The book has been praised by both Franzen and John Irving. Seeing as these two, in my opinion, are among the Top Five living writers, I needn't hear more on the pitch front. I'm now 50 pages in and loving it.

Meanwhile, next month will see the release of Chuck Klosterman's The Visible Man and Jeffrey Euginedes' The Marriage Plot. Klosterman, a pop culture writer who came to national prominence with his 2001 essay collection Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, always writes compellingly on the question of "What is reality?" Klosterman is one of my favorite writers -- SD&C had a considerable influence on my own book of essays -- and it will be interesting to see how he approaches this question through this novel.

As for Eugenides, this is his first novel since the 2002 Pulitzer-winning Middlesex, which, much like the aforementioned Empire Falls, has been sitting on my shelf unread for the past five years. I plan to go out of sequence on this one, reading The Marriage Plot before Middlesex, but should I enjoy The Marriage Plot -- which I have a sneaking suspicion I will -- perhaps it will be time for Middlesex to finally jump off the shelf and choose me.

So there they are: The first three books on my autumn reading list.

This is all, of course, subject to change at any time. One never knows when and at what time a book will choose its reader.

How about you?

What books are you planning to read this fall?

And what books have you already read that are worth recommending to the rest of us?


cartyheadshotAustin Carty is a writer and speaker from central North Carolina. He is the author of High Points and Lows: Life, Faith, and Figuring It All Out, and he blogs daily at www.austincarty.com,

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