WIRED’s 13 Must-Read Books for Fall

By September 14, 2019 No Comments
WIRED's 13 Must-Read Books for Fall


Time to shelve the beach reads and get a bit more serious. As fall approaches, it brings with it scores of Significant New Books—perfect for stimulating your brain on chilly nights. From genre fiction (Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, the best Stephen King in years) to nonfiction (memoirs by Carmen Maria Machado, Edward Snowden, and the guy who played C-3PO), here are the tomes we’re most looking forward to reading this season. Don’t worry, we also threw in some comics and a book about spacefaring lesbian necromancers.

Permanent Record, by Mary H. K. Choi (Sep. 3)

Photograph: Simon & Schuster

Let’s get the conflict of interest out of the way right off the bat: Mary H. K. Choi is a WIRED contributor and friend of the show. She also happens to write damn fine young-adult fiction. In her follow-up to Emergency Contact, Choi crafts a tale of love and identity out of the coincidental meeting of a bodega worker named Pablo and a pop star named Leanna Smart. What transpires peels back all of the layers of the unsure time between one’s teenage years and “figuring it all out” while also pulling apart the connective tissue between real life and social media. (It’s also a beautiful portrait of the culture of New York City, but that’s just a bonus.) This is the kind of book you get a crush on as you read. You’ll love every second of it. —Angela Watercutter

The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood (Sep. 10)

Photograph: McClelland & Stewart

Although it’s been 34 years since the publication of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian triumph, The Handmaid’s Tale, its sequel, The Testaments, arrives exactly on time. As in the real world, Atwood’s fictional theocracy, Gilead, is passing from the hands of one generation to the next—though, in both cases, “passing” seems too gentle and final a word. The intergenerational tension feels more like wrenching, or perhaps punting. Without giving too much away, The Testaments is a book with three narrators: one naive young girl living within Gilead; another one living outside it, in a version of Canada wracked by its controversial relationship with Gilead, which sits at its southern border; and an old, conniving, endlessly fascinating Aunt observing and puppeteering the end of her own time. It is everything you want from Atwood. It’s more plot-driven than its predecessor, but the prose is just as quick and clever and apt to stamp itself onto your brain. Its dystopia is perfectly plausible, a deft rendition of the problems panting against our present. It’s good, and more tequila shot than bitter pill: It may burn on the way down, but it promises a brighter, blurrier future. —Emma Grey Ellis

The Institute, by Stephen King (Sep. 10)

Photograph: Simon & Schuster

There is a boy and he is special. He is smart, so smart, smarter than all the other kids, and he can make things move—just a little bit, but still—and he gets snatched in the night by bad people and they take him to a place that maybe would remind you of The Shop (or it is Hawkins National Laboratory? Or Bolvanger?). And this place is not a nice place. Other children are there and some can read your mind a little, and some can read your mind a lot, and eventually they disappear to another different, deeper area of The Institute. It’s a Stephen King novel, so you had better believe things do not get better the further the children get taken into the facility. But our boy, like I said, he is so very smart, and suddenly a group of kids is figuring some shit out. It’s a combination of The Great Escape and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Stand By Me and Firestarter, all the best bits of those ones. The cleverness and the workarounds and the creepy nurses and the strokes of luck and moments of horrible revelation. Oh, and yes, it’s a little bit Stranger Things too, which is a nice criss-cross-universe fist-bump. No monsters, though, nothing slimey or fanged or screaming. (Maybe a little bit of screaming.) No gobbets. Just blank-faced soul-severed adults torturing children in the name of a greater global good, which is demonic, yes, and it grabs you, but if I tell you there’s a man in a boxcar who has a bag with a breakfast sandwich, and that he is the closest thing this earth has to an angel—well, it’s worth reading The Institute just for that. —Sarah Fallon

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Sep. 10)

Photograph: MacMillan

I like death magic. You won’t find me covered in dirt and swaying cross-legged in the moonlit clearing of a dark forest as I summon spirits from the beyond—probably—but I did play a badass white-haired bone witch years ago in the original Guild Wars, and I’ve never quite managed to fill the necrotic heart-hole she left behind. Until, that is, I read the first sentence of Tamsyn Muir’s witchy, badass debut, Gideon the Ninth: “In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly prince of Death!—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.” My beloved returns! Well, not quite: Gideon’s not the necromancer; her nemesis, the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, is. When we meet her, she’s massaging one of her scaphoids—which I now know is a little baby bone in the wrist—before she conjures an army of skeleton warriors to incapacitate Gideon. Escape plans foiled, Gideon is forced to suck it up and help the Reverend Daughter on an off-world quest to become an immortal. Muir’s clearly having a ball here, rattling off stupid-amazing cliches like “old as balls” and “bag of ass” at every opportunity, and you’ll have just as much fun reading it. Oh, and did I mention they’re lesbians? —Jason Kehe

Sharenthood, by Leah Plunkett (Sep. 10)

Photograph: MIT Press

Children have become an internet currency. I mean that literally, because a recent Pew study found that featuring children on your channel is the surest path to YouTube success, but also figuratively, socially. Parents mine kiddy confusion and babyish impertinence for jokey tweets and Facebook posts; they record sonograms and first steps for squee-ful sharing on Instagram and YouTube; they monitor each other’s online parenting and offer advice, solicited and otherwise. Critics have dubbed this practice “sharenting.” In her new book, Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online, Leah Plunkett illuminates children’s digital footprints: the digital baby monitors, the daycare livestreams, the nurse’s office health records, the bus and cafeteria passes recording their travel and consumption patterns—all part of an indelible dossier for anyone who knows how to look for it. Plunkett thinks the offspring surveillance ought to stop and has suggestions for how to kick the sharenting habit. They are worth considering. Otherwise you could end up like Gwyneth Paltrow: bawled out in the comments section by your own teenager, who understands digital privacy better than you do. —Emma Grey Ellis

Permanent Record, by Edward Snowden (Sep. 17)

Photograph: Henry Holt and Company

The announcement of Edward Snowden’s upcoming memoir last month came as a surprise, and little is still known about what it contains. Frustrating, maybe, but also fitting for the man who snuck highly classified secrets out of the National Security Agency, revealing a sweeping system of global surveillance to an unassuming public. At the very least, we know Permanent Record will offer a look not only at Snowden’s time as an NSA contractor but also his motivations to “bring down” that invasive system. Hopefully it’ll also give some insights into his time in Russia, where he’s spent the last six years living and working with groups like the Freedom of the Press Foundation to protect civil liberties. Mostly just be glad you no longer have to settle for Oliver Stone’s version of the Snowden story. You can hear it—or read it—from the man himself. —Brian Barrett

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