Top Ten Books

What we're most looking forward to this fall

Lightning Rods

by Helen DeWitt

(New Directions, $24.95) October 5

In the long-awaited follow-up to Ms. DeWitt’s debut, The Last Samurai, a fickle vacuum cleaner salesman (who isn’t very good at selling vacuum cleaners) finally decides he’s struck gold with his new business venture: a monetized glory hole installed in every office, where a pool of “lightning rods” has anonymous sex with sexually frustrated employees. Ms. DeWitt’s deadpanned humor makes this slim book into a complex story that works as both surrealist metaphor and corporate parody.

Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia

by Blake Butler

(HarperCollins, $14.99) October 11

Blake Butler, the author of the experimental anti-novel There Is No Year, changes directions to write a memoir of insomnia. Mr. Butler has long suffered from a lack of sleep, and Nothing encompasses insomnia’s history, its role in art and science, and Mr. Butler’s personal experience with tossing and turning all night. His loopy prose makes the book into a kind of insomniac’s manifesto.

The Marriage Plot

by Jeffrey Eugenides

(Farrar, Straus
and Giroux $28.00)
October 11

Taking the provincial novels of George Eliot as a structural guide, Mr. Eugenides writes this book about a college love triangle that—in the Victorian tradition—is more or less a case study about daily life in an entire era. Set in 1982, a time eerily (but not accidentally) like the present, The Marriage Plot follows the desires of three Brown graduates, jumping from Providence to Calcutta to a Casino in Monaco as they live out their fantasies and heartbreaks.

The Stranger’s Child

by Alan Hollinghurst

(Knopf, $27.95)
October 11

Set in 1913, a Cambridge student brings his roommate to his family’s home outside London for the weekend. What begins as an ordinary short vacation turns into a compendium of 20th century poetry, the Great War and a doomed love story spanning decades.

Zone One

by Colson Whitehead

(Knopf, $25.95)
October 18

For his follow-up to the decidedly autobiographical Sag Harbor, Mr. Whitehead has written a dreary, postmodern novel about New York, the post-apocalypse and….zombies. It’s a surprising turn for Mr. Whitehead, but it’s hardly a gimmick. He takes the genre of horror fiction, mines both its sense of humor and self-seriousness, and emerges with a brilliant allegory of New York living.

Ghost Lights

by Lydia Millet

(W.W. Norton & Co., $24.95)
October 24

The novel follows an IRS employee who travels to the jungle in search of T., a character from Ms. Millet’s critically acclaimed How the Dead Dream. What follows is like a satirical Heart of Darkness, overflowing with wit and pitch-perfect writing.


by Haruki Murakami

(Knopf, $45.40)
October 25

Mingling the narratives of an aspiring writer losing his mind over his latest project and a young woman who has entered a parallel universe, Mr. Murakami weaves an imaginative novel of dystopia, with the two stories inching ever-closer to one another as the book progresses. 1Q84 is what the woman calls her parallel universe, “a world that bears a question.” It’s a good phrase to describe Mr. Murakami’s latest.

Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York

by James Wolcott

(Doubleday, $25.95)
October 25

Wolcott tells his story of arriving in New York in 1972, with little more than a letter of introduction from Norman Mailer. In a portrait of the critic as a young man, Mr. Wolcott vividly recreates downtown, with snapshots of CBGB’s, the early, gritty Village Voice offices, drugged out Lester Bangs and No Wave. It’s nostalgic for a long-lost New York, but faithful to all of the city’s strange quirks.

Blue Nights

by Joan Didion

(Knopf, $25.00)
November 1

In her spare, bleak memoir about the death of her daughter, Ms. Didion speaks candidly about what most other authors with long careers choose to repress: her fear that she can no longer write. In this story of loss that is also a fever dream about getting older, Ms. Didion—one of the masters of the memoir genre—nearly surpasses her last book, The Year of Magical Thinking, while building upon its themes.

The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories

by Don DeLillo

(Scribner, $24.00)
November 15

Comprised of stories from 1979 to 2011, this walk-through of Mr. DeLillo’s uncollected shorter fiction is a kind of microcosm of the author’s diverse career. Set all over the world (and in outer space), Mr. DeLillo puts his characters through the same paranoia of the banal encompassed in his novels: a couple can’t get off the island after a cruise to the West Indies, two astronauts hear an American radio program from half-a-century ago, a group of nuns sees a ghost. It all confirms Mr. DeLillo’s status as one of the great living American writers. Top Ten Books