As the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, the urge to curl up with a good book grows stronger. Plenty of volumes to satisfy the urge, many by acknowledged heavy hitters, are on their way to a bookstore near you - and already can be ordered online.

The novel everyone has an eye on is Marilynne Robinson's Home - it revisits the Iowa town that gave its name to her Pulitzer-winning Gilead - but veterans Philip Roth, John Updike and John Barth have been writing away as well. Speaking of veterans, terrorism and globalization continue to help John Le Carré get over the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On the nonfiction side, there's something for everyone - unvarnished looks at V. S. Naipaul and John Lennon, epic accounts of neglected explorers, Bob Woodward yet again on George W. Bush, Julian Barnes on his family, himself, God and mortality. And much more.

So settle down, curl up, and read away.

- Frank Wilson, former Inquirer books editor

by Marilynne Robinson
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Sept.)

More drama in Gilead, Iowa, the setting of Robinson's Pulitzer-winning novel, Gilead. Glory Boughton, now 38, has come home to care for her father, the Rev. Robert Boughton. Glory is soon joined by her brother Jack, the Rev. Boughton's favorite - and the family's star loser.

by Philip Roth
(Houghton Mifflin, Sept.)

In his 29th book, Roth takes a break from his recent ponderings of old age to chronicle why, way back in 1951, intense Marcus Messner decided to leave Newark and the local college he was attending to enroll in a conservative school in Ohio named Winesburg College.

Other Lives
by Andre Brink
(Sourcebooks, Sept.)

A white architect looks in the mirror one morning and discovers he's become black. An Afrikaner artist returns home to a Xhosa wife and children he has never seen before. A concert pianist and the singer he accompanies find themselves confronted at dinner by armed, masked men. South African novelist Brink descants on race and identity.

A Most Wanted Man
by John Le Carré
(Scribner, Oct.)

In Hamburg, a mysterious young Muslim, a novice human-rights lawyer, and a banker join forces against the spies from three nations. John Le Carré's war-on-terror novel can be counted on to accentuate the moral ambiguity.

The Development
by John Barth
(Houghton Mifflin, Oct.)

As imagined by John Barth, a gated community of senior citizens is no staid enclave, especially during its "summer of the Peeping Tom."

by Roberto Bolaño
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Nov.)

Taking as its point of departure the unsolved murders of hundreds of women in the Mexican town of Ciudad Juárez, Bolaño's surreal homage to pulp writers - and Herman Melville - boasts a huge cast featuring convicts and academics, an elusive German novelist, and an African American reporter in trouble with the killers.

The Hour I Believed
by Wally Lamb
(HarperCollins, Nov.)

Oprah favorite Wally Lamb's first novel in 10 years features a couple who move to Colorado to save their marriage, only to end up working at Columbine High. He's back in Connecticut when she hides in a cabinet during the 1999 massacre. She goes to pieces, he finds family secrets that help him put some things back together.

The Eleventh Man
by Ivan Doig
(Harcourt, Oct.)

In World War II, 10 members of a legendary Montana college football team are scattered among the theaters of combat. The 11th, Ben Reinking, has been transferred out of pilot training and into the military propaganda apparatus. The unwelcome assignment has unexpected consequences.

by Francine Prose
(Harper, Sept.)

When her sister drowns, 13-year-old Nico finds herself alone in her grief, as her parents - grieving themselves - neglect her and she forms a fragile relationship with her dead sibling's boyfriend.

The Widows Of Eastwick
by John Updike
(Knopf, Oct.)

Updike revisits Alexandra, Jane and Sukie, who long ago moved away from Eastwick and remarried. Now widowed, they decide to revisit the town where once they cast their spells.

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks
by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac
(Broadway, Nov.)

More than 60 years ago, the two Beat buddies collaborated on this crime novel, based on the actual murder of a man named David Kammerer by Lucien Carr, Burroughs' friend and a roommate of Allen Ginsberg's.

Songs For The Missing
by Stewart O'Nan
(Viking, Nov.)

When a popular teenage girl suddenly disappears, her family, friends and boyfriend struggle to sustain hope despite continuing uncertainty and unsparing publicity.


The War Within
Volume IV, by Bob Woodward
(Simon & Schuster, Sept.)

Woodward's latest look at the Bush presidency at war. The previous volume was distinguished for the intrepid reporter's ability not only to record what was said and done, but also to discern what the principals were thinking. Can he take it to yet another level? And where would that be?

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl And the British Spy Ring In Wartime Washington
by Jennet Conant
(Simon & Schuster, Sept.)

The story of how, with some help from friends like Ian Fleming, the creator of Willy Wonka kept an eye on American isolationists and, on the side, romanced Clare Boothe Luce.

The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul
by Patrick French
(Knopf, Nov.)

It may be authorized, but French's portrait of the Nobelist is far from sanitized. Apparently, Naipaul wouldn't have it any other way. The result isn't pretty.

Letters Of Ted Hughes
Selected and Edited By Christopher Reid
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Sept.)

Nearly 300 letters - from among thousands - reveal a writer who, as editor Reid puts it, "could not write at less than his full stretch." Yes, there are letters to Sylvia Plath, as well as to many of his fellow poets. Turns out that Hughes had quite an interest in astrology.

Champlain's Dream
by David Hackett Fischer
(Simon & Schuster, Oct.)

Pulitzer winner Fischer focuses his considerable talents on the man who founded Quebec 400 years ago. Champlain not only gave New France its start, but he was also the best and most prolific writer among all the early explorers of North America.

Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed
by Jay Parini
(Doubleday, Nov.)

Not the list you might expect from poet and critic Parini. Oh, sure, Thoreau's Walden is there, and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. But so are Dr. Spock and Dale Carnegie.

The Hemingses Of Monticello: An American Family
by Annette Gordon-Reed
(Norton, Sept.)

A detailed and intimate chronicle of the slave family whose history is inextricably intertwined with the life and times of Thomas Jefferson.

John Lennon: The Life
by Philip Norman
(Ecco, Oct.)

The author of the Beatles bio Shout! draws a thoroughly researched portrait of the quartet's most mythic figure, showing him to have been quite a congeries of inconsistencies and contradictions - preaching peace, but given to outbursts of violence and cruelty, a man whose charm and charisma were every bit as genuine as his penchant for debauchery and posturing.

Crossing The Continent 1527-1540
by Robert Goodwin
(Harper, Oct.)

Long before Lewis and Clark, an African slave known only as Esteban led three Spanish noblemen from Florida to California, becoming in the process the first man about whom anything is known who was born in Africa and died in North America.

A Passion For Nature: The Life Of John Muir
by Donald Worster
(Oxford University Press, Oct.)

The first comprehensive biography of the proto-conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club in more than half a century draws on Muir's complete private correspondence to trace his life from its start in , his boyhood in Wisconsin, up to his grand success in California and his death on the eve of World War I.

Nothing To Be  Frightened Of
by Julian Barnes (Knopf, Sept.).

The author of Flaubert's Parrot thinks the books he's read have had more influence on who he is than his family. This memoir, he says, is not an autobiography, and in writing about his parents, he is "trying to work out how dead they are." Thoughts of death in turn lead to thoughts of God.

The books of fall include some of special interest to Philadelphians because of their subject matter or author. Among them: 

1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die
by Tom Moon
(Workman Publishing, Aug.)

Former Inquirer music critic Tom Moon has assembled a list of the 1,000 recordings, from every genre imaginable - hip-hop to opera, arranged alphabetically by artist - that make a music lover's life complete.

Autism's False Prophets: Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure
by Paul A. Offit
(Columbia University Press, Sept.)

Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and an expert on vaccines, challenges those who say vaccination causes autism.

The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army
by Paul Lockhart
(Collins, Sept.)

Lockhart explains how Steuben taught the Continental Army to fight like Europeans and how his principles have influenced the U.S. Army down to the present.

How Football Explains America
by Sal Paolantonio
(Triumph, Sept.)

The ESPN correspondent and former Inquirer Eagles beat writer explains how football, with its poetic violence, reflects the American experience.

Restructuring the Philadelphia Region: Metropolitan Divisions and Inequality
by Carolyn Adams, David Bartelt, David Elesh and Ira Goldstein, with Joshua Freely and Michelle Schmitt
(Temple University Press, Sept.)

The authors investigate the uneven development of communities in the Philadelphia area, with emphasis on differences in housing, employment and education.

The Longest Trip Home
by John Grogan
(William Morrow, Oct.).

The former Inquirer columnist, whose tale of a wayward yellow Labrador became the huge best-seller Marley & Me, has written a memoir of growing up in a traditional Catholic family in Michigan.

Digging in the City of Brotherly Love
by Rebecca Yamin
(Yale University Press, Oct.)

The author, a historical archaeologist and Philadelphia resident, has helped unearth much of Philadelphia's buried history in the excavations on Independence Mall that began in 1992.

Happy Hour Is for Amateurs: A Lost Decade in the World's Worst Profession
by "The Philadelphia Lawyer"
(William Morrow, Oct.)

This memoir of boring days and wild nights by the anonymous author of the blog Philadelphia Lawyer is billed by the publisher as a "hallucinogenic send-up of the legal profession."

Philadelphia Freedom: Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer
by David Kairys
(University of Michigan Press, Oct.)

For a different take from Philadelphia Lawyer's on the law in Philadelphia, check out Temple University law professor David Kairys' account of a professional life spent in a quest for social justice.

The Whiskey Rebels
by David Liss
(Random House, Oct.)

This is a fictional thriller set partly in Philadelphia against the backdrop of the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s, when unhappiness over a federal tax on spirits ignited violence on the frontier.

Iron Rails in the Garden State
by Anthony J. Bianculli
(Indiana, Oct.)

In a series of vignettes, retired mechanical engineer Bianculli conducts a tour of New Jersey railroading, starting with the early days. All aboard!

Race to the Polar Sea: The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent Kane
by Ken McGoogan
(Counterpoint, Oct.)

This is the story of 19th-century explorer Elisha Kent Kane, a Philadelphian who led his crew in an escape from the Arctic after his ship was stuck in the ice.

Frank Wilson is a former book-review editor of The Inquirer. E-mail him at or visit his blog at