Rejoice! The season of hunkering down is upon us. The time has come to switch your swim shorts (if you actually got them out this year) for your classic cashmere knit, and leave those heady days socially distancing in your local park for a dash back to the sofa to binge Netflix’s new releases. And, if lockdown has given you a new found fondness for the written word, there’s no better time to catch up on all the best new books coming out this autumn.
So, whatever your preferred genre, if you’re looking for a little literary inspiration, read on for our curated list of the best books for autumn 2020.
To The End of the World: Travels with Oscar Wilde by Rupert Everett
In his third memoir, award-winning actor Rupert Everett recounts his 10-year struggle to tell the story of Oscar Wilde’s final days. As much a treatise on the mammoth and unpredictable task of getting a film into production as it is an elegant and incredibly honest autobiography, the book follows Everett as he meanders around Europe, weaving in unusual anecdotes and touching tales from throughout his life. If you were a fan of Everett’s previous books – Vanished Years and Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins – you won’t be disappointed.
The Silence by Don DeLillo
American author Don DeLillo may have finished his latest novel a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic was felt in full force but it is a work that feels incredibly prescient for the modern moment. Set on Super Bowl Sunday in 2022, a retired physics professor, her husband and three guests gather together in a Manhattan apartment for dinner.
Amid polite conversation a global catastrophe strikes and all digital devices are rendered useless. Questioning exactly what it is that makes us human, this is a moving, mysterious and imaginative work that might just help make sense of the confusing times in which we all now find ourselves.
Mr Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe
Set to be released in November, Jonathan Coe’s follow up to the award-winning Middle England promises to be a slice of Mediterranean sunshine amidst the gloom of winter. Set in the summer of 1977, the novel follows Calista, a young woman who sets out from Athens in search of experience and finds herself working for film director Billy Wilder on a Greek island that has been transformed into a film set.
Setting Calista’s coming of age tale against that of Wilder, a fading star rejected by Hollywood and forced to turn to his native Germany to fund his film, Coe provides not only a portrait of one of Hollywood’s most intriguing figures but also an examination of the human impulse to resist change and cling to the comfortable world as we know it.
Boris Johnson: The Gambler by Tom Bower
Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated new releases of autumn, this deep dive in to the life of Prime Minister Boris Johnson was announced way back in September 2019, sending ripples of excitement through the literary and political worlds.
This is thanks both to its subject, a decisive political figure who, it’s fair to say, hasn’t exactly been covering himself in glory of late, and its author – the prolific investigative writer Tom Bowers whose 24 best-selling works span definitive tomes on Tony Blair, Jeremy Corbyn, Gordon Brown and Geoffrey Robinson. He also happens to be married to a former special adviser to Johnson which could mean some tantalising revelations.
Inside Story by Martin Amis
This autobiographical novel – one which the author, at 71, has said may well be his last long form work – is Amis in all his flowery glory. Which, is to say, it’s a little Marmite. If you’re a fan of his distinctive style of prose, you’re in for a treat, and there’s plenty of biographical depth to sink your teeth into as well.
Ostensibly about the death of his best friend Christopher Hitchens, alongside those of his literary heroes Philip Larkin and Saul Bellow, this wide ranging novel also takes in 9/11, Alzheimers, Amis’ relationship with his father and a cast of ex-lovers including Germaine Greer, his wife Isabel Fonseca and the presumably fictional Phoebe Phelps. An undeniably complex read, this might just be one worth sticking with.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
This cosy debut from Pointless’ Richard Osman is just the thing a wet autumn Sunday afternoon calls for. More smart, pacy and slick than its premise suggests, The Thursday Murder Club follows four pensioners who meet in the confines of their peaceful retirement village to put to rest unsolved murders.
When a local property developer is found dead the club find themselves presented with their first live case – but can they catch the culprit before it’s too late? Featuring all the hallmarks of a great mystery novel, The Thursday Murder Club is twisty, intriguing yet also warm and funny.
Fake Law by The Secret Barrister
With a Twitter following in excess of 400,000, The Secret Barrister has been offering a maddening insight into both the UK’s crumbling criminal justice system and the government’s growing disrespect for the rule of law since 2015.
Fake Law is the anonymous author’s second book – the eponymous debut being a This Is Going To Hurt-style peek inside the life of a criminal lawyer – and provides a potted guide to the justice system, how it’s supposed to work and all the ways it fails. Candid, honest and authoritative, if you’ve never so much as done jury duty, this is an essential read.
Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze
Long-listed for the 2020 Booker Prize, this unflinching portrait of London’s underground world of gangs and violence is drawn directly from Krauze’s own teenage years in South Kilburn. The son of Polish immigrants, Krauze was drawn into criminality early on, juggling deep involvement with robbery, guns, drugs and stabbings with a desire to finish an English degree at Queen Mary’s University.
Krauze’s searing novel is electrifying in ways that only first-hand experience can provide while showcasing the skilful way with words that provided him with an escape from his criminal past. This is a bold, unusual and confronting work that will stay with you long after the last page.
Reality and Other Stories by John Lanchester
Been trying to kick your six-hour-a-day smartphone habit? John Lanchester’s first short story collection might just be the thing to convince you. Blending the anxieties of the modern world with all the atmospheric chills of classic gothic tales, Lanchester calls into question what’s really ‘real’ about our online lives and suggests the technology we rely on might just be susceptible to forces beyond our control. If Black Mirror crossed with M. R. James sounds like your cup of tea, this is the book for you.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Due to hit shelves mere weeks after the 2020 presidential election, this first of two highly anticipated memoirs from Barack Obama will take readers from his early days as a young, ambitious lawyer in Chicago all the way through to his first term as president.
A Promised Land follows two best-selling works from Obama – Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope – and, while it is unlikely to offer much in the way of groundbreaking revelation, does promise a frank portrayal of the difficulties of his ascendancy. Widely regarded to be the most literary modern president, this is an autobiography you’ll want to read for more than just the dinner party chat.
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