The fall reading list

Book recommendations for the cold months ahead.


Summer is the time for outdoor pursuits — hiking, camping, biking, gardening, tubing, traveling. The long days and warm sunshine don’t encourage much reading beyond your standard beachside thrillers. For months now, serious novels, nonfiction, even magazines have been piling up in teetering stacks around my house, and there’s a fearsome backlog on my Kindle.

Now that the nights are getting cooler and longer, I’m finally thinking about settling down to read. I have to slim down my piles before they collapse in a massive book-a-lanche and bury the dog.

A few of the new titles I’m excited about include Gold Fame Citrus by award-winning Nevada author Claire Vaye Watkins (featured in a Q&A in our 2012 books/essays issue): “Set in an increasingly plausible-seeming future in which drought has transformed Southern California into a howling wasteland … two refugees of the water wars (are) holed up in a starlet’s abandoned mansion in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon. Seeking lusher landscapes, the pair head east, risking attack by patrolling authorities, roving desperadoes, and the unrelenting sun.” As a contrast to that all-too-imaginable apocalypse, I’m also eager to check out William Finnegan’s memoir, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. It’s an adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, and a social history — “the kind of book that makes you squirm in your seat on the subway, gaze out the window at work, and Google Map the quickest route to the beach,” says the Paris Review Daily. And several HCN contributors have produced terrific new works, including Mary Emerick, Kurt Caswell, Samuel Western, Todd Wilkinson and Laura Pritchett.

Below is a list of some of the most interesting titles published between June and next winter, organized by author’s last name. If a book is already available, no publication month is noted. 



The Japanese Lover, Isabel Allende, Atria, November

Vintage, David Baker, Simon & Schuster

Vagabond Song: Neo-Haibun from the Peregrine Journals, by Marc Beaudin, Elk River Books

Studies in the Hereafter, Sean Bernard, Red Hen Press

How Winter Began, Joy Castro, University of Nebraska Press, October

And West is West, Ron Childress, Algonquin Press, October

Did You Ever Have a Family, Bill Clegg, Gallery/Scout Press

The Last September, Nina de Gramont, Algonquin

Undermajordomo Minor, Patrick DeWitt, Ecco

Last Bus to Wisdom, Ivan Doig, Riverhead

Geography of Water, Mary Emerick, University of Alaska Press, November

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, Kelli Estes, Sourcebooks Landmark

A Collapse of Horses: A Collection of Stories, Brian Evenson, Coffee House Press, February

The Girl from the Garden, Parnaz Foroutan, Harper Collins

Half an Inch of Water: Stories, Percival Everett, Graywolf Press

Dark Reservations: A Mystery, John Fortunato, St. Martin’s Press, October

Mountain Rampage, Scott Graham, Torrey House Press

Buffalo Trail: A Novel of the American West, Jeff Guinn, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, October

Not on Fire, but Burning, Greg Hrbek, Melville House

Dryland, Sara Jaffe, Tin House Press

Love in the Anthropocene, Dale Jamieson and Bonnie Nadzam, OR Books

The Last Pilot, Benjamin Johncock, Picador

The Story of My Teeth, Valeria Luiselli, Coffee House Press

Red Lightning, Laura Pritchett, Counterpoint

Still Life Las Vegas, James Sie, St. Martin’s Press

Western Weird (Manifest West Series), Mark Todd (ed.), Western Press Books

Dragonfish, Vu Tran, W.W. Norton

All the Stars in the Heavens, Adriana Trigiani, Harper Collins, October

Maud’s Line, Margaret Verble, Houghton Mifflin

The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War,
William T. Vollmann, Viking

Gold Fame Citrus, Claire Vaye Watkins, Riverhead

Canyons, Samuel Western, Fithian Press

The Longest Night, Andria Williams, Random House, January

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, Sunil Yapa, Little, Brown/Boudreaux, January



Eve’s Hollywood, Eve Babitz, NYRB Classics

Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism, Evan Berry, University of California Press

Howl: Of Woman and Wolf, Susan Imhoff Bird, Torrey House Press, October

Gold Fever: One Man’s Adventures on the Trail of the Gold Rush, Steve Boggan, OneWorld Publications

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, Rinker Buck, Simon & Schuster

Getting to Grey Owl: Journeys on Four Continents, Kurt Caswell, Trinity University Press

Grizzly West: A Failed Attempt to Reintroduce Grizzly Bears in the Mountain West, Michael J. Dax, University of Nebraska Press

Loving Nature, Fearing the State: Environmentalism and Antigovernment Politics before Reagan, Brian Allen Drake, University of Washington Press

Of Wilderness and Wolves, Paul C. Errington, University of Iowa Press, November

The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey, Kathryn Ferguson, University of New Mexico Press

Ponderosa: People, Fire, and the West’s Most Iconic Tree, Carl E. Fiedler and Stephen F. Arno,  Mountain Press

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan, Penguin Press

Rediscovering National Parks in the Spirit of John Muir, Michael Frome, University of Utah Press

The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and Murder in the Wartime West, Max G. Geier, Oregon State University Press, November

The Great Divide, Stephen Grace, photographs by Jim Havey, Two Dot Books

Nature’s Housekeeper: An Eco-Comedy, Michael Gurnow, Blue River Press

Good Water, Kevin Holdsworth, University Press of Colorado, February

I Can Give You Anything But Love, Gary Indiana, Rizzoli Ex Libris

Sustainable Water: Challenges and Solutions from California, Allison Lassiter (ed.), University of California Press

Girl in the Woods: A Memoir, Aspen Matis, William Morrow

Living off the Pacific Ocean Floor: Stories of a Commercial Fisherman, George Moskovita, Oregon State University Press, October

How the World Moves: The Odyssey of an American Indian Family, Peter Nabokov, Viking, September

The Origin Myth of Acoma Pueblo, Edward Proctor Hunt,
Peter Nabokov (ed.), Viking, September

Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration, Tao Orion, Chelsea Green

The Rocky Mountain National Park Reader, James H. Pickering, University of Utah Press

Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest,
Lesley Poling-Kempes, University of Arizona Press

Dirt: A Love Story, Barbara Richardson (ed.), ForeEdge

Alaska’s Skyboys: Cowboy Pilots and the Myth of the Last Frontier, Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth, University of Washington Press, October

Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks and Nonsense, Krista Schlyer, Skyhorse Publishing, October

Crossing the Plains with Bruno, Annick Smith, Trinity University Press, November

Last Chance Byway: The History of Nine Mile Canyon, Jerry D. Spangler and Donna Kemp Spangler, University of Utah Press, October

Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, T.J. Stiles, Knopf, October

Ways to the West: How Getting Out of Our Cars Is Reclaiming America’s Frontier, Tim Sullivan, Utah State University Press

Letters to My Grandchildren, David Suzuki, Greystone

The Coyote’s Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire, Kimball Taylor, Tin House Press, February

Mountains and Marshes: Exploring the Bay Area’s Natural History, David Rains Wallace, Counterpoint Press, December

Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek: An Intimate Portrait of 399, The Most Famous Bear of Greater Yellowstone, Todd Wilkinson, photos by Thomas D. Mangelsen, Mangelsen, October

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