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Delighting in autumn reading

Fall books

Fall books

By Todd Leopold

(CNN) -- Stephen King and John Barth. Salman Rushdie and Anne Heche. Ralph Nader and Jack Welch.

Fall sure makes strange bedfellows in the publishing industry.

But it's that combination of the praiseworthy and the gossip-mongering, of elegant litterateurs and pulpy scriveners, that makes the fall publishing season all the more interesting for the rest of us. Here are a dozen works that may pique your interest as the nights get longer.

'The Corrections'

'The Corrections'

In 1996, Jonathan Franzen, a relatively unknown writer of two well-received novels, wrote an essay for Harper's Magazine about the literary novel in crisis. He seems to have answered his own questions with "The Corrections" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a book that manages to maintain a precarious balance between postmodern flights of fancy and the hard, humane story of a family struggling to connect. The book has become the buzz of the fall and has even earned kudos from rival publishers. September 4.

'Carter Beats the Devil'

The debut novel of the fall receiving all the attention is Glen David Gold's "Carter Beats the Devil" (Hyperion), a story about a 1920s magician who is suspected in the mysterious death of President Warren G. Harding. Gold knows his way around magic and around history, and the result is a book has been favorably compared to the works of E.L. Doctorow. September.

'Sailing Alone Around the Room'

'Sailing Alone Around the Room'

Poetry is usually a hard sell, even poetry by the Poet Laureate of the United States. But Billy Collins, who was named to that post earlier this year, is an exception: a poet whose work has a popular following. His newest work, "Sailing Alone Around the Room" (Random House), collects 80 previously published works and 20 new poems, each full of whimsy, thoughtfulness, and -- above all -- the humanity that has put Collins in the public eye. September 4.


In "The Perfect Storm," he followed a raging Nor'easter that took the lives of the men on a fishing boat and challenged the crews of several other ships. In "Fire" (W.W. Norton), Sebastian Junger turns his attention to forest firefighters in the American West. The book also collects a number of his articles for Vanity Fair magazine, including Junger's experiences reporting the tragic war in Sierra Leone. September 24.

'The Accidental President'

Several books about the disputed 2000 presidential election are due out this fall, but none can match the title of Newsweek reporter David Kaplan's tome, "The Accidental President: How 413 Lawyers, 9 Supreme Court Justices, and 5,963,110 Floridians (Give or Take a Few) Landed George W. Bush in the White House" (William Morrow). Kaplan doesn't pass judgment on the candidates, but chronicles, with wit and detail, the bizarre set of circumstances that put one of them in the executive mansion for four years. October 2.

'Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones'

Quincy Jones manages to tell his musical story in both book and recorded form with "Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones" (Doubleday). He certainly has quite a tale to tell in both media: Starting as a teen-age Lionel Hampton sideman, he soon became an in-demand arranger and producer for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Michael Jackson. Still a vital force at 68, this biography (and the accompanying boxed set, "Q: The Music of Quincy Jones") captures the man with arresting clarity. October 9.

'Sky of Stone'

A couple years ago, a movie named "October Sky" became a sleeper hit. It was based on the memoir "Rocket Boys" by Homer Hickam Jr., a NASA engineer who described how he became fascinated with rocketry and science in the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia. His new book, "Sky of Stone" (Delacorte) continues Hickam's story. During a summer home from college, Hickam takes a job in the town's despised coal mine to earn money while his father is accused of negligence in the death of a mine foreman. October 9.

'Uncle Tungsten'

Few authors have made neurology as interesting and approachable as Oliver Sacks. The good doctor, who gained fame for "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," returns with "Uncle Tungsten" (Alfred A. Knopf), a memoir of his childhood in war-torn England. Sacks was the son of doctors and fascinated by chemistry, physics, and -- because of his brother's struggles -- mental illness. October 16.

'Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God'

Jack Miles's "God: A Biography" was a Pulitzer Prize winner and a surprising bestseller in 1996. Now the author, a former Jesuit and current humanities professor, takes on the story of the Son of God in "Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God" (Alfred A. Knopf). In Miles's telling, the New Testament is the story of Christ, God in human form, who comes to earth as a way to keep his promise to the Children of Israel. Miles sees the New Testament as less religious dogma than a work of art, which makes his version all the more intriguing. October 30.

'The Collected Sportswriting of Gary Smith'

It seems unfair to call Gary Smith a "sportswriter." The cliche of the sportswriter is of a beer-stained press-box scribbler whose job is to observe the action and get the score right. Smith, on the other hand, is an intensely poetic, soaring writer who just happens to cover sports. His best work has been collected in "Beyond the Game: The Collected Sportswriting of Gary Smith" (Atlantic Monthly Press). From a tremendous 1988 profile of Mike Tyson to the story of a high school basketball phenom convicted of a sex offense, it doesn't get much better than Gary Smith. October 30.

'Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith'

For most of his life, Studs Terkel has been talking -- and listening. The latter has won him fame as the compiler of the oral histories "Working," "Division Street: America," and "The Good War." His latest book, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith" (New Press), takes on one of the biggest topics of all: death. Terkel interviews the famous (Kurt Vonnegut) and the not-so-famous (a Latino homosexual, a rural homeowner) to get their thoughts on the Great Beyond -- and, by extension, life here on earth. November.

'Skipping Christmas'

John Grisham stepped away from his legal thrillers early this year with "A Painted House," a skillful coming-of-age story. He ventures into still new territory with "Skipping Christmas" (Doubleday), a holiday tale about life in a small town. Little was known about the work at presstime, but it looks to be a light, cheery work, in spirit with the season. November 6.


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