The Book Report: Washington Post Critic Ron Charles’ Fall Picks (September 18)

By Washington Post literary critic Ron Charles

Now that the kids are back in school and the nights are getting longer, it’s time to think about what to read this fall. Here are some new titles to check out:


When Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, most Americans had never read anything by this fascinating author.

Born in 1948 in Tanzania, Gurnah fled to England after the 1964 uprising in Zanzibar. Over the years he has written 10 critically acclaimed novels.

The last, “Afterlife” (Riverhead), offers an intimate look at village life in East Africa during the era of German colonialism in the early 20th century. This is a book that reclaims forgotten history and honors lost people in a heartbreaking and revealing way.

Read an excerpt

“Afterlife” by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Riverhead), in Hardcover, Large Print Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Indiebound



Maggie O’Farrell’s Novel “Hamnet”, about the death of William Shakespeare’s only son, was one of the best books of 2020.

Now O’Farrell is back with “The Wedding Portrait” (Knopf), a terrific historical thriller that immerses us in the panicked mind of a teenage girl who knows her husband is plotting to kill her.

The daughter is Lucrezia de’ Medici, immortalized in Robert Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess”. History tells us she died in 1561 before she could celebrate her first birthday, but O’Farrell will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Read an excerpt

“The Wedding Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf), in Hardcover, Large Print Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available September 27 via Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Indiebound


Petit, Brown & Co.

What if Americans elected a narcissistic psychopath to the White House?

Some people might say we’ve already seen what it would look like. But James Patterson’s heart-pounding new thriller, ” Backfire “ (Little, Brown), takes this scenario to the brink of World War III.

Written with Brendan DuBois, “Blowback” imagines a president determined to defeat America’s enemies once and for all.

Two secret agents are honored to help the president’s plan – until they realize he is about to destroy the country.

Read an excerpt

” Backfire “ by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois (Little, Brown and Company), in Hardcover, Large Print Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Indiebound


Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Mary Rodgers, who died in 2014, lived her life in the melodies of American musical theatre. She was the daughter of Richard Rodgers, mother of composer Adam Guettel and friend of Stephen Sondheim – and she was an accomplished composer and songwriter herself.

Now all of these wonderful stories take center stage in “Shy: The alarmingly outspoken memoir of Mary Rodgers” (‎Farrar, Straus and Giroux), written with New York Times theater critic Jesse Green.

Through painful and happy relationships, disappointments and successes, Rodgers is never anything but frank, forgiving and witty. So sit down and let the curtain rise.

Read an excerpt

“Shy: The alarmingly outspoken memoir of Mary Rodgers” by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green (‎Farrar, Straus and Giroux), in hardcover, eBook and audio format, available via Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Indiebound

Follow @JesseKGreen on Twitter

For these and other suggestions on what to read this fall, contact your local librarians or bookseller.

That’s it for The Book Report. I am Ron Charles. Until next time, read on!

For more information:

For more reading recommendations, check out these previous Ron Charles Reading Report features:

Produced by Robin Sanders and Roman Feeser.

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