vintage book spines

What to Read This Fall.

What’s in your tsundoku pile this fall? I made pretty good headway through my summer reading list, reading six of the eight titles with a handful of others added in on top, and my favorite from an enjoyment standpoint was Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham, which I could not put down (full review here), though I think that Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns may be one of the most significant books I’ve read in years (full review here).

I will be sharing a proper book review post soon, as I’ve made my way through several books in the last few weeks that I am dying to talk about, but for now, wanted to share what’s on my radar for fall 2020 reading:

FOR A DARK THRILL RIDE // The Guest List by Lucy Foley and/or The End of Her by Shari La Pena. I just finished listening to The Guest List on audiobook, and it’s narrated by a delightful British cast. I was captivated by the twisty-turn-y, Agatha-Christie-esque plotline, which centers around a wedding on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. We meet a cast of characters with seriously dark backgrounds and someone turns up dead on the night of the wedding amidst an intense gale and intermittent power outages. Buckle up! On the latter: my mother and I are both fans of Shari La Pena’s work, and she has reported that she cannot put The End of Her down — it’s classic La Pena, meaning marital drama and relationship questions that need answering. In this case, a new mother is faced with the claim that her husband murdered his ex-wife! Perfect creepy October book.

FOR ARTFULLY WRITTEN FAMILY DRAMA // Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. This is the highly-acclaimed debut novel of Douglas Stuart (nominated for The Booker Prize), and through it, we experience life as a boy from a working class family living in run-down public housing in 1980s Glasgow, Scotland. The novel centers around his relationship with his mother and her battle with addiction.

FOR EASY-TO-READ HISTORICAL FICTION // The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis. Several of you Magpies reached out to let me know how much you enjoyed this fictional account of a series of book thefts from the New York Public Library and the two generations of women who become embroiled in the fallout.

FOR DICKENSIAN ACTION // The Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. This book is actually almost twenty years old, but my well-read sister recently devoured this book and could not stop talking about it. Waters tells the story of a con man who attempts to inveigle an orphan into tricking a wealthy gentlewoman out of her vast inheritance.

FOR SOUL-SEARCHING // Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Described as “Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah,” this novel presents Queenie Jenkins, twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, “straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither” as she seeks meaning in her work and relationships.

FOR CELEBRITY MEMOIR // The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey. You know the celebrity memoir is one of my favorite sub-genres, and Mariah Carey is one of my all-time favorite vocalists. (I don’t think any girl raised in the 90s would say otherwise.) Pessimism isn’t my style, but I’m not optimistic about the merits of this book — and still I can’t resist the pull.

What’s on your reading list this fall? What’s good?

A couple of reading-related finds worth consideration:












P.S. Drive gently, dearie.

P.P.S. I am a pragmatic cook. How about you?

P.P.P.S. Why museums matter.


  1. These all sound great! Except maybe the Mariah Carey book, if I’m honest. But I did read and love Jessica Simpson’s book, which was something I didn’t know I needed…

    I also recently listened to The Guest List and agree that it was great on audio. Can’t wait to dive into Lions since I’ve enjoyed Fiona Davis books in the past.

    I recently read The Color Purple for the first time and was surprised how much I liked it! I’m doing the Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenge and it’s my pick for the “book published the decade you were born” category. I’ve almost completed the 2020 challenge- just need to find and read a book in translation (which was the only category I missed in 2019, too). Recommendations welcome!! Currently listening to The Lager Queen of Minnesota and it’s good but dragging a bit for my taste.

    1. Ha – I was waiting for someone to glance sideways at me for the Mariah Carey book. What can I say? I’m just a 90s girl through and through? (She seems…hm. How to put it? Difficult? But I’m intrigued by this icon of my youth.)

      Lions is also calling my name. Sounds like a smooth, easy read to whip through on a weekend.

      I’ve never read The Color Purple, so thanks for that! What did you like about it?

      For books in translation, I was blown away by Jhumpa Lahiri’s “In Other Words,” which is a “meta” take on translation itself. Lahiri actually learned Italian and wrote the book in Italian, though she speaks English. Then she had someone else translate it back to English. It’s kind of a mind-bending concept but very interesting reflection (both in format and substance) on the act of translation, language acquisition, cultural difference, etc. It reads very simply (in part because her Italian is recently-learned, so there are limits to her own expression in that non-native tongue) but there is a lot to unpack.


    2. I LOVED In Other Words — and each of Lahiri’s books, to be honest — seconding that!

      I will say that Europa Editions is a goldmine when it comes to lovely books in translation. Check them out for sure!

    3. Haha, no book shame here! I wouldn’t be against picking it up if you end up having good things to say!

      In Other Words sounds fascinating. Putting it on my list for sure.

      Thanks for the Europa Editions tip, MK 🙂

  2. Please may I add one more book for your cook magpies? Loved a book titled From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke! So good!

    1. I also loved this book! Jen, given your Italian heritage you might like it as well. I purchased the book so if you have an address for PR, etc let me know and I’ll mail it to you.

    2. Oo two upvotes! Added to my list. Thanks, Lauren! I will read it on Kindle but I so appreciate the offer!! xx

  3. I am planning on reading a collection of essays by women writers called “Wedding Cake for Breakfast: Essays on the Unforgettable First Year of Marriage” by Kim Perel & Wendy Sherman. I am recently married myself (this past August!) and I hoped to gain some insight into how this first year unfolds. I am only 1 essay into it and I can say it has been humorous and touching so far.

    Other than that, I am reading this post and the comments to add a few more things to my reading list!

    1. I love this — so sweet to read this while a newlywed!! Thanks for sharing and congratulations again! xx

  4. Love books! I’ve just finished these and loved them all!
    1. The World that We Knew. So unlike many things I usually read and found it very heartwarming.
    2. White Chrysanthemum
    3. The Lions Den – who wouldn’t enjoy reading about a girls trip to the Mediterranean!
    4. Suspicion

    All very different, but all good.
    Ok, can I say “I told you so” regarding the heated mattress pad? It is THE BEST thing EVER! Great gift for anyone/everyone. Whenever I gift one, the response is “I never knew what I was missing” ! However, I just purchased this one as it was rated number one by Good Housekeeping! Some are better than others!

    1. Thanks for all of these recs! Had not heard of any of them — ahhh!

      You definitely were the mattress pad queen — I remember you upvoting this years ago! Thank you for the tip on this one!


  5. I am a David Mitchell obsessive, so I’m currently re-reading some of my old favorites of his and digging further into his early stuff. I am currently re-reading Slade House for the 4th time, which is a spooky little novel that’s perfect for October. Think Shirley Jackson vibes. It’s also a great entry into his whole canon, because his books essentially comprise a multiverse- they are all wildly different from each other but there are recurring themes and characters that pop up throughout. Can’t recommend highly enough.

    1. !!! You had me at multiverse. Wow – the brilliance that kind of writing requires overwhelms me. Thanks for the suggestion!

    2. I know, I have spent a ton of time wondering how he pulls it off- there will be a brief conversation with a bit character that seems insignificant in one book, then that bit character ends up becoming a main character two books later. How do you think that far into the future and keep track of it all?! And do it WELL, at that.

    3. Incredible. I wonder if he keeps a master map or something? I just can’t imagine anyone could keep it all in his/her own head! Inspiring.


  6. Ahhh, my favorite topic of conversation! Here are a few books on my tsundoku pile (a physical one on my nightstand … haha):

    + Eat a Peach by David Chang (a memoir that sounds truly fascinating and covers mental health struggles as well as the more-expected topics of food & chef-dom)
    + Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen (I adored her first book about “unruly” women and this examination of millennial burnout should be good — I love Petersen’s smart takes on current issues)
    + Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (for extra background & context before I dive into The Warmth of Other Suns, which I’ve owned for yeeears but have not yet read!)
    + Daddy by Emma Cline (loved The Girls and am eager to read this short-story collection)

    I don’t yet own, but want to buy, Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind and Ocavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I’m trying to slow my roll with purchasing books, though — I have so many and I seem to acquire them a bit faster than I can read them. Haha!


    1. OMG, MK — I was obsessed with “The Girls” when I read it maybe three years ago. Could not put it down and thought she captured so intensely the mood of being in your teens — it was uncanny. Thanks for all of these recs! Thanks to you, I just bought David Chang’s “Eat a Peach” on Audible to listen to after I finish RBG’s “My Own Words.” I wish I’d read rather than listened to the latter — though I really enjoy hearing RBG and others speak themselves via archival recordings (hearing the quality/intonation in their own voices is super interesting), I find the narration of the rest irritatingly singsong, almost like someone talking down to me? I can’t quite put it in words yet. Anyway, will get to Chang’s next — thanks for the reminder. xx

    2. I will let you know when I read it so we can compare notes! And yes, I also loved The Girls — I had no idea that Cline had a short story collection out; I was overjoyed to find it at a local bookstore recently!


    3. Yay! Also, thanks for the weighted blanket rec! That is by far the most attractive one I have seen! Adding to my wishlist 🙂

  7. We got a set of the Juliska mugs (and matching dinnerware!) as a wedding gift last year (holiday themed in NY, naturally) and I can attest they are just delightful!

    Just put The Lions of Fifth Avenue in my cart, thanks for sharing!

    1. SO jealous! You’ll have the chicest tablescape in all the lands. Yay for Lions of Fifth Ave! I am excited to read that one, too. Sounds like a good blend of escapism and light history. I am always keen when multiple Magpies, unprompted, encourage something! xx

    2. Just finished the BA Paris latest, The Breakdown. Looking forward to Ann Patchett The Dutch House, Elton John’s memoir Me, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half of a Yellow Sun, and the latest Tana French. Adding several of yours to my list especially the thriller picks. I find it hard to find “quality” thrillers. Thanks!

    3. Oo YES. Dutch House was probably my favorite book of 2020. I agree that quality thrillers are hard to come by. If you haven’t read it, Ruth Ware’s Turn of the Key was amazing. I had quibbles with the ending, but the first 2/3rds of the book is SO deliciously good and Gothic and smart. Loved. xx

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