20 Biggest Books of the Fall

With Jonathan Franzen and Tony Blair the season of major book releases is upon us. The Daily Beast picks the 20 books that you can’t miss this fall, from a biography of Cleopatra to Bob Woodward on Obama.

09.10.10 7:15 AM ET

The fall book season is off to a roaring start with Jonathan Franzen and Tony Blair sending critics, the press, and, most importantly, readers into a frenzy. So now that these big names have crested what else should you be looking forward to? The Daily Beast presents its lists of the biggest, best, and sure-to-be talked about books of the fall.


Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Jungle
By Ingrid Betancourt

Forget Blair or Bush, this is the memoir of the season. A French-Colombian political leader recounts her six unbelievably harrowing years in the jungle as a prisoner of the FARC.

Promise Me: How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer
By Nancy Brinker

Wonder why people are wearing pink this week? Here’s the inspirational and moving story of how Nancy Brinker started the Susan G. Komen foundation in honor of her sister who died of breast cancer and how she launched a national movement.

Obama’s Wars
By Bob Woodward

After four revealing books on George W. Bush, Bob Woodward's heavily embargoed new investigation into Barack Obama’s foreign policy is sure to be a national event. So far all his publisher is saying is that the book will show Obama “making the critical decisions on the Afghanistan War, the secret war in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism."

To The End of the Land
By David Grossman

One of Israel’s leading writers, David Grossman delivers the epic novel (excluding Franzen, of course) of the season with its tale of a woman who, after breathlessly awaiting her son’s discharge from the military, is so shocked by his re-enlistment that she takes off on a trip across Israel with a childhood friend. It's big, deep, and relentlessly moving—all the more so since Grossman’s son was killed serving in Lebanon in 2006.



Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
By Steven Johnson

In the midst of recession American readers are probably craving a bit of innovation and who better to explore that nebulous idea than blockbuster non-fiction writer Steven Johnson. What he did for cholera and pop culture he’s sure to do for the history of ideas, from Darwin to YouTube.

Washington: A Life
By Ron Chernow

After writing mammoth, bestselling biographies of American icons John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamiton, Ron Chernow has gone back to the beginning with his new book on George Washington, who he explodes the conventional image of as a staid and disciplined figure. This is certain to be the Founding Father must-read of the season.

By Philip Roth

It seems that every fall brings a slim new Roth novel, but Nemesis is among the most promising with its return to Rothian Newark in the era of the Second World War. Guilt, bad luck, and disappointment follow protagonist Bucky Cantor’s decision to abandon the playground he supervises after a polio outbreak.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life
By Bill Bryson

The ever-peripatetic Bill Bryson turns his prodigious attention, well, closer to home in this humorous, engaging, and absolutely delightful history of private space. By the time you’re done reading no room in your house will seem quite the same.

Our Kind of Traitor
By John le Carré

John le Carré’s most accessible, thrilling book in years, centers on a Russian oligarch who wishes to defect and the Oxford tutor caught in the middle of the intrigue. The novel promises to bring Carré’s trademark combination of moral complexity and gripping plotting.

Conversations With Myself
By Nelson Mandela

In what promises to be one of the most exciting publishing events of the year, FSG is releasing Nelson Mandela’s personal writings. Conversations with Myself brings together Mandela’s journals from his anti-apartheid struggle in 1960s, letters and diaries from his 27-years spent in prison, and private recorded conversations and speeches from his presidency to paint a picture of the greatest living political leader in his own words.

Great House
By Nicole Krauss

Following on Krauss’ mega-seller History of Love, her novel promises to delight her fans with its similar structure moving between four seemingly unconnected characters (from a lonely American poet to an old Israeli man) whom she connects across time and space.

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family
By Condoleezza Rice

Her former boss has a book out in November but Condoleezza Rice’s memoir is one you’ll want to read because it’s an honest and moving story of her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama. She recounts the extraordinary family that raised her amid inequality, instilled the values of hard work and leadership that allowed her to become the first female National Security Advisor, a leading political scientist, and concert pianist.

By Keith Richards

There’s no other musician (excepting Sir Mick) whose memoir we most want to read and by all accounts Keith Richards has delivered an honest, charming account of his youth, formation of the Stones, as well as the drug busts and setbacks he experienced after he’d made it big.

First Family: Abigail and John Adams
By Joseph Ellis

Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph Ellis is back with a stunning look at America’s original first couple: John and Abigail Adams. It’s a psychologically astute and rich work of history that may just replace Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as the Adams couple in your head.


Cleopatra: A Biography
By Stacy Schiff

Combine a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer with one of the most enigmatic and captivating woman to ever live and you’ve got the breakout biography of the season. Schiff rescues the much-maligned and misunderstood queen and delivers a powerful portrait.

Luka and the Fire of Life
By Salman Rushdie

For many Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is his most enchanting work and so fans are justifiably excited with the news that this new novel will follow Luka, the younger brother of that earlier novel, on a mission to rescue his father. It’s a potpourri of video games and magic.

Must You Go? My Life With Harold Pinter
By Antonia Fraser

A compelling love story written by historian Antonia Fraser about her life with playwright Harold Pinter. Tina Brown hailed it on NPR, “you feel like you've had an insight into a great romance that has real passion, but you don't feel that soiled feeling of some kind of confessional book about two famous people. She's really pulled off something of enormous subtlety."

Colonel Roosevelt
By Edmund Morris

In this third and final installment of one of the great biographies of our time, Edmund Morris tells the story of the last ten years of the president’s life—his safari in East Africa and his return to progressive politics. Morris has already won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his earlier volumes and no surprise if this one has a similar reception.

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
By Michael Korda

Daily Beast contributor Michael Korda delivers the definitive account of the epic life of T.E. Lawrence, scholar, warrior, aesthete, and diplomat. Any political pundit or soldier wanting to understand the Middle East needs to read this book and understand why Lawrence is truly a man for our time.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
By Siddhartha Mukherjee

For a disease that kills so many, cancer has never been as fully explored as in Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee's fascinating and moving history, from its origins to the current battle to control and cure it. A skilled writer, Mukherjee tells the “biography” of cancer with novelistic detail and drama.

Plus: Check out Book Beast for more news on hot titles and authors and excerpts from the latest books.