8 Fall Books to Make You Think

Fall is the perfect time to hole up with a blanket and a book

By Elizabeth Flock

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(This article originally appeared on PBS NewsHour)

For the best reads this fall, we turned to two writers: Louise Penny, author of the bestselling Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels, and Pamela Paul, who oversees book coverage at The New York Times and just published My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.

Penny said fall is is “a great time to re-engage” with thought-provoking books after a year spent “escape reading.”

“Luckily there are a lot of books that try to take on serious topics that have been in the news…and delve a lot deeper than the Twitter feeds and headlines have been able to do,” she said.

For Paul, deciding what to read next is “a question of mood. I need to read something and I have to figure out what that book is. And if I try to read something that doesn’t sort of match that mood, it doesn’t take and I end up putting it down,” to find the right one, she said.

Following are  some of Penny and Paul’s essential fall books. See the complete list at PBS NewsHour

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The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison

The Origin of Others is a collection of her Norton lectures for Harvard. They’re a series of essays. And the theme is race. It’s about belonging, our yearning to belong, about community, and about why race matters. And how we came up with the concept of Other. Us and Them. And why it is that once we had come up with that concept, we are predisposed to look at the other with suspicion. — Louise Penny

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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics by Mark Lilla 

It’s a controversial book, and you might not agree with all of it, but it’s about identity politics and I think it’s interesting to read, along with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ forthcoming book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. Together these books take on the issues of identity, race, class and also electoral politics. — Pamela Paul

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World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer

Foer was the editor of The New Republic until shortly after it was purchased by Chris Hughes, formerly of Facebook. There was a major falling out between them. What Foer does is not just write a memoir about that experience, but really takes on the issue of how technology has sort of infiltrated journalism, the media and our daily lives.  — Pamela Paul

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Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy 
I am a huge fan of children’s books. I do think that you read them in a different way as a child and then you read them in a different way with your children or if you read them on your own. One of the things that Handy makes clear in his book is that children’s literature is really when we become readers. And those stories stay with us, whether it’s The Chronicles of Narnia or Little House on the Prairie.  — Pamela Paul

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Sing, Unburied, SingA Novel by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward, I feel like she can do anything. She edited a collection of essays last year, and wrote a memoir, a nonfiction book, and she is a novelist. They all take place in a fictional town called Bois Sauvage in Mississippi where she lives and where her family is from. It’s about race and class. She has been compared to William Faulkner, Toni Morrison and Herman Melville. I think she is her own voice. — Pamela Paul

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Unbelievable by Katy Tur and What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

These are two very different books, written by two women looking at what happened over the course of the 2016 election — to them personally, and sort of looking at the election as a whole. Tur’s is her memoir of her experience reporting for NBC and often being the target of criticism by Donald Trump and others in his campaign.

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And What Happened is Clinton’s highly anticipated new memoir that is a very candid look at what happened, how she’s been dealing with the results of the 2016 election and why she thinks the election results played out as they did. — Pamela Paul



By Elizabeth Flock
Elizabeth Flock is a reporter and producer for the NewsHour. She can be reached at [email protected]

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