Ahmad, Jamil. The Wandering Falcon. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781594488276. $25.95.
Fleeing punishment for having violated their tribe’s strictures, a young couple comes to the Federally Administered Tribal Lands (FATA), a remote patch of Earth where Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan meet. Their son, the wandering falcon of the book’s title, will travel among the region’s tribes and bear witness to their way of life. As has Ahmad. Born in 1930, he joined the Pakistan Civil Service in 1954, serving mainly in the Frontier Province and Baluchistan; he eventually became chairman of the Tribal Development Corporation. Currently, he lives in Islamabad and here offers his first novel. The Independent (UK) found it stunning, and I believe we could all learn from this insider’s view of an area relentlessly in the news.

My Pick
Enright, Anne. The Forgotten Waltz. Norton. Oct. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780393072556. $25.95.
Snow falls on Terenure, outside of Dublin, as Gina Moynihan recalls Seán Vallely, the love of her life, and afternoons of languid bliss that seemed to stretch forever. Now she awaits the arrival of Seán’s delicate 12-year-old daughter, Evie. Spent passion, family ties, the ratcheting down of middle age; all of Enright’s themes are indelibly here. I remember Enright’s Man Booker Award‚ winning The Gathering as heart-cutting and moodily vibrant, so I’m expecting a lot from this. Excellent for book clubs.

My Pick
Eugenides, Jeffrey. The Marriage Plot. Farrar. Oct. 2011. 496p. ISBN 9780374203054. $28. CD: Macmillan Audio.
A Pulitzer Prize winner for Middlesex, which has sold more than three million copies, and of the darkly delicious The Virgin Suicides (catch the Sofia Coppola film), Eugenides doesn’t necessarily need me to rave about him. But I’ll do it anyway; I love his work and am so taken with the idea behind this novel. Madeleine Hanna, a conscientious, neatly dressed English major in the early 1980s, blissfully reads Austen while everyone else studies Derrida. (Yes, I remember it well.) She finally decides to get hip by taking a semiotics class, where she meets wild and irresistible loner Leonard Morten, who teaches her about more than signs and symbols. Meanwhile, the wittily named Mitchell Grammaticus, a voice from her past, comes back to demand that they spend their lives together. A novel of ideas and triangular love from the brilliantly off-kilter Eugenides‚ what more could you want? With a one-day laydown, a national tour, library marketing, and a reading group guide; get multiples for the literati.

Ghosh, Amitav. River of Smoke. Farrar. Oct. 2011. 528p. ISBN 9780374174231. $28.
Continuing his Ibis trilogy, begun with the Man Booker‚ shortlisted Sea of Poppies, Ghosh puts three ships in danger in the midst of a cyclone on the Bay of Bengal: the Ibis, first seen in Poppies, carrying a disgraced raja, a disguised French orphan, and a widowed poppy grower along with a transport of indentured servants; the Anahita, which bears the biggest shipment ever of opium from India to Canton, China; and the Redruth, which bears eager horticulturalist Fitcher Penrose, who’s interested in the beauty and healing properties of China’s many plants. These characters eventually meet in Canton’s foreign enclave, just as the Opium Wars are getting started. Of great interest to those who love historical fiction and the huge body of Anglo-Indian literature currently popular.

Grisham. John. Untitled. Doubleday. Oct. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780385535137. $28.99; eISBN 9780385535250. lrg. prnt. CD: Random Audio.
Aside from making the brilliant observation that this book is a legal thriller, I can’t tell you anything about Grisham’s latest, as his plots are always kept under wraps until publication. But you always get his books sight unseen, right?

Lindsay, Jeff. Double Dexter. Doubleday. Oct. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780385532372. $24.95; eISBN 9780385532389. CD: Random Audio.
Blood splatter analyst by day, avenging angel by night, Dexter Morgan is everyone’s favorite serial killer. Here the character who prompted Showtime’s top-rated show discovers that some criminal out there is copying him. With a six-city tour to Miami, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Houston.

Millet, Lydia. Ghost Lights. Norton. Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780393081718. $24.95.
Clark Kentish Hal, an IRS bureaucrat, believes that his wife is having an affair and thus brazenly volunteers to fly to Belize to look for her employer‚ incidentally, the protagonist of Millet’s How the Dead Dream‚ who’s vanished in the jungle. PEN USA award winner Millet can be weirdly wondrous and biting good fun, so buy for your more inventive readers.

Oyeyemi, Helen. Mr. Fox. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9781594488078. $25.95.
Heroines don’t live happily ever after in Mr. Fox’s books because he can’t help killing them off. Then his muse, Mary, comes to life and drags him into a world of make-believe in which the two repeatedly seek each other out in different settings, offering nine variations of the same story while testing both the limits of the genre and the idea of a lifelong bond. But when his wife gets anxious, Mr. Fox must choose between muse and real-life love. Oyeyemi consistently surprises (her White Is for Witching won the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award), and this novel sounds enchanting. Get for discriminating readers and watch where this one goes.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Damned. Doubleday. Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780385533027. $24.95; eISBN 9780385533140.
Daughter of a billionaire and a self-absorbed film star, 11-year-old Madison dies of a drug overdose during the Christmas holiday at her Swiss boarding school while her parents are showing off elsewhere. She wakes up in hell and has soon joined with other adolescent misfits in a sort of afterlife The Breakfast Club, which is actually referenced, and then takes on Satan. Palahniuk has always been a bit twisted, but while initially this sounded over-the-top funny, a quick look suggests it’s more edgy social satire. Will it work? With a seven-city tour to New York, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, North Orleans, Kansas City, Dallas, and Portland.

Penman, Sharon Kay. Lionheart. Putnam. Oct. 2011. 608p. ISBN 9780399157851. $28.95.
You know the story: Richard, one of four surviving sons of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine, inherits the throne and heads to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade, even as nasty brother John stays home and contrives to steal his crown. Celebrated historical fiction novelist Penman, who recently wrapped up a trilogy on Richard’s parents (ending with The Devil’s Brood, as their children were called), will continue Richard’s story in A King’s Ransom and should supply exhaustive authentic detail. For all Anglophile fiction readers.

Robb, J.D. New York to Dallas: An In Death Novel. Putnam. Sept. 2011. 416p. ISBN 9780399157783. $27.95.
Eve Dallas is back, tracking a monstrous pedophile who’s escaped from New York’s Rikers Island prison and is intent on continuing his abduction of youngsters while getting even with Eve‚ years ago, she put him in jail. This 33rd novel in the mega-best-selling In Death series is the first not to use that phrase in the title (vs. the subtitle); a new cover concept signals a fresh start for the best-selling series. A no-brainer for thriller collections.

Rowell, David. The Train of Small Mercies. Putnam. Oct. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9780399157288. $24.95. CD: Penguin Audio.
An editor at the Washington Post Magazine, Rowell has an affecting idea for his first novel: he follows six characters whose lives are profoundly touched by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Thus, a woman lies to her husband so that she can go watch the funeral train passing by; on the first day of his job as porter, a young black man finds himself serving on the Kennedy funeral train. Not surprisingly, this book was inspired by Paul Fusco’s moving photo-essay, RFK Funeral Train, and a book trailer will use images from that book. Sounds quite good and will likely attract attention; watch.

Sandford, John. Shock Wave. Putnam. Oct. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780399157691. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio.
Local merchants and environmentalists in a little Minnesota town both oppose the construction of a new store by the mega-chain PyeMart, but who’s responsible when bombs explode simultaneously at PyeMart headquarters and the Minnesota construction site? Top best-selling New York Times author Sandford, who’s responsible for the long-running Prey series, here offers the fifth in his new series starring Virgil Flowers, who seems to be winning nearly as many fans as Prey.

Sparks, Nicholas. The Best of Me. Grand Central. Oct. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780446547659. $25.95. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio.
They were high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the track, and after graduation their paths diverged. They meet again, decades later, when both return home for the funeral of a beloved mentor. Now what? Sparks fans know the answer to that question and will read this book to find it. The author still strikes sparks; buy multiples.

Tobar, Héctor. The Barbarian Nurseries. Farrar. Oct. 2011. 432p. ISBN 9780374108991. $27.
Author of Translation Nation, which highlights the influence of Latinos in the United States, Pulitzer Prize‚ winning journalist Tobar here translates his ideas into fiction. When the recession hits, Araceli, a live-in maid in the Pacific Coast Torres-Thompson household, finds herself responsible for more than just cooking and cleaning when the other two Mexican servants are let go. One day she wakes up to discover that the parents have vanished, and she’s left with the care of two little boys she hardly knows. So she hops on a bus to go find their grandpa, Se√±or Torres‚ yes, father Scott Torres has Mexican roots he’s denied. Billed as a panoramic social novel of Los Angeles, this strikes me as a panoramic social novel of America‚ and it sounds like a real eye-opener.

Wetta, Stephen. If Jack’s in Love. Amy Einhorn Bks: Putnam. Oct. 2011. 368p. ISBN 9780399157523. $24.95. Digital download: Penguin Audio.
It’s 1967, and 12-year-old boy genius Jack is in love. But his unemployed dad antagonizes the neighbors, his mom is sweet but singularly unattractive, and his doper brother has been blamed for the disappearance of the local golden boy. Alas, it’s this boy’s sister whom Jack worships, and with the help of his only friend, Mr. Gladstein, the local jeweler, he schemes to win her love despite some pretty overwhelming obstacles. A highly touted first novel from the editor who discovered Kathryn Stockett (The Help), so pay attention; the author bio sounds in-your-face offbeat, which may say something about the writing.

Whitehead, Colson. Zone One. Doubleday. Oct. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780385528078. $25.95; eISBN 9780385535014.
Zut! MacArthur fellow Whitehead, author of such arresting works as Sag Harbor and The Intuitionist, now gives us his take on the zombie phenomenon. Post-apocalypse, with the world divided between the infected and the uninfected, the provisional U.S. government is trying to take back Manhattan‚ starting with Zone One, below Canal Street (just south of LJ‘s offices). Part of a civilian team charged with rounding up stragglers, Mark Spitz veers between thoughts of a vanished past and Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder. Then the undead start to rise. I’m not into zombies, but I’ll read anything Whitehead writes; he’s got a sensitive touch with difficult social material, and his new book could have broad appeal. With a 12-city tour to New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Raleigh, Oxford, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Iowa City, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.