Summer’s always a blast, but fall is where it’s at: off-peak vacationing, crisp getaways, and a chance to squeeze in R&R before the holidays. Here are six books to consider for your autumnal escape.
The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
On one hand, it’s a bummer that I didn't come across this book sooner—this 1999 coming-of-age story is still revelatory in every way, and I wish I knew of its existence in my 20s. On the other hand, it’s a privilege to experience this book for the first time in my 30s as an aging millennial who’s now “living through it.” This book is a joy to read, full of profound relationship observations a la Sally Rooney but wickedly funnier in tone. Jane, the intrepid heroine, is never a damsel in distress, nor does she ever succumb to the victim role, even when she’s involved in a complicated romance with an older man. It’s simply refreshing to read a book where a woman grows wiser on her own terms, all while casually dropping smartass witticisms that will make you cackle in unsuspecting ways.
The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
One of the worst-case scenarios when traveling in a foreign country is having your personal items stolen. If that experience has ever left you asking, “Why would someone do such a thing?” This crime novel might pique your interest. In this succinctly translated story, we get to know the goings-on of a directionless pickpocketer in Tokyo named Nishimura. He’s so swift and bored with stealing that he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it half the time. Then, he encounters high rollers from his past who present him with an offer he can’t refuse. Naturally, things go haywire when the man that Nishimura is ordered to steal from turns out to be a politician who gets murdered. This book encapsulates the existentialism of a Wong Kar-Wai film with the frenetic dread of a Safdie brothers film. It’s a must for fans of heart-racing thrillers.
How to Cure a Ghost by Fariha Róisín
Traveling sometimes isn’t as linear as going from Point A to Point B; there are unplanned detours along the way. Likewise when it comes to reading: Sometimes your mind wanders too much to follow a traditional storyline. Luckily, this gorgeous book of poems is the perfect travel companion for the unexpected. It’s written through the singular lens of Fariha Róisín, a Brooklyn-based writer who also identifies as queer, Muslim, and Australian-Canadian. It’s a book you’ll breeze through if you read it straight on, but there’s so much to absorb from her careful words—there’s a lot to “unpack,” if you will, and it’s worth the close reads. It’s a collection that feels as flitting and grounded as a journey with an end goal but follows no strict agenda getting there.
The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector
At just under 90 pages, Brazilian author Clarice Lispector’s 1977 novel is deceivingly light. While you’re able to read it in the time it takes to get from, say, Boston to Bermuda, Lispector’s prose is likely to hang around for the duration of your trip. Told from the perspective of a secret admirer named Rodrigo S.M., the story follows the life of Macabéa, a poor, strange, and fascinating character who lives her life blissfully unaware of the fortunes she hasn’t been afforded. Through her narrator, Lispector offers many parting bits of literary wisdom through the tale: “No, it is not easy to write,” Rodrigo muses. “It is as hard as breaking rocks.” It’s a haunting, intellectually playful meditation on life, writing, and the mark we hope to leave on the world.
Darling Days by iO Tillet Wright
This year, iO Tillet Wright hosted The Ballad of Billy Balls, a winding, deeply personal podcast series about family, love, crime, drugs, identity, and pre-Giuliani New York City. Whether you’re a fan of the show wanting to know more about iO’s story or just fascinated by extraordinary lives, iO’s 2016 memoir does not disappoint. We begin in the gritty wilds of 1980s East Village, where iO is born in his mother’s Bowery apartment. Rhonna, a dancer and artist who “lives by her own code,” brings baby iO everywhere she goes—from the ballet studio to the Alphabet City clubs. Their bond is rock-solid but also fraught due to Rhonna’s tendency to self-medicate with alcohol and other substances. As the years go by, we take in the world through iO’s young eyes—lonely days as an outcast at public school, the scrappy freedom of his downtown life, the breakdown of the relationship with his mother, a stint in Europe, and eventually understanding of his own gender identity. It’s a surprising, full-hearted tale of survival amidst unimaginable chaos.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Let’s hop over to Italy, shall we? Jess Walter’s epic novel opens on a quiet hotel on the Italian coast in the early 60s. A young starlet named Dee arrives looking for a reprieve from the set of Cleopatra, which is filming in Rome. She claims to be sick, but the reality is she’s pregnant and isn’t sure what to do next. The hotel owner’s son, Pasquale, takes a liking—and maybe more—to Dee, offering to help her in whatever way possible. Jumpcut to Los Angeles, several decades later. We meet Claire, an unhappy showbiz assistant slogging through stacks of disappointing screenplays for her boss, Deane. When an elderly Italian man named Pasquale (yes, that Pasquale) appears, asking to connect with faded star Dee, we’re off to the races. With a stacked cast of memorable characters, Walter orchestrates a time-spanning saga of lost love and expired fame. It’s safe to say Beautiful Ruins will rival any of your other in-flight entertainment options.