7 great books and bookish events for fall

David L. Ulin
Los Angeles Times Book Critic

Rock star memoirs, poetry and comics, reflections on race and marriage equality — in other words, it’s fall, a season of big books, big ideas, voices and visions. Here are seven books and book events not to be missed. 

Sept. 22

"Notes on the Assemblage" by Juan Felipe Herrera

This has the feeling of a homecoming, from its dedication to the late Michele Serros to its encomia for Wanda Coleman, Jack Gilbert and Jayne Cortez. And why not? Herrera, the former California poet laureate who was named U.S. poet laureate in June, has long written out of a sense of community. This new collection is generous, unexpected, playful and pointed, reminding us of our shared humanity. "we are all still burnin'," he declares in "Almost Livin' Almost Dyin'." "can you feel me swaggin' tall and driving low" City Lights: 104 pp., $14.95 paper

Oct. 5

"Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA" by Roberta Kaplan with Lisa Dickey

Without Kaplan, it's altogether possible that marriage equality would not be in effect across the United States. The attorney litigated the case of United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act when the Supreme Court ruled on it in 2013. In "Then Comes Marriage," she tells the story of the case as well as her own process of coming out. "The personal is political," she writes, "as the saying goes. And that became abundantly clear in my own life over the next two years as I prepared, filed, and argued the case for marriage equality." W.W. Norton: 320 pp., $27.95

Oct. 6

"Killing and Dying" by Adrian Tomine

Tomine may be my favorite comics artist — deft and subtle, with a bittersweet understanding of the tension between aspiration and loss. In this new book, featuring six stories from his magazine Optic Nerve, he traces small lives, in which love blurs into self-delusion, and we do what we have to do to get by. "Go Owls" records the evolution of an abusive relationship; "A Brief History of the Art Form Known as 'Hortisculpture'" explores the fallout of a dream less deferred than unfulfilled. Moving, sharply rendered, these are comics where the real action takes place between the lines. Drawn and Quarterly: 128 pp., $22.95

FULL COVERAGE: Fall arts guide 2015

Oct. 13

"City on Fire" by Garth Risk Hallberg

Hallberg's debut novel comes with a lot of buzz. Involving several overlapping story lines — its climax is the 1977 New York City blackout — it offers more proof that the sprawling social novel remains a vibrant and compelling form. A contributing editor to the Millions whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Hallberg explores the complexities, the connections, of the city as a way of life. Alfred A. Knopf: 944 pp., $30

Oct. 21

Elvis Costello in conversation with Chris Connelly

With "Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Music," Elvis Costello becomes the latest rock 'n' roller to produce a memoir. At this event presented by Book Soup, he puts his fingerprints on our imagination, talking about the book, creative process and his magnificent career. Wilshire Ebell Theatre; $38;

Oct. 26

Ta-Nehisi Coates in conversation with Robin D.G. Kelley

The "banality of violence," Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in "Between the World and Me," "can never excuse America, because America makes no claim to the banal." It's a stunning twist on the notion of American exceptionalism — framing it through a moral as opposed to a political lens For Coates, the question is how we live up to our "exceptional moral standard" and extend its privileges across racial bounds. He discusses the book and his thoughts on race and American culture. ALOUD/Los Angeles Public Library; free; 213-228-7000;

Nov. 3

Carrie Brownstein in conversation with Amy Poehler Founder of Sleater-Kinney, co-creator of "Portlandia," Brownstein in an American indy culture avatar — funny, smart and always on point, This fall, she publishes her first book, the memoir "Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl," which she discusses with Poehler in her one Southern California event presented by Vroman's. Pasadena Presbyterian Church; $38;

david.ulin@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @davidulin

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