Fall books preview: A busy literary season ahead

Fall books preview: A busy literary season ahead
Author Marilynne Robinson brings another novel to her "Home" setting. (Ulf Andersen / Getty Images)

If there's a consolation for the end of summer, it's that fall brings an array of books and book events. Below are eight that no dedicated reader should overlook: the high points of a busy season in literature.

Sept. 17
The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher


For 40 years, Malcolm Margolin's Heyday Books has published the stories of California: fiction, poetry, history, lost classics, photography, art. Now Margolin takes his turn in the spotlight as the subject of Kim Bancroft's loving portrait "The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher." To mark the book's publication and the press' anniversary, Margolin and Bancroft will talk with Vincent Medina Jr. about Heyday, California and the importance of regional culture and literature.

Aloud at Los Angeles Public Library; free; (213) 228-7000;

Oct. 2
A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James

Inspired by the December 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley, James' third novel sets up lines just so it can blur them: equal parts thriller, character study, cultural history. At its center are the myths by which we define ourselves: myths of liberation, myths of degradation, myths of power and oppression and celebrity, and the uneasy and often contradictory ways they intersect.

Riverhead: 704 pp., $28.95

Oct. 7

Marilynne Robinson

Returning to the setting of her novels "Home" and the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Gilead," Robinson tells the story of a drifter (the Lila of the title) and her marriage to an Iowa minister. By turns romantic, spiritual, deeply concerned with matters of ethics and meaning, this is a particularly engaged brand of philosophical fiction in which the ideas are not abstractions but rather fundamentally rooted in the details of daily life.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 272 pp., $26

Oct. 7
Citizen: An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine

In this follow-up to her 2004 book, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely," Rankine again erases the lines of genre to explore race in contemporary America with language both delicate and hard-edged. So groundbreaking is Rankine's work that it's almost impossible to describe; suffice it to say that this is a poem that reads like an essay (or the other way around) — a piece of writing that invents a new form for itself, incorporating pictures, slogans, social commentary and the most piercing and affecting revelations to evoke the intersection of inner and outer life. Rankine will discuss the book with Robin Coste Davis and Maggie Nelson as part of the Public Library's Aloud series on Oct. 23.

Graywolf Press: 170 pp., $20 paper


Oct. 15
Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston: Wordless!

Billed as "an intellectual vaudeville show," this collaboration between "Maus" creator Spiegelman and jazz composer Johnston offers a history of "the wordless novel," referencing works by Lynd Ward, Frans Masereel, H.M. Bateman and Spiegelman himself. "I do need to talk to you about euphemisms," Spiegelman declares in a video teaser. "It's relevant to my obsession with wordless novels. They're arguably the first real graphic novels, and I've been called the father of the graphic novel. But I'm here today demanding a blood test."

Royce Hall, UCLA; $19-49; (310) 825-2101;

Oct. 29
An Evening With Jane Smiley

To mark the publication of her new novel, "Some Luck," Smiley — recently appointed distinguished professor of creative writing at UC Riverside — talks about the book and the writing life, a subject on which she is delightfully and cheerfully erudite. "We don't connect with literature in the intellect," Smiley has said. "We connect to it where we attach to dogs or boyfriends, at the deeper level of the self. … There's no novel that doesn't unfold the author's sensibility. So the more novels I read, the more sensibilities I have in my head, and the greater my sense of empathy."

Live Talks Los Angeles at Moss Theatre, New Roads School; $20-95;

Nov. 4
The Laughing Monsters

Denis Johnson

Johnson's 10th novel is a stunner: the story of Roland Nair, a rogue intelligence agent looking to make a big score in Sierra Leone amid the detritus and chaos of the post-war-on-terrorism world. Johnson's sentences are always brilliant — "In the silence," he writes, "which was nevertheless quite loud, his folly bore down on us like an iceberg" — but it is in the interstices, the gray areas of the story, that he really excels. "Since nine-eleven," a military interrogator tells Nair, "chasing myths and fairy tales has turned into a serious business. An industry. A lucrative one."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 228 pp., $25

Nov. 13
Jonathan Lethem and Lydia Millet

This is a real treat, Lethem and Millet reading together, he from the paperback of his 2013 novel, "Dissident Gardens," she from her new novel, "Mermaids in Paradise," which involves the discovery of mermaids — real ones — on a coral reef near a resort. These are two of our finest fiction writers: pointed, funny, full of insight, with a sense of ambition, a broad vision about the novel and what it can do.

Skylight Books; free; (323) 660-1175;

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