Though the Marvel universe encompasses galaxies (not to mention half a million pages), that didn’t stop Wolk from reading all 27,000+ comics that comprise the universe. His new book looks at how its principal characters — the Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-Men — have left their mark on American culture, and what the enduring popularity of Marvel says about us.
In this companion to “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002),” Sedaris mines his old journals for overheard jokes, observations about bureaucratic exchanges and baffling encounters. (At one point he realizes that entries about mice would make for “an edge-of-your-seat thriller for cats.”) Readers feel the passage of time through his own experiences — watching his agent slide into dementia, grieving after his sister’s death — and larger events, like Brexit, the invasion of Iraq and the election of Donald Trump.
Touching on everything from Blaxploitation to “Black Panther,” this new history uses film as a way explore Black culture. The book opens with “The Birth of a Nation” — “the movie that started it all,” a caption notes — and dives into the lives of prominent Black filmmakers and actors, including Spike Lee, Halle Berry, Sidney Poitier and Ava DuVernay.
‘Crossroads,’ by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Oct. 5)
The first installment in a promised trilogy, this book unfolds in the Chicago suburbs in the 1970s. The Hildebrandts are headed up by Russ, a pastor, and Marion, his wife, whose plain and unassuming affect conceals plenty of secrets. Over the course of the novel, the family members question their faith, authenticity and values — a college-age son volunteers to fight in Vietnam, a strait-laced teenage daughter experiments with drugs. Our critic wrote that the novel is Franzen’s warmest yet, “wider in its human sympathies, weightier of image and intellect.”
‘Fight Night,’ by Miriam Toews (Bloomsbury, Oct. 5)
Three generations of a family are shadowed by the specter of mental illness and a strict religious community in this story of mothers and daughters. Composed of unsent letters, the novel centers on the relationship between 9-year-old Swiv and her fierce grandmother, Elvira, who encourages her to fight for her own survival and pursuit of independence and joy.
‘Going There,’ by Katie Couric (Little, Brown, Oct. 26)
For decades, Couric has been one of the most visible journalists in the United States. But the exposure doesn’t necessarily mean readers really know her: “Television can put you in a box; the flat-screen can flatten,” she says. “It is not the whole story, and it is not the whole me. This book is.” Along the way, she touches on career milestones (and the sexism she faced), the aftermath of her husband’s early death from cancer and her working relationship with Matt Lauer.
In 2013, Elliott introduced readers to Dasani, an 11-year-old girl living in a New York City homeless shelter. This book, which juxtaposes eight years in Dasani’s life against the story of her family’s journey north during the Great Migration, offers a powerful view of poverty and economic inequality.
‘The Lincoln Highway,’ by Amor Towles (Viking, Oct. 5)
In his third novel, Towles, the author of the best-selling “A Gentleman in Moscow,” follows a teenager on a cross-country journey. Emmett, who has just been driven home to Nebraska by a warden at the juvenile work farm where he’s served time, plans to scoop up his younger brother and head west. But when he realizes two of his former bunkmates from the farm have stowed away in the trunk of the warden’s car, his life takes a different turn.
Sanneh, a New Yorker writer and former pop music critic for The Times, distills the past 50 years by zeroing in on several significant genres: rock, R&B, country, punk, hip-hop, dance music and pop. He calls this a “tribal” book, asserting the importance of labels to understanding music’s cultural role. The persistence of genres, he writes, “has shaped the way music is made and also the way we hear it.”
‘Monster in the Middle,’ by Tiphanie Yanique (Riverhead, Oct. 19)
To understand Fly and Stela’s romance — and the baggage they’ve each brought to it — this novel delves into their secret-laced family histories, looking at their parents’ lives and own comings-of-age, leaping from Ghana to the Virgin Islands to 21st-century New York.
‘My Monticello: Fiction,’ by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (Henry Holt, Oct. 5)
A debut collection follows Black characters confronting the legacy of racism — while reminding readers that white supremacy is still part of American culture. The title novella is set in the dystopian near future, as a descendant of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson leads a group of Black and brown people under threat from white militias to seek refuge in the Monticello plantation.
‘Oh William!’ by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, Oct. 19)
Readers of Strout’s earlier fiction, including “My Name Is Lucy Barton” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Olive Kitteridge,” will recognize characters and places in her latest novel. Lucy, who narrates, recounts what happens when her ex-husband, William, asks her to help him investigate a family secret.
‘Silverview,’ by John le Carré (Viking, Oct. 12)
Sixty years ago, le Carré published his first novel, upending the spy novel genre. Now, 10 months after his death, comes his last, a story of a bookseller on the English coast who’s swept up in a broader espionage mystery. “The book is fraught, forensic, lyrical and fierce, at long last searching the soul of the modern Secret Intelligence Service itself,” le Carré’s youngest son, Nick Cornwell, said. “It’s a superb and fitting final novel.”
‘State of Terror,’ by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny (Simon & Schuster/St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 12)
After joining the cabinet of a former political rival, Secretary of State Ellen Adams has inherited the challenge of repairing the country’s image abroad after years of faltering diplomacy. But she soon has a more pressing problem: A new terrorist organization targets the global order.