This fall marks an unusual season for books, with some titles delayed by the pandemic finally making their arrivals and the presidential election driving readers toward politics. Still, publishers say there is room for plenty more on the shelf as consumers turn to books in challenging times. Among new high-profile fiction is Martin Amis’s “Inside Story,” a genre-blurring novel publishing Oct. 27, about his real-life friendships with the late provocateur Christopher Hitchens and others. The autumn also ushers in nonfiction including celebrity memoirs with critical ambitions, tales from the kitchen by people of color and big biographies.
Fall is weird this year. But that doesn’t mean it is canceled. The Wall Street Journal distills the trends shaping the fall entertainment season in a series of stories this week about what’s coming in books, movies, TV, music, art and new media.
Celebrity memoirs have evolved as a genre in recent years, often with help from high-profile ghostwriters and co-authors who guide the storytelling. Autobiographies by famous people—a genre that includes recent critical hits like Jessica Simpson’s “Open Book” and Demi Moore’s memoir “Inside Out”—are angling for respect this fall.
In “Dolly Parton, Songteller,” out Nov. 17, Ms. Parton, who also will release a holiday album this fall, explores the inspiration behind her lyrics. “It felt like the Holy Grail in my hands,” Rebecca Hunt, her editor at Chronicle Books, said of the book proposal. Ms. Parton writes her lyrics with intention. “Nothing is done just because,” said Ms. Hunt. “I’m hoping this book reflects how rich her mind is and how thoughtful she is about everything.”
A book from another pop-culture queen, Mariah Carey, arrives Sept. 29. “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” written with Michaela Angela Davis, explores the singer’s career, relationships and biracial identity. It comes from Bravo host Andy Cohen’s publishing imprint.
Repeat memoirist Michael J. Fox returns with “No Time Like the Future,” out Nov. 17. He examines his life in the nearly three decades since his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, after a serious surgery on his spine, a dangerous fall and the progression of his debilitating illness.
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In the book, he tells personal stories that sometimes sound like allegories, like the time on a safari when a guide pointed out a leopard in a tree. Mr. Fox wasn’t scared of it face-to-face. But the next day, with his SUV stuck near a savanna watering hole at twilight, he sensed another leopard lurking in a nearby tree. It was this leopard, the one he didn’t see, the one that probably wasn’t even there, that scared him the most.
Chefs of Color
Authors of color explore the traditions, recipes and stories behind cuisines that often have been sidelined in a culinary world that is going through its own reckoning with race.
“There is no American food without African American tradition,” said Marcus Samuelsson, a celebrated chef whose new book “The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food,” arrives Oct. 27. The book offers recipes, pantry notes, anecdotes and interviews with chefs, historians and writers. One memorable passage features the late New Orleans chef Leah Chase, who once served President Obama a bowl of gumbo and smacked his hand when he sprinkled on hot sauce. “Don’t mess up your gumbo,” she said.
Also on the way: Hawa Hassan’s “In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean,” out Oct. 13, and Meera Sodha’s “East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing,” out Oct. 20. Ayesha Curry, a best-selling author, TV personality and wife of basketball’s Stephen Curry, has a cookbook out Sept. 22, “The Full Plate: Flavor-Filled, Easy Recipes for Families with No Time and a Lot to Do.”
More books are coming. Osayi Endolyn, an award-winning food writer and a co-author of “The Rise,” has a book deal with Amistad for 2022. And Yewande Komolafe, the lead recipe developer for Mr. Samuelsson’s cookbook, is working on her own book of Nigerian cooking due out next year from Ten Speed Press.
Discussions of Sylvia Plath often bring up her suicide at age 30. A new biography recasts her work and relationships as more than a prelude to a dramatic end. In “Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath,” out Oct. 20, Heather Clark examines Ms. Plath’s determination to follow an unconventional path. A victim of psychiatric mismanagement who had shock therapy, the poet channeled and even exploited her illness for her art, Ms. Clark writes. She quotes from Ms. Plath’s journal: “There is an increasing market for mental-hospital stuff. I am a fool if I don’t relive, or recreate it.”
Elsewhere in the cosmos, Leonard Mlodinow releases “Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics” on Sept. 8. The author, a friend and colleague of the renowned physicist who died in 2018, humanizes the genius. He recalls an outing with Mr. Hawking on the River Cam, when the wheelchair-bound scientist had to be carried to the boat by two helpers, disconnected from the computer that enabled him to communicate and have his head turned left and right to admire the view.
“Despite the great limitations of his disability,” Mr. Mlodinow said, “he enjoyed the everyday activities of life.”
In “Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers who Defied a Nation,” out Oct. 27, Peter Cozzens explores Tecumseh, his often-misunderstood brother Tenskwatawa and their fight for a Native American confederacy against westward expansion by white settlers. Mr. Cozzens writes: “It is only fair to conclude that the Shawnee brothers also were among the most influential siblings in the annals of America.”
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