Open Book: 10 Under-the-Radar Reads Coming Out This Fall

Get those bookmarks ready!

There are so many big, bold books coming out this fall by established authors. And that’s great! I can’t wait for Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle, Nicholas Sparks’s The Wish, Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, The Antisocial Network by Ben Mezrich, Susan Orlean’s On Animals, Pony by R.J. Palacio, and a searing memoir by Alyssa Milano, Sorry Not Sorry. Speaking of memoirs, let’s not forget Katie’s book, Going There, which is at the top of my must-read list. But sometimes the bright light of superstar authors can eclipse other lesser-known titles just as worthy of the attention. Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing, was an undiscovered novelist writing science-themed books who went on to sell 10 million copies. Who knew?!

Here are a few new authors and books that you might have missed. Now you won’t!

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen (Sept. 28, 2021)

The first of a trilogy starring Tabitha, a Black female protagonist grappling with a recent infertility diagnosis, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is smart, funny, relatable, and entertaining. Just like its author. Jayne Allen is the pen name of Jaunique Sealey, a Duke University and Harvard Law School graduate with a smashingly successful career in music. (Late night car rides with Prince, anyone!?) But Jaunique turned to writing and actually self-published this book first after some gatekeepers kept her out. Her ingenuity made the book fly off the shelves and it was picked up by a traditional publisher, Harper Perennial. Watch out for Jaunique to be a big hit on the literary scene, not least of all because she is the VP of strategy and community for my own new publishing business, Zibby Books.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo (Oct. 5, 2021)

This beautiful story by a Nigerian-born British author answers that burning question: what if you found a hidden treasure trove and it revealed secrets about your family you never knew!? In Anna’s case, it’s the father she never met and what unfolds when she goes to track him down in person. Beautifully written, this is a literary love story from a daughter to a father — and shows the disappointment that can come with that relationship.

The Last Season by Jenny Judson & Danielle Mahfood (Oct. 19, 2021)

Old school historical romance is not typically my genre, but this sweeping, expertly-written narrative by two friends from St. Paul’s boarding school who split ways to go to Harvard and Yale is like a smart dose of Downton Abbey. Set in Victorian England, this story about a wealthy young woman and the stable boy at her “manor” as their fortunes rise and fall over the years has all the saucy ingredients for an epic escapist read.

But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage in Pieces and Bits by Kimberly Harrington (Oct. 5, 2021)

A brilliant collection of essays, this deeply felt, clever tome is a “biography of a marriage,” as we watch one couple’s issues throughout the years. As someone who got divorced (and remarried), I dove into this one head first and was delighted by the freshness of the material, the insights, the humor, the emotions, and what happens behind someone else’s bedroom door.

The Family by Naomi Krupitsky (Nov. 2, 2021)

A debut novel (think a female version of The Sopranos), this drama about The Family follows two girlfriends from youth through life as they navigate the world of mafia-dom. That’s the sign of an interesting book: when the narrator or protagonist lives an unusual, fascinating world — but doesn’t even really know it. As voyeurs, we get to watch two women love and lose, feel and learn, while losing ourselves in the staccato melody of Naomi’s prose. Unlike watching The Sopranos, which might take a few minutes of streamer searching to start, to access this family, you just have to flip open the book.

Punching Bag by Rex Ogle (Oct. 5, 2021)

Rex Ogle’s first book Free Lunch was emotional, moving, and truly eye-opening, a detailed recounting of growing up abused, hungry, and poor. Punching Bag takes Rex’s unfortunate family narrative deeper into his high school years and sets the stage for how he grew up to become a phenomenal writer. I haven’t stopped thinking about Rex after reading some of the stories he shared in his first book. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one.

In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

What a plot! A white man gets into trouble at work and must avert an international PR crisis. And yet the book isn’t about him. It’s about three women in his orbit: a love interest, a colleague brought in to clean up the mess, and a housecleaner. All Black. This novel by an international travel writer is captivating and thought-provoking. I can’t wait to see this as a movie. Film rights, anyone?

See Jane Snap by Bethany Crandell

I mean, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? So at the edge of our rope that we might just…snap!? Well, Jane actually does something slightly insane in this narrative, an act that doesn’t jive with her sensible wife/mom reputation. But sometimes finding out your dreamboat doctor husband has been hiding something major from you might just push you over the edge. As onlookers from behind the cover of this book, it feels cathartic to see someone actually act out.

No Cure For Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) by Kate Bowler (Sept. 28, 2021)

If you don’t know Kate Bowler, you should. I’ve been reading her work for years and yet she seems to be relegated to a more Christian or religious segment when really she must be known by everyone. This interior monologue about her cancer battle and her life is unputdownable in its blunt honesty, soulfulness, and vulnerability.

We Are Not Like Them by Jo Piazza and Christine Pride (Oct. 5, 2021)

These two publishing world veterans have teamed up to form a new writing entity. The output is a moving, at times horrifying, look at race relations as told through the eyes of two families divided by a racially motivated shooting.


Owens is an author, publisher, and podcast host of Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, where she features incredible books just like these.

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