F. Scott Fitzgerald once said “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall” – and as much as I try not to listen to old dead white guys, this is one of my favourite quotes of all time. Fall is my favourite time of year – and only 40% of the reason is because I love *~sweatah weathah~*… 

So much happens in the fall: The fresh start of a new school year, changing leaves, Halloween, Pumpkin Spice, soup season, and some of the most highly anticipated books of the year come out.

Fall is often when publishers time their biggest releases – and I always end up adding more and more books to my (already concerningly tall) pile of books to read. From cozy mysteries and thrillers that leave your heart racing to big teen fantasies, or highly anticipated sequels. Combined with the fact that autumn means “curl up by a fireplace to read” weather – it really is prime bookworm season.

I normally try to recommend books you can pick up and read immediately, but this time I thought I would look ahead at titles soon to arrive to shelves (and a couple very recent releases) so you can plan your fall reading list. 

While you can always pop by your favourite local bookstore on release day, pre-orders are a great way to support authors, or “reserve” your copy of a book. When you pre-order books ahead of their release date, you show the publisher, and the bookseller that you’re excited about this book (and maybe other people will be too). This can help change marketing initiatives, or support, or help a bookseller decide whether they need to  order more copies of a book, or perhaps try to book an event with an author. 

You can also help build buzz for authors, which is especially important for debut authors, and authors from marginalized communities (e.g. BIPOC authors, and LGBTQ2SIA+ authors) – as you’re showing the book industry that not only do these books, and these authors sell, but people are so excited to buy these books that they’re ordering their copies early!

If cost is a factor, and you’re unable to afford to pre-order the book yourself, you can still help build “buzz” and support an author by asking your local library to pre-order it, and or putting it “on hold”.

As an avid bookworm, and someone in *~ the book industry~* I try to keep on top of upcoming book releases, both so I can add them to my never-ending pile of books “to read”, and so I can shout about them from the rooftops. 

Below are some of the books I’m most excited about for this fall. Some of these I’ve been lucky enough to have a chance to read already, but most of them, I can’t wait to get them in my hands!

Even if you don’t end up pre-ordering these books, you should still pick them up when they come out!

The Spectacular – Zoe Whittall (August 24th)

This book technically already came out, but it was at the end of August, so I’m counting it!

Award-winning writer Zoe Whittall’s latest novel, The Spectacular, is a multi-generational story that explores sexuality, gender, and reproductive freedom. It follows three generations of women – Missy, Carola, and Ruth – who are very different from one another, as they all attempt to build an authentic life – radically changing their definitions of love, family, gender, and romance, as they seek out lives that are nothing short of spectacular.

I fell in love with Whittall’s The Best Kind of People, largely because of the compelling and multi-faceted characters, and this book promises more of the same incredible character building, and fascinating relationship dynamics. From a young rockstar stranded at a border, to her mother – surfacing from a sex scandal, shocked to see her daughter for the first time in 10 years… On the cover of a magazine; To her grandmother, looking to move back to her homeland, only to have her granddaughter crash at her house – this book sounds like a spectacular (wink wink) recipe for an amazing read!

Plus, you can tune in to a conversation with the author, for free, on September 26th, at Word on the Street!

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina – Zoraida Córdova (September 7th)

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an atmospheric, lush, and unforgettable novel, full of magic, and myth. 

Equal parts stunning, and strange, this story follows the Montoyas, who are used to living a life without explanation – due to the strange, and unexplainable nature of their family matriarch — Orquídea Divina. When she invites them all to her funeral, in order to collect their inheritance, they hope to finally learn the secrets that she’s held on tightly to for their entire lives – instead, she transforms, and leaves them with more questions than answers… Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways, but soon, a hidden figure starts tearing through the family three, picking them off one by one, as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family, and uncover their matriarch’s secrets, Marimar, Rey, Tatinelly, and her daughter Rhiannon seek answers in Ecuador, learning more and more about Orquídea, and her buried secrets. 

This story was the perfect pairing of magical realism, and family drama – and I soaked up every word like a sponge. It was so compelling, and an absolute joy, and I can’t wait for more people to love this strange, and wonderful story.

Perfect for fans of The Immortalists, Night Circus, Mexican Gothic, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, this was a beautiful exploration of family – the messiness, the pain, the love, the strange traditions, and the lengths we go to, in order to protect the ones we love.

Borders – Thomas King (September 7th)

Adapted from one of Thomas King’s most celebrated short stories, Borders is a stunning graphic novel about a young boy who goes on a trip (with his mother), in order to visit his older sister, who has moved away from the family home on the reserve to Salt Lake City. When crossing the border, they are asked, “Are you Canadian, or American”.

To which they respond, “Blackfoot.”

When the border guards don’t accept their citizenship, mother and son wind up trapped in an all too real limbo between nations that do not recognize who they are, and where they come from. Exploring themes of identity, belonging, and the significance of physical borders, from an Indigenous perspective. 

Illustrated by Natasha Donovan, this graphic novel is a beautiful exploration of a family caught between nations. Although it is technically a book for young readers, this powerful story  is one that every Canadian should read. 

Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas – Omar Mouallem (September 21st)

In Praying to the West, journalist Omar Mouallem travels to thirteen unique, and remarkable mosques, from California, to Quebec to Brazil – exploring the unknown history of Islam across the Americas. 

Mouallem grew up in a Muslim household, but always questioned his relationship to Islam, and its role in his life, frequently criticizing what he saw as the harms of organized religion. However, none of that changed the way others saw him. Now, as a father, in this era of Trumpism, ISIS, ethnonationalism, genocide, and misinformation, he felt “compelled to reclaim the thing that makes [him] a target.” 

In Praying to the West, Mouallem explores Islam and how it shaped him, his values, his politics, and his connection with his own roots; while seeking a better, more inclusive future for everyone.

I can’t wait to read this – I feel like it would be valuable and enriching for so many of us. I think it’s really important for [us] to  work to decolonize our histories, and our relationship to our culture(s), and our roots, and unlearn the predominant narratives we are taught — and I think this book will be a powerful step to learning about Islam’s often complicated history and relationship to the Americas. 

Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao (September 21st)

Iron Widow is one of my favourite books of the year – and maybe ever. Inspired by Chinese history, Pacific Rim, and feminist rage, this book was breathtaking, and brilliant, taking you along at a breakneck pace. 

Set in Huaxia, where the boys dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises – giant transforming robots that can battle the massive, mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t even matter that girls often die from the mental straight of co-piloting Chrysalises.

When 18-year old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine pilot, she does it with the ulterior motive, to assassinate the male pilot responsible for her sister’s death… But she gets revenge in a way no one ever expected – she kills him through the psych link between co-pilots, and emerges unscathed from the cockpit. Labelled an Iron Widow – a feared, and often silenced female pilot, she is paired with the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia… But now that she’s had a taste of power, she won’t go down easily, as she tries to uncover why the pilot system is so misogynistic, and to stop more girls from being sacrificed… Even if she has to burn it all down to do it!

With twists and turns that made me gasp out loud, and thoughtful, multi-faceted characters, this book was powerful, fierce, and unapologetic, in all the best ways. I’m so impressed by Xiran Jay Zhao’s debut, and I can’t wait to read more from them. 

Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance — Jesse Wente (September 21st)

Jesse Wente is an incredibly powerful Indigenous voice in Canada, and over the years, I have learnt a lot from the perspectives and ideas he has shared. 

There’s something about the phrase “part memoir, part manifesto” that is the key to my heart, and I cannot wait to read Unreconciled.

This book is a “call to arms”, shining a brutal and harsh light to the flawed concept of reconciliation, and showing a path towards building a new, respectful relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. Jesse explores his personal history, as the child of an American father, and an Anishinaabe mother, and his understanding of what it means to be an Indigenous person, in a modern society that is still so rooted in colonialism. 

From his grandmother’s experience in residential school, to his own experiences being racially profiled by police, Unreconciled is Wente’s story, but it’s also an analysis of representation in media, Indigenous identity, cultural appropriation, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty.

Another must read for every Canadian, I have a feeling we will continue to look back at this book as a cultural cornerstone.

Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes – Phoebe Robinson (September 28th)

I think Phoebe Robinson is smart, and hilarious, and I want to be her friend! (If you’re reading this Phoebe, we should get a virtual coffee sometime!!!!!)

Comedian, author, actress, producer, and publisher (!!) Phoebe Robinson is back with a brand new essay collection about race, hair, travel, dating, Black excellence, human connection, and more. If you’ve ever read anything by Robinson below, you’ll now that her voice, and her wit are unforgettable, and I’m excited to read her latest collection.

Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes  is a collection of essays on a wide array of topics: From the values she learnt from her parents; To her and her boyfriend’s decision not to have children; To her struggle to love her 4C hair; To the ways the Black Lives Matter movement took centre stage in America. Phoebe’s writing and sense of humour are their own unique flavours, peppered with laugh out loud funny anecdotes, and pop culture references that are so on point it hurts – I can’t wait to dig into this book! 

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted – Jayne Allen (September 28th)

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is the first novel in a three-book series about modern womanhood, in which Tabitha Walker, a young Black woman, with a plan to “have it all” must rely on courage, laughter, love, and the support of her two long-time friends, to overcome an unexpected diagnosis, that threatens to upend the most precious thing she’s ever wanted: having children. 

All of a sudden, she is forced to make the impossible choice between her career, her dream home, and a family of her own. As Tabby discovers, soon her grandmother’s age-old adage might still be true: “Black girls must die exhausted.” 

This book was jam packed, and compelling, full of complex, messy, and beautiful characters, and their lives, and I look forward to seeing what happens next in the series.

The Strangers – Katherena Vermette (September 28th)

Katherena Vermette’s debut novel, The Break, took my breath away. 

Vermette’s writing is powerful, painful, hopeful, and hauntingly brilliant – a literary tour de force, whenever I read her works, I find myself completely immersed – lost in her words, and in the worlds she creates. Truly, I am blown away by her literary talent.

The Strangers is her latest novel, an intergenerational saga that explores how connected we are, even when we’re forced apart. A companion to The Break, this is a searing exploration of race, class, inherited trauma, and matrilineal bonds that refuse to be broken – despite everything. 

Following Cedar, Elsie, and Phoenix – the Strangers – each one haunted in her own way, as they diverge and reconnect – fighting to survive in a system that’s rigged against them. 

I am NOT ready, but at the same time, I am counting down the days to its release.

I Love You, Call Me Back – Sabrina Benaim (October 19th)

Sabrina Benaim is an excellent poet – and I’m not the only one who thinks so! She’s one of the most-viewed spoken word poets of ALL time. Her book Depression & Other Magic Tricks was incredible – it broke down stigma around mental illness in such a thoughtful, resonant way, and I truly cannot wait for her latest collection.

I Love You, Call Me Back features 75 original poems, unfurling over the course of one month in 2020, and exploring the mental health struggles and the uncertainties so many of us were facing. Benaim writes about loneliness – and all its faces: Living in a world under lockdown; The sorrow of getting her voicemail, when you call your mother to say “I love you”, The bittersweet feeling of your dog taking up your ex’s side of the bed; The anxieties of caring for loved ones from afar; And the joys of singing badly and loudly, and eating ice cream for dinner.

In Benaim’s own words, “sometimes self-care is just surviving”, and that’s okay. I cannot wait for this book to break my heart (in a good way)!!

You’ve Reached Sam – Dustin Thao (November 9th)

There’s probably a healthier way of dealing with your emotions, but sometimes you just need a good cathartic cry to a young adult romance about love, loss, and what it means to say goodbye.

You’ve Reached Sam is a contemporary Young Adult novel that follows 17-year old Julie, who has her whole future planned out – from moving out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, to attending college in the city, and spending a Summer in Japan… but everything changes when Sam dies.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries to forget him, and the tragic way he died – but she can’t escape her heartbreak when she reads the message Sam left behind for her in her yearbook. It forces back memories, and desperate to hear his voice once more, Sam calls his cellphone, just to listen to his voicemail… And Sam picks up the phone.

Julie has been given a temporary connection to Sam, and a second chance at goodbye – but it’s harder than she thinks, and it gets harder and harder to let him go… But keeping otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially since she’s not the only one missing him – his family is suffering with grief. Unable to stand by on the sidelines, Julie is torn between spilling the truth, and losing him forever.

Just take my money, and break my heart, Dustin Thao!! 

My Body – Emily Ratajkowski (November 9th)

Last Fall, I read Emily Ratajkowski’s powerful essay for The Cut, Buying Myself Back, and it blew me away. Not just because (full disclosure) I knew very little about her, except that she was a gorgeous model and actress.

Reading her essay made me realize, first of all, how reductive my perceptions of her had been, but also what a great writer she was. Living in a culture that values (and capitalizes upon) our bodies – one that constantly (and horrifyingly) blurs the lines between fame and ownership – I was fascinated, and enraged by Ratajkowski’s retellings of some of the most significant experiences trying to take ownership of her body, and herself (sometimes literally). 

In My Body, Ratajkowski explores her own perspectives on feminist empowerment and sexuality – discussing our culture’s commodification (and fetishization) of women, of beauty, and of sexuality. A powerful, thoughtful, and sure to be incisive skewering of society, and the perverse dynamics of the fashion and film industries, as well as the grey area between consent and abuse.

I am thrilled for Ratajkowski to be able to share her story, and cannot wait for the opportunity to read more of her powerful work.

If This Gets Out – Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich (December 7th)

An edgy and adorable teen rom com, If This Gets Out follows 18-year old Ruben and Zach, two of the members of the boy-band Saturday – one of the biggest acts in America. They’re teen heartbreakers on stage, and best friends behind the scenes… But cracks are starting to form, under the pressures of fame, and Ruben’s pressure (from management) to stay in the closet.

As they tour through Europe, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other  more and more – and their friendship begins to turn into a romance. They’re falling for each other, but they know their management won’t support their romance, or them coming out to their fans.

A queer boyband romance for everyone who read One Direction fanfiction the ages – I literally cannot wait to read it!

Ameema Saeed (@ameemabackwards) is a storyteller, a Capricorn, an avid bookworm, and a curator of very specific playlists, customized book recommendations, and cool earrings. She enjoys bad puns, good food, dancing, and talking about feelings. She writes about books, unruly bodies, and her lived experiences, and hopes to write an essay collection one day. When she’s not reading books, or buying books (her other favourite hobby), she likes to talk about books (especially diverse books, and books by diverse authors) on her bookstagram: @ReadWithMeemz