Summer is so often considered the season for reading. But autumn has its perks, too. Now is the time for cozying up with a mystery or thriller, hot cup of tea in your other hand (this is when an e-reader comes in handy).
Authors Isaac Fitzgerald, who recently published the the novel “Dirtbag Massachusetts,” and Qian Julie Wang, a civil rights lawyer whose memoir “Beautiful Country” was selected as a Read With Jenna pick, stopped by TODAY to share some recommendations for what to read next. (And it's not the first time).
Their picks span genres and formats — and age ranges. If you’re feeling "all noveled out," then peruse the graphic memoir “Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands,” set in the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, where the author worked for two years. If you want to revisit a beloved character, then Andrew Sean Greer’s followup to “Less” is another funny but bittersweet travelogue that Fitzgerald said “might be better than the first.” Or if you want a raucous read-a-long option, we have one of those, too.
Below, find more picks spanning from nonfiction to fiction.
Isaac Fitzgerald's recommendations
Andrew Sean Greer's novel "Less" won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. And now, the protagonist is back for another adventure — this time, a road trip.
"'Less Is Lost' finds hilarious protagonist Arthur Less going on a road trip across the United States — well, not so much 'across' as down the West Coast and then through the South and then up the East Coast again. Along the way Less meets a litany of wonderful characters, experiences a fair amount of personal growth, and in general will have even the most serious of readers laughing out loud as they quickly turn the pages of this thoroughly delightful novel. A sequel that very well might be better than the first book, which itself was an incredible success, 'Less Is Lost' is, simply put, a joy to read," Fitzgerald said.
"Cartoonist Kate Beaton's first graphic memoir is as beautiful as it is unrelenting," Fitzgerald said. The memoir is set in the two years Beaton spent working in the oil sands of Alberta, Canada — in an oil boomtown, Fort McMurray — in order to pay off her student loans.
"'Ducks' is a masterstudy of the rampant sexism and isolation she experienced both on the job and while living in the company worker camps; a hard look at what workers sacrifice in exchange for money; and the ways a country will allow petroleum corporations to ruin its natural beauty in exchange for profits. Beaton still makes time to show tender moments between the gruff workers, as well as the beauty of the land they are destroying in the name of oil. This is everything you want out of a memoir: personal, informative, pulling no punches while also leaving the reader with that difficult-to-capture feeling, hope," Fitzgerald said.
"Escoffery's debut is nothing short of breathtaking," Fitzgerald said. Comprised of eight linked stories that mostly revolve around a Jamaican immigrant family living in Miami, Fitzgerald said the book's "rich storytelling" and "triumphant worldbuilding" make it an "instant classic."
"The technical skill on the page is a feat to behold, each story leaving the reader with a sense that they have read an entire novel after only a few pages. At the heart of these stories is, yes, survival, but also poverty, family, and human struggle. But it is the way these stories are told — from different POVs throughout the collection — the way these issues are grappled with, that make 'If I Survive You' an absolute stunner," he said.
Jon Scieszka is the author of "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" and "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!" Here, Fitzgerald said he returns to his favorite pastime: "mucking about with classic nursery rhymes."
"This time Dadaism takes center stage, as Jon deconstructs and reconstructs the stories found within 'The Real Mother Goose' by Blanche Fisher Wright. Along with the wonderfully imaginative illustrations of Julia Rothman — who is also clearly having tremendous fun with the source material — here is an irreverent and absurdist collection that will delight language lovers of all ages, and almost certainly encourage young readers to start pulling their own poetry form the written world they find all around them," he said.
Qian Julie Wang's recommendations
Wang called this book an "unforgettable, searing, one-of-a-kind debut novel on what it is to come of age as a queer, Asian-American immigrant." The novel follows a group of millennial friends finding love and community amid pressures of societal expectations and the demands of a job in an unstable economy.
"Year of the Tiger" is a collection of essays, artwork, recipes, and conversations that traces Alice Wong's journey as an activist and community organizer who founded the Diability Visibility Project. "At once a celebration of Alice's love of art, food, and pop culture and a challenge to dismantle the systemic ableism that pervades our society, 'Year of the Tiger' is both inspirational and fun," Wang said.
Dani Shapiro previously wrote the memoirs "Inheritance" and "Devotion," but Wang is shouting out her recent fiction. "The book is about a family that attempts to heal and recover from a tragic accident over the course of many years, and examines what it means to be connected, to mourn, to hold secrets from those closest to us," she said.
Wang called this a "powerful, uplifting book about tweens in a South Bronx family shelter."
"June and her family are evicted from their Chinatown apartment after June's dad is killed in a delivery accident and upon moving in, she meets Tyrell, who has been there for years. The book movingly alternates between June's and Tyrell's voices as they band together and take on activism against the shelter and housing system," Wang said.