The Great Booksellers Fall 2016 Preview

When in Doubt, Ask a Bookseller

August 31, 2016  By Literary Hub

Summer is basically over. And as the nights grow colder, and the sweaters come out, so too, it seems, do all the books. So, what to read? With that ever-difficult question in mind, we turned to some of our favorite booksellers across the country (and Canada!) to find out what books they’re most excited about this fall.

loner teddy wayne

Loner, Teddy Wayne
(9/1, Simon & Schuster)

My quick pitch for Loner is “Humbert Humbert goes to Harvard.” Teddy Wayne, author of the Bieber-inspired novel The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, drops his readers inside his young characters’ heads with a vibrant sense of authenticity and authority that is almost intoxicating. In Loner, you realize far too late how far off the rails you’ve followed its first-year student protagonist in his obsessions.

–Alex Meriwether, Harvard Bookstore

the minotaur takes his own sweet time

The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time, Steven Sherrill
(9/1, John F. Blair, Publisher)

I was delighted to read this sequel released SIXTEEN YEARS after the original, The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break. Instead of the steakhouse in the South, the Minotaur (“M”) is now working in the North as a Confederate soldier impersonator at a reenactment park. M’s perspective on the human race (he has been living with them for thousands of years now, after all) is a voice unique in all fiction. And while his observations may be from an immortal perspective, his personal problems are all too human and small. He loves. He pines. He suffers. He has moments of heroism and humility. He still makes stupid mistakes, like humans, fueled by impulses he feels helpless to resist. For me, he is one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever read. If you think you’re going to have trouble getting past the minotaur thing, you won’t. Sherrill’s prose is captivating from page one. The poet novelist has hit it out of the park again!  

–Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore

mischling cover

Mischling, Affinity Konar
(9/6, Lee Boudreaux Books)

Maybe we must bear witness to unspeakable evil, the way it twists and terrorizes and destroys, before we can (ironically) even begin to comprehend what is truly magnificent about humanity. Konar, in her tale of twin girls in the hands of Josef Mengele, has accomplished this miracle. In a book shot full of joy and anguish, she shows us that courage can be as boundless as the evil of Auschwitz. Her narrative genius, her power to turn the unimaginable into vivid, harrowing reality, the leavening quality of her humor do more than transport us, they make us SEE.

–Betsy Burton, The King’s English Bookshop

If you read one book this year, prepare to be swept away by this luminous story of twins surviving the horrors of Auschwitz. Pearl and Stasha both narrate this journey from cattle car to a park in Warsaw. The sisters are forced to endure the experiments of Josef Mengele and yet they survive—participating in camp events, plotting the death of Mengele and finding hope in despair. The pace is so beautiful that you must take your time with her words—imaginative, humorous, and transcendent.  

–Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop

The story is focused on two 12-year-old Polish twin sisters taken to Auschwitz in 1944, and explores the world of the children who were subjects of Nazi doctor and scientist Josef Mengele, and his horrifying experiments. The two characters narrate alternating chapters of their story with Pearl being the more restrained and observant sister and Stasha, the more impulsive one. The strength and bond between the two of them is what drew me to this story. Although the subject matter may be difficult to read for some, the story of survival and hope among the atrocities of war is what makes this a must read.

–Jessica Brudner, Galiano Island Books


A Gentleman In Moscow, Amor Towles
(9/6, Viking)

What does a certain Russian Count do when the Bolshevik Revolution occurs? Why, he travels home to Russia and takes up residence in the Metropol Hotel in the heart of Moscow. As the revolutionaries take control of the government, however, the Count is declared a Former Person, and is confined to the Metropol for the rest of his life. It is better than taking up the cause of the White Russians and getting shot. In fact, though forced from his suite of rooms on the third floor to a tiny garret room, the Count faces every hardship with optimism, a small library, many friends, and a stash of gold coins that he cashes in when necessary. A young girl named Nina, also living at the hotel, befriends the Count, and the two strike up a strong relationship. Nina eventually joins a young communist party group, marries, and follows her arrested husband to Siberia, but not before dropping off her six-year-old daughter, Sophie, at the Metropol to be cared for by the Count. When Nina fails to return, the Count raises Sophie as his own daughter, watching her become a talented musician, who one day has the opportunity to travel to Paris. Using this opportunity, the Count, now 63 years old, concocts a plan to liberate both Sophie and himself from under the thumb of the Soviet government.

Towles’ Count Rostov is  a wonderfully imagined character, and this novel is witty, just a tad quirky, full of literary allusions, a lot of fun and games and suspenseful turns of event. One gets the impression that the Count enjoyed toying with the communist authorities, outwitting them with the help of many friends within and outside of the Metropol. The novel reads a little bit like The 100 Year Old Man…, a little bit like City of Thieves, a little bit like “Casablanca,” and is simply a joy to read.

–Alice Meloy, Blue Willow Bookshop

We Eat Our Own cover

We Eat Our Own, Kea Wilson
(9/6, Scribner)

Written by fellow bookseller Kea Wilson, We Eat Our Own is her debut novel about an enigmatic film shoot in the Amazon jungle, helmed by a director with a serious sadistic streak. This wonderfully compelling novel blurs the line between art and life (or is it death?) and is infused with the author’s love of Italian horror films of the 1970s.

–Andy Bellows, City Lights Books


Power Ballads, Garrett Caples
(9/6, Wave Books)

This is probably one of the funniest and most playful poetry collections to be published this year, but it is also filled to the brim with refreshingly direct and tender love poems and dedications to friends (and a particularly great poem for the city of Oakland). Also included: a prose chapter analyzing Marlon Brando’s gut, lines stolen from Dylan and Tupac, many guest appearances by Bay Area poets, and a poem called ‘Garrett Caples Rides Again.’

–Chris Carosi, City Lights Books


Calamities, Renee Gladman
(9/6, Wave Books)

Renee Gladman is one of the great hybridizers of contemporary letters. Both familiar and disorienting, Calamities reads like a series of personal essays-cum prose poems, cum belles letters—immediate and personal. The book focuses on the minute dilemmas of a contemporary life: theoretically Gladman’s, but possibly our own. Calamities draws us into its own looking-glass world of language and time, the spaces of life happening and not happening all at once, and Gladman balances everything gracefully atop her sparse, nearly ambient prose. So rarely can syntax catch the heart off guard.  

–Jarrod Annis, Greenlight Bookstore

the revolutionaries try again

The Revolutionaries Try Again, Mauro Javier Cardenas
(9/6, Coffee House Press)

This dazzling debut by Mauro Javier Cardenas reads like António Lobo Antunes having a cup of coffee (or a beer) with Garcia Marquez. Dense, political and stylistically innovative, Cardenas reunites four friends in Ecuador in an attempt to bring about a political and social transformation. Challenging, complex and bursting with voices, The Revolutionaries Try Again is the arrival of an incredible new voice.

–Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore

How should a book reflect its world? So often we read books that try to straighten things out, but here is a book whose form is like the content of lives. Shaken, complex, and usually in the end the joke is on us.   

–Sam Goldstein, Skylight Books

the evil wizard smallbone

The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman
(9/13, Candlewick)

When Nick runs away from home in the Maine woods, he winds up apprenticed to the foul-tempered Evil Wizard Smallbone, who runs a sentient bookshop. Only the bookshop seems to want Nick to learn magic—but he’d better learn magic quick, to stand up to the gang of were-coyotes threatening him, the Wizard Smallbone, and the peculiarly peaceful nearby village of… wait. That part’s definitely a surprise.

–Alex S., Brookline Booksmith

the hidden life of trees

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, Peter Wohlleben
(9/13, Greystone Books)

Fascinating stories supported by scientific research, stories revealing an amazing world of trees and forest and processes the author observed himself in the woodland. Wohlleben shares his deep love for woods and illustrates how trees communicate, and compares the life of trees to human families, where tree parents live with their children, care for and support each other, share nutrients etc. They create whole ecosystems unknown to us before.

–Hanna Kaczerowska, Galiano Island Books


Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
(9/13, Harper)

Because Ann Patchett and I own a bookstore together, you could say I’m a little biased. That said, this is my favorite of Ann’s books so far. Coming from a family that was affected by divorce and remarriage with kids thrown together whether they liked it or not, I found a lot I could relate to in this memorable story. Irony, humor, drama, love—it’s all there in this complex, satisfying novel.  

–Karen Hayes, Parnassus Books

Eve Out of Her Ruins Cover

Eve Out of Her Ruins, Ananda Devi (trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman)
(9/13, Deep Vellum Publishing)

Set in a poor section of Port-Louis, Mauritius, this prize-winning novel is a poetic and intense exploration of young lives thrown away by society. Told in four different voices and haunted by the specter of Rimbaud, Devi explores the violence, identity, and dreams of young people living discarded lives. For fans of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

–Josh, Porter Square Books

little nothing

Little Nothing, Marisa Silver
(9/13, Blue Rider Press)

I loved God of War and Mary Coin by Marisa Silver, neither of which prepared me for this fabulist novel, Little Nothing. Following a dream logic all of its own, this magical telling of the story of a dwarf girl’s tortured transformations through unspecified Eastern European landscapes early in the 20th century, is a modern-day tale told in an almost oral storytelling style. You give up your disbelief early on, and hang it on the coatrack, leaving you comfortably seated for a hallucinogenic ride exploring Time, nothingness, change, love, poverty, cruelty, all delivered in comfortingly cadenced prose. It’s a marvel.

–John Evans, Diesel Bookstores

black wave

Black Wave, Michelle Tea
(9/13, Feminist Press)

It’s 1999. It’s the apocalypse. But first there’s sex, and drugs, and drinking; first there’s writing, and sobriety, and meta-narrative. Comparisons are odious, but I can’t resist: this is the queer, left coast, working-class 10:04, and I absolutely loved it. I want to put Black Waves (so hilarious! so terrifying!) into everybody’s hands.

–Kyle McCarthy, BookCourt

after james

After James, Michael Helm
(9/13, Tin House)

A 21st-century masterclass in the use of genre to explore our ever-changing, and ever-slipping, grasp on reality. Helm draws on a base of knowledge broad and deep, from etymology to neuropharmaceuticals, from poetry to cybersecurity, to craft three murkily connected tales that point toward the best kind of cosmic disquiet: beyond comprehension and just out of sight.

–Chris Phipps, Diesel Bookstores

if venice dies

If Venice Dies, Salvatore Settis (trans. André Naffis-Sahely)
(9/13, New Vessel Press)

An alarming look at how the tourism industry is threatening to destroy Venetian culture—and with it, its history and identity—and what this means for the world at large. Written with a sense of urgency that mirrors its subject, If Venice Dies will fascinate anyone interested in Venice, Italy, architecture, cities, culture, politics, and history.

–Hannah Jansen, Harvard Bookstore


Ghosts, Raina Telgemeier
(9/13, GRAPHIX)

This highly anticipated new graphic novel from Telgemeier has all the warmth, heart, family and friend love of her previous books, but delves for the first time into magical realism. Such an exciting new path from an author we already love to pieces.

–Katherine Fergason, Harvard Bookstore

the journey

The Journey, Francesca Sanna
(9/13, Flying Eye Books)

At first glance The Journey seems to be a picture book for children but quickly reveals itself as a troubling mirror for adults today. This masterpiece—and I do not use that word lightly—is a story of a refugee family escaping their unnamed country in pursuit of safety. What is unsaid speaks volumes, and the illustrations will remain in mind long after The Journey ends.

–Cressida Hanson, Kepler’s

nine island

Nine Island, Jane Alison
(9/13, Catapult)

Readers know there is only one thing better than finding the perfect book, and that is when the perfect book finds you. Falling out of the ARC pile onto my foot, Nine Island by Jane Alison, just as sharply, unexpectedly and comically delivered, demanded my full attention from the first page to the last. Brief, rapid-fire chapters will escort you into the mind and life of J through her seemingly random, yet intricately entwined thoughts and observations. Set in the tropical concrete mecca of Miami, J weaves through relationships: past and present, furry and feathered, solid and fluid, on her road to rediscovering how to “live that life.”

–Kim Britt, Bookmark It

shakespeare and co

Shakespeare and Co., Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, ed. Krista Halverson
(9/16, Shakespeare and Co.)

There’s nothing better than bookstores publishing books and this one is nothing short of magnificent. To celebrate its 65th anniversary, the legendary Paris bookshop presents us a bookish feast with this gorgeously designed book, filled to the brim with photographs and texts of and by the literary legends it helped shape. It’s gritty, indulgent, wild, perfect and pure inspiration. A must-have for anyone who believes in the power of the independent bookstore.

–Kate Layte, Papercuts

hero of the empire

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill, Candice Millard
(9/20, Doubleday)

Churchill, in his early twenties and determined to make a military mark for himself, was frustrated again and again—until finally, he plunged into the Boer War as a civilian correspondent, finding himself unscathed while others around him dropped in the thick of fighting that offered him the opportunity for the mantle of heroism he so craved. As we now know, Churchill was destined for greatness, but in his early twenties, he showed the British Empire why he was someone to be watched and followed.

–Sue Fleming, The King’s English Bookshop

the wonder

The Wonder, Emma Donoghue
(9/20, Little, Brown)

In this riveting historical fiction novel, Donoghue introduces us to Anna, child of poor Irish folk, who by all accounts has not eaten in four months. Two nurses are dispatched to observe the child and either prove or disprove this “miracle.” The narrator is a Nightingale nurse, horrified by the blind Catholic devotion of the family. As the days go by, she slowly realizes that possibly her presence has changed the dynamic and indeed the child is starving to death. Nurse Lib offers us an incredible peek into a dark time in Irish history. Highly recommended.

–Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop

let them eat dirt

Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Our Children from an Oversanitized World, Marie-Clair Arrieta & B. Brett Finlay
(9/20, Workman Publishing)

This gutsy book promises to be a sandbox of cutting-edge research on super-sensitive topics like the import of natural childbirth, sterilization  of  food implements and the worthiness of having hairy pets around the house! An eye opener for parents focused daily on improving the lives of their children and grandchildren by eradicating nasty ailments and lifelong conditions like autism and asthma by exposing them to bacteria rather than shielding them as they have been for at least the last two hundred years! Co-author UBC professor Brett Finlay’s an award-winning microbiologist, talented jazz musician and energetic trail builder on Galiano Island in the Salish Sea.

–Elizabeth Olson, Galiano Island Books

the lesser bohemians

The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
(9/20, Hogarth)

Simply, the story in one year of an 18-year-old Irish girl gone to London for drama school, and her relationship with an actor twice her age and experience. Both of them—carrying trauma from childhood—are damaged, he, perhaps, irrevocably. Musical, poetic, stream-of-consciousness prose put me right inside her head. McBride uses language and voice in a way that make possible a sometimes violent, twisting intimacy with her characters. The Lesser Bohemians is a remarkable, unforgettable novel.

–Leigh Atkins, Kepler’s

This story will beautifully blindside. McBride’s lyrical stream-of-consciousness style transforms a narrative of unlikely love between an aging actor and a young student into an intimate, visceral exploration of love and loss. Come for the story, but stay for the writing.

–Alison, WORD Bookstores


Reputations, Juan Gabriel Vasquez (trans. Anne McLean)
(9/20 , Riverhead Books)

Vasquez’s novel is a mesmerizing tale of the political cartoonist for a prominent Latin American newspaper looking back on his successful career, confronted by a figure from the past who causes him to contemplate the power of his profession’s moral authority. Bam! I will never look at political cartoons in the same way!

–Mary, Newtonville Books


Trainwreck, Sady Doyle
(9/20, Melville House)

Trainwreck is an enlightening, terrifying look at the history behind the modern female “trainwreck.” When I think of Mary Wollstonecraft, I don’t usually connect her to Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. Doyle’s writing is hilarious and insightful, and so timely. One recurring question throughout Trainwreck, “Were you a nice girl?” is a hauntingly familiar refrain to any woman who has been a “trainwreck” themselves. This should be required reading for everyone.

–Tanwaporn Watanaporn, Book Culture

Trainwreck is a much needed revelation of a book. Sady Doyle chronicles in devastating detail the ways in which society picks apart and destroys women from Mary Wollstonecraft to Britney Spears. Fierce as hell, well-researched, and wonderfully written, Trainwreck is eye-opening, mind-blowing, and life-changing.

–Katie Eelman, Papercuts

bottom's dream

Bottom’s Dream, Arno Schmidt (trans. John E. Woods)
(9/23, Dalkey Archive)

Judged solely by its dimensions, Arno Schmidt’s modernist masterpiece is the biggest book of the fall. Weighing in at nearly 13 lbs (!), this long-awaited translation by the great John E. Woods, whose previous translations of Thomas Mann, Gunter Grass, and others set the standard by which all English translations of German are judged, is one of postwar Europe’s literary monuments. A playful, delirious, and dizzying masterpiece of high modernism, Bottom’s Dream is a testament to patience and fortitude—both on the part of the translator and any reader brave enough to take on Schmidt’s classic.  

–Stephen, Green Apple Books

Admittedly, a nearly 1,500-page novel presented in shifting columns of notes, collages and typewritten pages by a largely unknown German author is a tough sell, but fans of House of Leaves, Finnegans Wake and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym probably won’t be deterred by the format or length of this long-awaited translation of Arno Schmidt’s magnum opus. Award-winning translator John E. Woods gifts to English readers what could very well be the most important work of German literature in the last century.

The Wild Detectives


Bowie, Simon Critchley
(9/23, OR Books)

A brief, insightful, heartfelt bio of the late great Thin White Duke from internationally acclaimed philosopher and lifelong fan, Simon Critchley. Weaving autobiographical details with cultural and literary analysis, this is an addictive little book, easily readable in a single sitting. Critchley expertly unpacks Bowie’s famously oblique lyrics, offering terrific considerations of the iconic musician’s place in the everch-ch-changing sociocultural zeitgeist of his career. This book is a true testament to Bowie’s impact not only on his fans, but on the worlds of music, culture and art. Bowie is bittersweet, melancholy and lovely.

–Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore

time travel a history

Time Travel: A History, James Gleick
(9/27, Pantheon)

Never did I imagine I’d one day read something so thorough about something so hypothetical! I am immediately reminded of the conversations (and let’s face it, arguments) I’ve had about the DOs and DON’Ts of time travel—this book elevates that discussion. Time Travel: A History is fun, challenging, and well paced. Gleick is a huuuge nerd and if this isn’t a labor of love, I don’t know what is!

–Jasper, Skylight Books


Mercury, Margot Livesey
(9/27, Harper)

The inimitable Margot Livesey has written an unforgettable story of a couple in the midst of their marriage’s dissolution. No one has a better understanding of human nature.

–Carole Horne, Harvard Bookstore

This riveting psychological novel delves into the lives of Donald and Vivian, a married couple whose stability is threatened and ultimately undermined when Vivian, whose former life as an aspiring equestrian was cut short, meets Mercury, a magnificent horse with a tragic backstory. What unfolds may seem like destiny to Vivian, but to Donald, the staid and deliberate ophthalmologist still mourning the death of his beloved father, it tests everything he’s ever known, including his faculty for navigating the world. A truly remarkable study of human nature and the blindspots that limit us all.

–Mary, Newtonville Books

the last wolf

The Last Wolf & Herman, László Krasznahorkai (trans. George Szirtes and John Batki)
(9/27, New Directions)

As long as Krasznahorkai’s books usually are, I’ve always found them to feel like short bursts of intensity. His extravagantly (but never gimmicky) long sentences unfold at a loping pace. The narrative distance covered feels small, until you retrace your steps. The combining of two novellas, The Last Wolf and Herman, is a perfect introduction to my favorite living author.  

–Brad Johnson, Diesel Bookstores

Reading The Last Wolf is the literary equivalent of sitting for a daguerreotype: best done in a moment while letting the imagery of the single sentence coil around and fix you to the chair until finished.

–Lucy Kogler, Talking Leaves… Books

the inquisitor's tale

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, Alan Gidwitz
(9/27, Dutton Books for Young Readers)

In the middle of the Dark Ages, Will, an oversized, strong, young monk; Jeanne, a peasant girl who sees the future during her seizures; and Jacob, an orphaned Jewish boy who can heal people, are bound together by their own version of the “Crusade.” This unlikely company’s stories will keep you turning the pages, the plot will keep even the best readers entranced, the Author’s Notes add surprising historical depth, while the artwork contributes authenticity and whimsy. In one of the most creative books of the season, Gidwitz explores friendship and prejudice while valuing knowledge and learning. A great counterweight to the current election season!

–Margaret Brennan Neville, The King’s English Bookshop

Gidwitz (A Tale Dark and Grim) makes a triumphant return with The Inquisitor’s Tale. Set in the 13th century, this is the story of three children and their greyhound. All three children are fleeing persecution and trying to save holy books from being burned. Told in the style of The Canterbury Tales, this is delightful historical fiction for grades five and up. Bravo!

–Cathy Berner,  Blue Willow Bookshop

Told Chaucer-style by numerous onlookers, this is the story of three miracle-slinging kids and a resurrected dog in medieval France on a holy quest to save the nation’s Jewish books from death by fire—if our heroes (and dog) can avoid the king who’s hunting them down. This page-flipping and consciously thought-provoking adventure captures everything weird and wonderful about medieval literature and medieval living.

–Alex S., Brookline Booksmith

In a twist on The Canterbury Tales, travelers at a French inn in 1242 tell stories of three children, among them, Jeanne, a peasant girl who has visions of the future. At once funny, subversive, fantastical, and moving, this beautifully researched and illuminated novel will delight readers from ages 9 to 90.

–Franny, 57th Street Books


Alice, Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute, Eds. Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus
(10/3 , Heyday)

Winner of the 2015 California Historical Society Award, this book is a much needed addition to the oeuvre of San Francisco history and is edited by one of our very own booksellers, Ivy Anderson! This book brings to our consciousness an otherwise forgotten serially-published ghostwritten memoir from Alice Smith, a prostitute working in the Barbary Coast at the beginning of the 20th century. Letters from working-class women are also included, poignantly showing that the development of third-wave feminism can be traced back as early as 1913 San Francisco. Not only for Bay Area history buffs, Alice will enlighten all readers to early shifts in gender roles and societal correlations today.

–Cassie Duggan, City Lights Books

el paso

El Paso, Winston Groom
(10/4, Liveright)

A lot of people don’t realize that Forrest Gump is based on a novel. El Paso, though remarkably different from Groom’s 1986 novel, is another sweeping epic. Dark and daring, El Paso does for the West what Gump did for the South—it takes a tumultuous, crucial time in American history and feeds it to us in ways acute and unforgettable.

–Laura Taylor, Oxford Exchange

.my private property

My Private Property, Mary Ruefle
(10/4, Wave Books)

Mary Ruefle is, in this humble bookseller’s opinion, the best prose-writing poet in America. (And one of our best poets, too.) My Private Property, her latest collection of stories, essays, and asides, is as joyous and singular a book as you’ll read this fall. Ranging from meditations on shrunken heads to a chronicle of menopausal tears, this may be the ideal introduction to this eye-opening writer.

–Stephen, Green Apple Books

the mortifications

The Mortifications, Derek Palacio
(10/4, Tim Duggan Books)

One of my favorite movies is a Russian film called The Return, where two young boys spend a long weekend with their father, who abandoned them 12 years earlier. The film is a masterpiece, beautifully asking questions about purpose, desire, manhood, and the hazy and at-times painful meaning of home. Palacio’s debut puts these same questions under the microscope and the result is just as absorbing. It buries itself somewhere deep down and doesn’t go away.

–Mike Matesich, Oxford Exchange

another day in the death of america

Another Day in the Death of America, Gary Younge
(10/4, Nation Books)

Another Day in the Death of America begins with a startling statistic: on an average day in the US seven people aged 19 and younger will be shot dead. Gary Younge’s chronicle of the lives and deaths of ten of these young people killed in gun-related incidents on a random November day in 2013 might be one of the most difficult books to get through this fall, but it is also one of the most important. Younge, a British journalist, brings an outsider’s perspective to the insanity of America’s gun laws and the resigned acceptance many have toward guns in daily life, but the true power of this book lies in its ability to put real faces and stories ahead of the numbers and in the process honor these ten lives cut short by gun violence.

–Emily, Green Apple Books

mary astor's purple diary

Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936,  Edward Sorel
(10/4, Liveright)

Sorel, himself a prominent cartoonist, provides us with an illustrated history of the scandalous/tragic life of Mary Astor, whose secret diary and tumultuous divorce gave society one of the first cases of celebrity-sex-shaming. The juicy-but-true narrative is supported by Sorel’s cartoon renderings of the drama, showing us a master of the visual storytelling at work.

–Mary, Newtonville Books

private novelist

Private Novelist, Nell Zink
(10/4, Ecco)

Consisting of two novellas Zink wrote in emails to her friend, the Israeli novelist Avner Shats, both of them years before publishing her first book (The Wallcreeper, also a must-read), Private Novelist is a painful satire of novel-writing, novel-reading, academia, the art world, Israel, dolphins, “plot,” matrimony, Thomas Pynchon, A.S. Byatt—not to mention poor Avner Shats. I call it painful because Zink will either make you laugh till it hurts or make you weep over your sacred cows as she slaughters them. Not that it’s only a funny book. The book contains—and indeed explicitly champions the aesthetic need for—digressions of all sorts, including a radiant dystopian short story and Zink’s translation of a short text by Robert Walser. Irreverent, righteous, and experimental (especially in the second novella, in which she reproduces the “bad English” used by non-native English speakers between themselves), Private Novelist is a wildly fun shakedown of English-language fiction.

–Dana Snitzky, Community Bookstore

the rain in portugal

The Rain in Portugal, Billy Collins
(10/4, Random House)

Imagine Michel de Montaigne writing unrhymed poems in contemporary American English and you might come up with something approaching Billy Collins’ new collection of poetry, The Rain in Portugal. Lovely poems (I’d say whimsical, but that sounds demeaning) that lead the reader through a momentary observation through a classical allusion (or contemporary; either way, he made me feel smarter and better educated than I am) to a general insight which might border on triteness, but then pushes it right on past and into the sublime.

–Philipp Goedicke, Community Bookstore

With The Rain in Portugal, Central Florida poet (he loves when we call him that) Billy Collins delivers a new collection that invites the reader to tag along as he meanders through life observing the normally unobserved. As the title suggests, travel is the understated theme, and donning Collins-colored glasses, readers are treated to an insider’s peek at both the wildly exotic and humorously mundane day-in-the-life of a professional poet.  

–Kim Britt, Bookmark It

when the moon was ours

When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore
(10/6, Thomas Dunne Books)

Out in October, this young adult novel tells the story of best friends Miel (who grows roses out of her skin) and Sam (who paints moons and hangs them in the sky). Their story is intense and beautiful. Written with a hint of magical realism that permeates the pages, When the Moon Was Ours is a tale that has both allegorical and mythical overtones. Even with magic flirting at the edge of the pages, these characters are fully realized and humanized, creating the perfect blend of reality and fantasy.

–Jess Harwick, Book Culture

A captivating and spell-binding look at identity, first love, family, and culture set against a backdrop of magical gardens, paper moons, and crumbling watertowers, all draped in McLemore’s ethereal prose. Totally unlike anything I had ever read. Anna-Marie McLemore can do no wrong and I am obsessed with everything she writes.

–Mackenzie, Porter Square Books 

the singing bones

The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan
(10/11, Allen & Unwin)

Tan is a brilliant graphic artist, but with his collection of Grimms’ fairy tale-based sculptures he proves he only needs a single image to capture an entire story. Eerie and alluring, his not-quite-abstract three-dimensional illustrations are accompanied by compellingly selected portions of the story text, with longer story summaries at the back of the book.

–Alex S., Brookline Booksmith

Shaun Tan creates a sculpture for each of Grimm’s fairy tales. The photographs of the sculptures are collected with a small excerpt from each tale. They are gorgeous, haunting and sometimes creepy. Just like the fairy tales themselves. Some of them are still creeping around my brain months after seeing them.

–Katherine Fergason, Harvard Bookstore

the blind astronomer's daughter

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter, John Pipkin
(10/11, Bloomsbury)

We don’t know what’s in the water in Austin, but authors who have set up shop there, including Scott Blackwood, Dominic Smith, Karen Olsson, Karan Mahajan and Louisa Hall, have a propensity for churning out world class literature from this modest bohemian town. Baltimore native John Pipkin is the latest to deliver from the Lone Star State capitol with his tale of the reluctant heroine set in a time when astronomy was still a mystic science and Irish rebellion was the daily reality. Fans of historical fiction will not be disappointed.

The Wild Detectives

a greater music

A Greater Music, Bae Suah (trans. Deborah Smith)
(10/11, Open Letter)

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Bae Suah channels the spirit of Virginia Woolf in this kaleidoscopic exploration of two very different relationships. Told from the point of view of a young Korean writer living in Germany, A Greater Music is a study of displacement and desire and the fragmented nature of memory. A book that should be consumed slowly, under a tree just beginning to turn with the season, as the shortened day becomes a blue night.

–Emily, Green Apple Books

the red car

The Red Car, Marcy Dermansky
(10/11, W. W. Norton)

In a sea of earnest, over-plotted, cloyingly “witty” and ultimately forgettable contemporary fiction, Dermansky is acerbic salvation. Mildly nihilistic, rascally without becoming bratty, The Red Car‘s protagonist is an ill-behaved delight I cannot wait to share with customers. Roxane Gay sums it up perfectly: “The Red Car is taut and smart and strange and sweet and perfect. I want to eat this book or sew it to my skin or something.”

–Wesley Minter, Third Place Books

the mothers

The Mothers, Brit Bennett
(10/11, Riverhead Books)

How often do our lives turn out the way we plan? And how willing are we ever to truly admit they don’t? The Mothers is a heartbreaking look at three lives unraveling, the power of secrets kept from those we love, and the consequences of expectations and choices made by ourselves and those around us. Bennett unfailingly captures the fear and confusion of young adulthood with simple, precise prose. There is an honesty to these characters. They are selfish, loyal, frightened, tender, and strong. They are ourselves and the people we love. And if you don’t walk away from this novel with a new capacity for compassion, you aren’t reading it right.

–Erin Ball, Third Place Books

If The Mothers only relied on the merits of its twisting plot or the staggeringly unique voice communicated so refreshingly by debut author Brit Bennett, it would be strong enough to make this list. But its true magic is somewhere less tangible, somewhere beyond the conceit and beneath the prose. It’s a novel of questions and ghosts—of the things that follow us around which we never get to really see.

–Laura Taylor, Oxford Exchange

From the first page, the chorus of voices narrating this story grabs you by the wrist and pulls you in. Brit Bennett’s debut novel The Mothers is the breathless story of three generations of mothers, two extraordinary girls, and one sour, angry secret that festers beneath the shame and condemnation of a tight-knit religious community until it finally, painfully erupts into view. The story may sound familiar but it’s Bennett’s warm, shimmering prose, the omniscient narrators’ sometimes-wistful, sometimes-“didn’t we tell you so” voice, and the genuine, human characters at its center that really set The Mothers apart.

–Lydia Melby, Brazos Bookstore

For a debut novelist, Bennett has a remarkable command of her own voice and the voices of her characters. I love a work of fiction that delivers characters so real and so nuanced that they can be right and wrong in the same breath, selfish and generous in the same action. The Mothers is such a book and I can’t wait to discuss it with readers this fall.

–Rachel Cass, Harvard Bookstore

Everything about The Mothers feels like a giant step forward. From its depiction of female friendships to the small town existence, from its strange but meaningful plural voice to its treatment of a particularly thorny subject. This book is a fascinating meditation on what it means to be a female in America right now and the ways we can be oppressed by unrealistic expectations of womanhood and the ever present male gaze. Brit Bennett is an original and much needed new voice in literature that has captured my attention. And I promise, after reading this book, you’ll be captured too.

–WORD Bookstores


Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
(10/11, Hogarth)

The Tempest and Margaret Atwood are the perfect match for the latest addition to the Hogarth Shakespeare series. Atwood takes the themes of loss and revenge that make the original play so enchanting and applies them perfectly to a modern tale about an usurped theater festival director. Felix, exiled by the evil Tony, spends the next 12 years plotting the perfect web of revenge. Atwood keeps the tone of the original while adding her own unique style of wit and snark, making a delightful read.

–Michael Reinken, Kepler’s

the ghosts of birds

The Ghost of Birds, Eliot Weinberger
(10/11, New Directions)

Weinberger is of a different ilk: cosmopolitan, elegant, timeless, and privileging style and an enduring aesthetic over flash, fads, and stylishness. “Islands in the Sea,” “A Calendar of Stones,” “Changs Dreaming,” “Ou-Yang Hsiu’s Fu on the Sound of Autumn,” “William Sharpe,” and the exceptional bibliography are masterful poems by a master poet. Listen to this!

The Book of Efficacious Seals for Penetrating Mystery, Anonymous (date unknown)

Includes instructions for turning red beans into soldiers by rubbing them with a specific mixture of sheep’s blood, cow’s bile, and mud, and pronouncing a formula over them.

–Jeff, Seminary Co–op

bob stevenson

Bob Stevenson, Richard Wiley
(10/11, Bellevue Literary Press)

I love books that start out with someone making a colossal mistake. This starts with a great one—Dr. Ruby Okada unknowingly falls in love with man escaping from her psychiatric hospital. The beauty of this slim novel is the way in which the “how” and “why” is all tangled into a quirky puzzle with the “so, what happens next?” I had SO much fun de-tangling.

–Mary, Newtonville Books

the dad dialogues

The Dad Dialogues: A Correspondence on Fatherhood and The Universe, George Bowering and Charles Demers.
(10/12, Arsenal Pulp Press)

What happens when a well-known Canadian comedian turns to Canada’s former poet laureate for advise on how to raise his first child, a girl? This exchange of letters between Charles Demers and George Bowering, answers that question. From humour to pathos, from daily trivia to philosophical discussions on the the nature of the universe, these two writers showcase not only their unique and captivating writing styles, but also their extraordinary friendship, proving that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. This is a wonderful read for all fathers, and daughters and those who love them.

–Lee Trentadue, Galiano Island Books


Nicotine, Nell Zink
(10/14, Ecco)

You could bemoan the state of the world in bed and only go out when it rains. Or you could read Nicotine, take part in a Dionysian celebration of life, and remember to smoke them while you got them.

–Sam Goldstein, Skylight Books

Death can bring a family together like nothing else, and that’s the underlying thread of Nell Zink’s newest novel: extant and created families. What ensues is by turns raucous, hilarious, occasionally sexy, occasionally nerve-wracking, and all takes place just over the Hudson: Jersey City. Penny rebelled against her Kogi mother and Abbie-Hoffman-cum-Rinpoche father by going to business school, but caring for him through his death brings her back. She finds herself in an anarchist squat called Nicotine, a collective united in the insistence that smokers are the true second class citizens. The fun begins when her varying families start to collide. Nicotine is a skewering, poignant, and accurate portrayal, not only of this decade, but of all the weirdness of 2016.

–Ashanti, WORD Bookstores

Nell Zink has presented readers time and time again with the hilarity and strangeness of the American people. Her forthcoming novel is sure to have an almost morbidly comic generational back and forth that we’ve all come to know during this trying race for presidency.

–Bre Kiblin, Talking Leaves… Books

no knives in the kitchen of this city

No Knives in the Kitchens in This City, Khaled Khalifa (trans. Leri Price)
(10/15, American University in Cairo Press)

Set in Aleppo from the early 1960s to the 2000s, acclaimed Syrian author Khaled Khalifa depicts in heart-rending detail the brutality of a tyrant’s rise to power. Following one family’s struggle under Assad’s violence and oppression, Khalifa shows how society crumbles under dictatorships. Required reading for anyone who wants to better understand the roots of the uprising and current conflict in Syria.

–John Cleary, Papercuts

suite for barbara logen

Suite for Barbara Loden, Natalie Léger (trans. Natasha Lehrer and Cecile Menon)
(10/17, Dorothy Project)

The question of artistic influence is unendingly interesting. While American authors are quick to name-drop in interviews, their non-American peers are eager to weave these influences into their works. The journal Music and Literature aptly see in Léger’s stunning ode to Barbara Loden, itself a mash-up of fact and imagination, biography and fiction, nods at Emily Dickinson, Marguerite Duras, Jean-Luc Godard, Sylvia Plath, and W.G. Sebald. I hope this book inspires a new hybrid form of film criticism, where private excavation is also cooperative creativity.

–Brad Johnson, Diesel Bookstores


Truevine, Beth Macy
(10/18, Hachette)

This is the true story of two albino African-American brothers stolen away and billed as circus curiosities with traveling shows in the late 19th century. The circus changed their origin of birth, often getting more exotic over time; their actual story is far more interesting and disturbing. The family fiercely protected the brothers’ lives in their later years, forbidding interviews. Macy earned the right to interview the niece who cared for them. Truevine serves as a primer about racial inequality that all Americans should read.

–Marilyn Smith, Kepler’s


Iza’s Ballad, Magda Szabo (trans. George Szirtes)
(10/18, NYRB Books)

Szabo’s first book included a witch, a magic dog, and a writer who looked back on the 20th century with sad eyes. I cannot wait to read what this book has in store.

–Sam Goldstein, Skylight Books

the girl from venice

The Girl from Venice, Martin Cruz Smith
(10/18, Simon & Schuster)

In this finely honed, often funny tale of Italy at the end of WWII a fisherman pulls the corpse of a young girl aboard his trawler only to find her alive and spoiling for a fight. So begins a comedic mishmash of Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Nazis abound and so do Italian Fascists (all at cross purposes) but Venice is the real star of this charming concoction of a suspense novel by the usually serious and always intelligent Martin Cruz Smith.

–Betsy Burton, The King’s English Bookshop

she's not into poetry

She’s Not Into Poetry, Tom Hart
(10/19, Alternative Comics)

Tom Hart may be best known for his Hutch Owens comic series, but I came to know him through his 2016 graphic/memoir Rosalie Lightning, detailing the grief experienced after the loss of his two-year-old daughter, Rosalie.

She’s Not Into Poetry is a collection of mini-comics from the early to mid-90s, when Hart lived in Seattle, the decade’s “it” city. The city’s edginess comes out in these old-school, scrappy mini-comics. They are playful, unexpected, and sometimes bizarre. Hart’s style has an original feel, but one we now expect in a genre that has become one of the fast-growing sections in our bookstore.

–Karen Roby, Bookmark It


Float, Anne Carson
(10/25, Knopf)

Anne Carson is a genius, so I’m excited for just about anything she puts out, but I’m especially excited when she directly pushes boundaries. Float is a collection of individually-bound chapbooks that you can read in any order or “float” through.

–Josh, Porter Square Books


Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers, and Radicals of Britain and the United States, Sheila Rowbotham
(10/25, Verso)

I can’t wait to read this… Juicy historical gossip for nerds. yum.

–Lucy Kogler, Talking Leaves… Books

Land of love and ruins

Land of Love and Ruins, Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir (trans. Philip Roughton)
(10/25 , Restless Books)

Sometimes, very seldom, a dedication page is all it takes to suck me deep into a book. “For ornithologists and archaeologists” set me up for something strange and special and I was blown away with this book. Structured in the form of a diary, a young novelist attempts to finds meaning in and through place through the exploration of birds and the physical structures we’ve created around us. Astounding.

–Kate Layte, Papercuts

we show what we have learnedWe Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories, Clare Beams
(10/25 , Lookout Books)

This short story collection is gripping, creepy, gorgeous and hypnotic. I have been reading this collection before I go to sleep and Beams’s stunning, surreal depictions have seeped into my dreams. A dedicated student in a curious prep school transforms into a lady with a repercussive pace as horrifyingly implicit as Kafka’s Metamorphosis. An architect’s plans inspire and devastate. A grandmother follows shadowy slithers in the forests of her childhood and someone’s beauty is being stolen. Beams has stolen my heart with these stories and I cannot wait for this book to hit the shelves!

–Raquel, Newtonville Books

back caught loving henry green

Back; Caught; Loving, Henry Green
(10/25 , NYRB Classics)

Henry Green was a towering figure of British modernism who wrote nine strange, sublime novels, all of which have become unduly obscured by their criminal unavailability. This fall, NYRB Classics rights this wrong, bringing Green’s work back to print starting with three of his best books. Back is a postwar farce of mistaken identity worthy of the Bard’s best; Caught explores the apocalypse of the London Blitz and its assault on ordinary life; and Loving (my favorite of the bunch) is an upstairs-downstairs comedy complete with an ambitious butler, a love affair-turned-scandal, and a missing family jewel. But the real jewel in all of this is Green’s prose—its smooth surface and elusive underside—which shows off his extraordinary control of voice, tone, and pace. Let’s not miss dear Henry this time around.

–Hal Hlavinka, Community Bookstore

the earth is weeping

The Earth Is Weeping, Peter Cozzens
(10/25, Knopf)

Cozzens illuminates the struggle between Native Americans and the army, settlers, gold-seekers and the US government in his vast and cogent account. There are well-intentioned people on both sides as well as corrupt and bigoted individuals, and each is portrayed in depth. That there was an orchestrated policy of genocide is undeniable; the outcome was the tragic end of the nomadic life of the tribes of the American West.

–Barbara Hoagland, The King’s English Bookshop

a pure solar world sun ra

A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism, Paul Youngquist
(10/25 , University of Texas Press)

With over two hundred releases bearing his name, you’d think there’d be an endless supply of literature on the man, his Arkestra, as well as his voluminous output across all media. Strangely, there’s very little written about Sun Ra. Hopefully, this forthcoming and highly anticipated book from UTP will help to reactivate the conversation around this criminally underappreciated polymath.

–Jeff, Seminary Co–op

pull me under

Pull Me Under, Kelly Luce
(11/1, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail was Kelly Luce’s stunning and disconcerting debut collection of stories from A Strange Object Press. That brilliance and unnerving writing is now brought to the forefront with Luce’s prodigious new novel, Pull Me Under. I was sucked into the prose and character in Luce’s latest accomplishment from the very start. Rio Silvestri and Chizuru Akitani bring both the familiar and the terrifying parts of our psyche to the surface and then pull you right back down into the depths of this stunning debut novel.

–Nick Buzanski, Book Culture

cabo de gata

Cabo de Gata, Eugen Ruge (trans. Anthea Bell)
(11/1 , Graywolf Press)

Cabo de Gata is the best kind of novel—witty, lyrical, meandering, and featuring a mysterious cat. It’s the kind that will make you laugh all the way through, and you won’t realize it’s unsettled you until you’ve finished and set it down. Then you’ll pick it up again.

—Katie Eelman, Papercuts


Faithful, Alice Hoffman
(11/1 , Simon & Schuster)

Alice Hoffman does something different and beautiful with each novel she crafts. Faithful is a rich, heartbreaking story about two friends and the devastating tragedy that separates them. Hoffman is so adept at exploring the depths of human emotion, especially in young women, that her characters seem to pulse on the page.

–Mary, Newtonville Books

thus bad begins

Thus Bad Begins, Javier Marias (trans. Margaret Jull Costa)
(11/1, Knopf)

A central character in Javier Marias’s latest masterpiece, Thus Bad Begins, argues that what Hamlet means when he says, “Thus bad begins and worse is left behind,” is that the worst can be avoided by accepting the bad. Marias, in this book as in much of his work, claims otherwise. The worst is never left behind, no matter how clever the subterfuge. At the least it suppurates, at the most it destroys. It’s never forgotten, from the large-scale atrocities of the Spanish Civil War to the small cruelties of one person rubbing up wrong against another.

–Ezra Goldstein, Community Bookstore

sebald set

Sebald Set: The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo, W.G. Sebald (trans. Michael Hulse)
(11/8, New Directions)

A clear precursor to Knausgaard, New Directions revisits what made W.G. Sebald one of the most important authors of his generation. Here, he mixes a wide variety of historical fact with his own impressions and recollections, either fictional or factual in detail. Primarily concerned with time and memory, these are distinct, innovative novels that incorporate aspects of disparate genres of literature and art as a whole.

–Alejandro Font, Oxford Exchange


Justine, Iben Mondrup (trans. Kerri A. Pierce)
(11/8, Open Letter Press)

A young artist loses all of her work in a house fire and must try to recreate her life and her career. This book has a unique narrative voice that is at turns stark and experimental and conversational and crude; the protagonist is often quite baffling and unlikeable but always completely compelling. I thought this was a really interesting and daring look at the art world from a woman’s point of view.

–Caitlin Liss, Book Culture

Iben Mondrup’s portrayal of artistic creation, rebellion against the art world’s misogynist status quo, and a destruction that stems from forces both external and self-imposed is one of the most gut-feeling stories I’ve read about an artist’s life. The tension between rebelling and becoming that which you rebel against in mimeograph are tackled head on. What comes through in the prose is a confidence of style and a conviction that the stones we unturn have a weight that is capable of crushing who we once were.

–Kevin, 57th Street Books

memoirs of a polar bear

Memoirs of a Polar Bear, Yoko Tawada (trans. Susan Bernofsky)
(11/8, New Directions)

One of the more unique voices in modern European literature actually hails from Tokyo and this mix of cultures has yielded what Rivka Galchen has called a “magnificent strangeness.” Towada’s new novel stars three generations of talented writers and performers who happen to be polar bears. Happy or sad, each bear writes a story, enjoying both celebrity and “the intimacy of being alone with my pen.”

The Wild Detectives

Yoko Tawada’s strange new novel, Memoirs of a Polar Bear, follows three generations of polar bears, from a grandmother who writes a best-selling autobiography to a mom who is a star circus performer to a son who puts on a popular show at a zoo in Germany. It’s bizarre and beautiful, funny and moving. I’m not sure how a polar bear thinks, but I am sure that if anyone were to have an idea, it would be Tawada.

–Brad, Newtonville Books

absolutely on music

Absolutely on Music, Haruki Murakami with Seiji Ozawa (trans. Jay Rubin)
(11/15, Knopf)

Not your typical new Murakami release, this book documents a number of in-depth conversations between two of the greatest minds working in music and letters. Touching on the repertoire of classical composers and interpreters through the ages, these conversations exist in total transparency, as we see not Murakami the novelist nor Ozawa the legendary conductor, but two music enthusiasts talking about their one true love—music. This text will help preserve and uphold the symphony, orchestra, and performer as valid cultural artifacts within our world.

–John, Green Apple Books

swing time

Swing Time, Zadie Smith
(11/15, Penguin Press)

In Swing Time, Smith’s sociological eye is sharp, her wit keen, her humor sly. As the narrative tacks between London and West Africa, teen ballet and humanitarian aid, the psychological details are so precise that they seem, quite simply, true: I have a hard time believing the characters were invented. But maybe I never had a chance: I love dance, and I love Zadie Smith, and so Swing Time seemed custom-designed to sneak into my heart.

–Kyle McCarthy, Book Court

of fire and stars

Of Fire and Stars, Audrey Coulthurst
(11/22, Balzer + Bray)

Set against a tense political landscape, Of Fire and Stars is an intricately imagined young adult debut that challenges readers with the question of which parts of ourselves are worth honoring when the consequences of honesty seem impossible to face. Reminiscent of Tamora Pierce or Sabaa Tahir, Audrey Coulthurst’s work expertly wields magic as a metaphor for the qualities that makes us vibrant and unique but also vulnerable to fear. As her characters try to navigate ever-shifting threats, they must decide who they were truly born to be.

–Grace Wright, Parnassus Books

whatever happened to interracial love

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, Kathleen Collins
(12/6, Ecco)

This book of short stories should have been published 40 years ago when the author was still alive. Luckily for us they finally did get released and they should be seen as immediate classics of the genre. The experience of reading this book is like going back to the time of the short story writers of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s and yet it is completely timely. Collins effortlessly infuses these stories with issues of gender, race, and class while still creating entertaining and moving stories, highly crafted and socially important.

–Steven Salardino, Skylight Books

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LitHub Daily: August 31, 2016 It's here, our giant Booksellers Fall Preview! (Because when in doubt, ask a bookseller). | Literary Hub Becoming...

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