Welcome to the fall publishing season—you’ll want to clear some shelf space for the cornucopia of exciting books to come. Let’s start with some debuts: Idlewild by James Frankie Thomas (Overlook, Sept. 12) tells the story of two teenagers at a Manhattan private school. Our review says, “equal parts funny and insightful, this is a propulsive exploration of gender identity, sexuality, and self-discovery.”

Molly McGhee’s Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind (Astra House, Oct. 17) follows the title character as he begins a job as a “dream auditor,” cleaning up people’s dreams to make them better workers. “Though the novel is a brutal examination of the psychological pressures and ethical complexity required to survive under late capitalism,” says our review, “McGhee’s wry humor, tenderness, and razor-sharp writing…infuses it with a real, if melancholy, kind of hope.” Eskor David Johnson’s debut, Pay As You Go (McSweeney’s, Oct. 24), is “a madcap odyssey through the hellscape that is the metropolis of the near future,” according to our starred review.

Cassandra Clare’s Sword Catcher (Del Rey, Oct. 10) is certainly not a debut, but it is her first novel for adults, and our review calls it “a whirlwind epic fantasy featuring secret plots, ancient magic, and hidden identities.” Kel may be Prince Conor’s best friend, but what most people don’t know is that he’s also the prince’s Sword Catcher, trained to make people think he’s Conor in risky situations. It’s the beginning of a new series, and Clare’s fans will want to get in on the ground floor.

Let’s not forget the sophomore novels, including C Pam Zhang’s Land of Milk and Honey (Riverhead, Sept. 26), about a young chef working at an “elite research community” on top of an Italian mountain where residents can escape the smog blanketing the Earth. “Mournful and luscious, a gothic novel for the twilight of the Anthropocene Era,” says our starred review. Then there’s Angie Kim’s Happiness Falls (Hogarth, Aug. 29): When Adam Parson disappears, his 20-year-old daughter, Mia, tries to figure out what happened to him, even though the only person who might know is her neurodiverse brother, Eugene, who can’t speak but has an “unusually happy demeanor.” Our starred review says, “The claim that a book will change your life often seems like an exaggeration. Here the potential is real.”

The Unsettled (Knopf, Oct. 24) is Ayana Mathis’ first novel since her acclaimed 2013 debut, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, and she again follows several generations of a Black family, this time divided between Philadelphia and Alabama. “Mathis powerfully evokes the heartbreak and ways best efforts are undermined by social and legal machinery,” according to our starred review.

It’s always exciting when a favorite author publishes a book after a long gap, and Michael Cunningham returns for the first time in almost a decade with Day (Random House, Nov. 14), which peeks in on a Brooklyn family on one day—April 5th—in the tumultuous years of 2020, 2021, and 2022. Our starred review says, “This subtle, sensitively written family story proves poignant and quietly powerful.” And Jesmyn Ward returns to the shelves with Let Us Descend (Scribner, Oct. 24), which our starred review calls “an intensely wrought tone poem [about] an enslaved girl’s tortuous passage through the man-made and natural perils of the antebellum Deep South.”

Finally, a new Alice McDermott novel is always a thrill, and our starred review calls Absolution (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Nov. 7) her masterpiece. Set among a group of American corporate wives in 1963 Saigon, the book is “an exquisitely conceived and executed novel that explores McDermott’s signature topic, moral obligation, against the backdrop of the fraught time preceding the Vietnam War.”

Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.