The 45 Must-Read Books of Fall 2021 –

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
Buzzy novels, compulsively readable memoirs, and a few guilty pleasures.
This season, you have no excuse for being without something good to read. Offerings include explosive novels, revealing memoirs, brilliant biographies, and everything in between. No matter what you like to read, there’s a title coming out this fall that’s sure to be just what you’re looking for.
Plenty has been written about how to start the big career of which one might dream, but what about how to navigate the middle or final years of working? In this smart, honest guide to taking action and finding purpose, Michael Clinton offers sage advice for anyone who’s ever wondered what might come next for them about how to take initiative and make decisions that truly matter. 
Lee Radziwill, Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Slim Hayward, Pamela Churchill, and C. Z. Guest were all formidable characters in their own right, but each of these women had something special in common: Truman Capote. In this delicious dissection of the writer and the women he befriended, Laurence Leamer uncovers what it meant to let Capote into your inner circle, how each of these women found friendship and frustration with him, and what happened when he committed the ultimate betrayal. 
In Marlowe Granados’ debut novel, readers see a steamy New York summer through the eyes of 21-year-old Isa Epley. The book is made up of Epley’s diary entries as she and her best friend try to spend the summer of 2013 doing “absolutely nothing” while partying among the city’s glitterati. However, like everything that seems too good to be true, the young women’s scarce resources make their aspirational lifestyle increasingly difficult to maintain. 
Melissa Biggs Bradley has long been a wellspring of thoughtful and inspiring advice to travelers, most recently as the head of Indagare, which she founded in 2007, and before that as Town & Country’s travel editor and founding editor of Town & Country Travel. Her new book, featuring gorgeous photographs by Guido Taroni, focuses on a new generation of safari lodges and camps in Africa—in classic locations and previously less accessible spots—that feature exquisite architecture as well as access to unparalleled natural beauty and unique experiences.
Alan Cumming has never been shy about sharing who he is, but in this second memoir, the actor, writer, and nightlife entrepreneur digs into his experiences on and off camera to share parts of himself that perhaps he never before acknowledged existed. From professional projects (failed and successful) to marriages (same), the moments that have taught and shaped him are presented here with style and humor, and serve as a compelling reminder that the most interesting characters aren’t always the ones we see on screen.
The latest from the author of Preparation for the Next Life tells the story of a young man whose fractured family is reunited by the horrible revelation of his mother’s illness, and asks big questions about what it means to grow up, what we owe our parents, and how we can care for others without losing ourselves. 
The life and work of the legendary designer Bob Mackie is on resplendent display in this first-ever authorized collection. Part scrap book, part tribute (with contributions from Carol Burnett and Cher, no less), this comprehensive collection covers Mackie’s career from his time as a movie costume to his best-known red carpet looks and might be the next best thing to owning one of his fantastical creations yourself. 
 When Hugo Vickers took on the task of being Cecil Beaton’s official biographer, he had no way of knowing what he was truly in for. In this dishy, delightful memoir, the writer recounts his experience of being tapped by Beaton—who had the nerve to die only days later—and traveling the world to talk to the royals, movie stars, and power brokers who knew the legendary lensman best. Vickers found himself at home among Beaton’s friends (and enemies), and thankfully took notes; this memoir is a stunning snapshot of a glittering world that has all but disappeared.
Mank might have been just the beginning. While David Fincher’s film explored what might have really happened around the making of Citizen Kane, this book charts the relationship between brothers Herman and Joe Mankiewicz—both of whom found dizzying success in Hollywood but without the happy ending each desired. Adding another layer to the family drama, the book is written by Nick Davis (Herman’s grandson, Joe’s great-nephew) who lends an insider view and sharp observations that keep the tale of fierce loyalty and rivalry crackling to its very end.  
Career retrospective can be the dreariest of literary forms but not when written by the comedian and filmmaker Mel Brooks, who has worked with some of the most interesting people on the planet. Brooks got his start on the Catskills circuit and then landed a spot in the writers room on Sid Ceasar’s Your Show of Shows, which included Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, and Larry Gelbart. His autobiography delves into his inspiration and process creating films like Young Frankenstein and The Producers (both the film and theater versions) and his creative partnerships with people like Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, and of course, his wife Anne Bancroft.
James Ivory has spent his life telling other people’s stories as a director (A Room With a ViewHoward’s EndThe Remains of the Day) and screenwriter (Call Me By Your Name), but in this revealing new memoir, the filmmaker unveils a tale he’s nevertold before: his own. It’s a touching, illuminating story about growing up in a world to which he didn’t quite belong—seasoned, of course, with delicious stories of a life in showbiz—that’s essential reading for any fan of his work on screen. 
Family is always complicated, but perhaps never so much as it is in this new novel from the author of Then We Came to the End. Charlie Barnes is an all-American striver, always looking for a way to make good, even if things don’t always go his way. Here, his life story is told by his son—who charts Charlie’s wins, losses, and a seemingly impossibly comeback from near ruin—though the deeper into it we get, the less clear it becomes what is real and what is the story Charlie wants people to know. It’s a touching, thought-provoking story about family, duty, and the difficult ways in which we all shape our own history. 
Shawn Henderson’s interior designs have been featured in Elle Decor, the New York Times, and Architectural Digest and lauded for their combination of serene aesthetic and seriously thought-out utility. His new monographic, with photographs by Stephen Kent Johnson and contributions by writer Mayer Rus, explores the inspiration and challenges behind 14 of his most elegant projects, including townhouses, lofts, and his own New York City apartment. 
The actress who made her name in films like Polyanna and The Parent Trap is as charming on the page as she’s ever been on the screen. Her memoir touches on growing up in a family of performers, thoughtfully considers life as a child star, and finds honest, often very funny, ways to examine what it means to live in and around the spotlight. Does she dish? Of course, but the big takeaway from this delightful book isn’t celebrity gossip (as good as it may be), but instead the importance of knowing who you are and never losing sight of yourself. 
When author Catie Marron moved to her house in Connecticut, she was determined to make her new space feel like home. So, she taught herself how to create a proper garden, and during this 18-month process, Marron chronicled her experience in a book which explores a fascinating hybrid of subjects. From the simplicities of horticulture to the complexities of healing through digging in soil, Marron dives deep into what it means to be a gardener.  Within the  pages of the book, you’ll also find gorgeous photography and artwork, and even agricultural advice from famous historical figures who you probably didn’t know were avid gardeners.
A young woman who has lost both of her parents becomes reacquainted with the nanny who helped raise her decades before in this tightly woven thriller. But when Sue Keller reconnects with Annie, it becomes more than just a reunion; questions surface about what actually happened in Sue’s childhood home and why Annie left—as well as what might be in store for the children she’s looking after today. 
This limited-edition book, covered in a luxury clamshell case, pays homage to legendary entertainer Nat King Cole through a collection of over 200 photographs that document Cole’s life as a musician, civil rights advocate, and style icon. This archival gem also includes never-before-seen images of Cole, and even historical letters and telegrams from historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.
Rooney’s third novel returns to the narrative style that made her first two books international bestsellers (and spawned a hit Hulu adaptation). However, in Beautiful World, Where Are You, her characters are older, more political, more “online,” and one bears a striking resemblance to her author. With Rooney’s famed dialogue interspersed with extended emails, Beautiful World is sure to be the fall book everyone is talking about.  
Colm Tóibín’s new novel explores and animates the life of Thomas Mann, one of the 20th century’s most esteemed authors. It is Tóibín’s second foray into fictionalizing the life of a major literary figure—2004’s The Master focused on Henry James—and he uses the form to examine key influences and interests that shaped Mann’s work, including Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain
Taking a sharp turn from her prior books in terms of subject matter, Groff’s new novel charts the life of the medieval Marie de France. Though little is known about Marie’s life, Groff’s novel acts almost as a bildungsroman, following Marie as she is exiled from the royal court and sent to an abbey. There, she grows into her spirituality, sensuality, and divinity, as Groff’s acclaimed, stunningly vivid writing style blurs the line between prose and poetry. 
Dawn Turner, an award-winning journalist and novelist, shifted her lens onto her own life for her new book, which examines the trajectory of three childhood friends—her sister Kim, her best friend Debra, and herself—who grew up in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. It is a sweeping and powerful exploration of societal forces, enduring racial disparity, and one neighborhood’s shifting dynamics. It is also an empathetic and beautifully wrought account of three individual’s life stories.
This first novel from writer Natasha Brown has already garnered comparisons to Virginia Woolfe, and with good reason. Assembly is the thoughtful, incendiary story of one day in the life of its narrator, a Black British woman preparing to attend a lavish party but thinking about the choices she’s made—the bourgeoise lifestyle into which she’s opted—and whether its something she can continue to stomach for even another moment. 
This new novel from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead (whose novel was the basis for this year’s hit TV series The Underground Railroad) follows Ray Carney, a mostly respectable Harlem furniture salesman, on a downward spiral that takes him into a world of hustlers, con men, and crooks. It’s a stylish page turner with deliciously high stakes, and Whitehead’s writing as as sharp and insightful as ever. 
Whether you’re looking for specific recipes—and who’s not in the mood for pulled-chicken nachos?—or a general guide to finding your kitchen mojo, this new book from Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski could be just what you need. Packed with the food expert’s delicious (but never overly complicated) recipes and advice on how to stock your kitchen with secret weapons, it’s a guide that will appeal to the culinary newbie and seasoned cook alike. 
From the moments that take place in public to those that happen behind the scenes, when it comes to Queen Elizabeth, photographer Chris Jackson has been on to witness them all. In this photo-driven book, Jackson shares nearly two decades worth of images (as well as personal memories) that capture the monarch we know and love as well as the more private woman behind the crown. 
The photographer Slim Aarons covered a rarefied world of wealth and society during his lengthy career, notably for Holiday and then Town & Country magazines. He brought a reporter’s sensibility to his work (he served as a war photographer during WWI) and portraitist’s sense of composition. Along with an uncanny knack for gaining the trust of his subjects Aarons also had an unerring eye for style, which writer and editor Kate Betts and photo archivist Shawn Waldron explore in this gorgeous new book. 
Anita Hill is a teacher, an advocate, and a legal scholar, but she might always be most recognizable as the woman who was brave enough to speak out against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In this new book, Hill looks at not only her own experiences, but those of thousands of survivors of violence to chart America’s experience dealing with the plague of gender violence and offers a call to action for a better future. 
Jonathan Franzen is plenty familiar with sweeping family dramas. After all, he’s the author of more than a few books, including The Corrections (which won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer nomination) and Freedom (which earned a legion of fans including President Obama), which are modern touchstones of the genre. Crossroads keeps the tradition alive; the novel follows the Hildebrandt family, a 1970s Chicago area brood whose each member is going through a time of immense change—seriously, the book’s nearly 600 pages mostly cover a single day. It’s a sprawling, intelligent, and slyly humorous look at the battles raging within each of us, and a reminder that sometimes the world’s greatest battles are being waged beneath our own roofs.
Award-winning entertainer Billy Porter has lived a life framed by intersectionality. As someone who identifies as Black and gay, Porter was forced to navigate a journey filled with waves of hardship. However, joy can exist alongside pain, as he proves through his memoir. This beautifully written work of art captures Porter’s inspirational life, one marked by the duality of trauma and healing.
This epic new novel from the author of Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow steps away from the mannered grandeur of those previous novels but loses none of the author’s trademark wit or style. In this nearly 600-page book, Towles tells the story of Emmett Watson, an 18-year-old Nebraskan who has just been sprung from a juvenile detention facility and has every intention of starting his life over fresh—that is until two friends from his time inside appear unexpectedly with plans of their own. What follows for Watson and his cohorts is a cross-country adventure packed with unexpected twists and unforgettable action.   
The actor, director, and preternaturally charming TV host Stanley Tucci is expanding his resume with this frank, fascinating memoir that looks at his life through the lens of the food that has sustained him. A mix of personal stories, recipes, and musings on the role food plays in our lives, Tucci’s book benefits greatly from his gifted storytelling and sense of humor, and is the rare work that’ll leave you both entirely satisfied and also, somehow, ravenous. 
Told from the alternating perspectives of two life-long friends, this intricately told, contemporary, and compelling novel by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza looks at how our most important relationships hold up when they’re truly put to the test. Jen and Riley have been friends as long as they can remember, even as their lives have diverged, but when Jen’s husband commits an act that puts them both uncomfortably in the spotlight, it could change things between the women forever.
In 2017, David Sedaris published his diary entries from 1977 to 2002, in a collection entitled Theft by Finding. The entries, ranging from witty to dirty to even a bit heart-wrenching, guided readers through Sedaris’ early career. Now, he’s releasing part two, with his diaries from 2003-2020. Expect the same humor and observational style, though in reference to increasingly current events. However, Sedaris reminds us that whether he’s sharing writing from the ’70s or the 2020s, some things truly never change. 
Veteran war correspondent and T&C contributor Janine di Giovanni turns her eye toward a part of the world she’s spent a lifetime covering, the Middle East, and examines what’s happening to one of the world’s major religions in the very place where it first rose to prominence. As Christianity seems to be disappearing through swaths of the world, di Giovanni delivers a masterfully reported and riveting story about the importance of faith and the profound power of belief in the face of overpowering odds. 
Behind every work of art, there’s often a muse that inspired it. French designer Christian Dior created stunning designs that embodied elegance, and the muse that helped to shape his work was his sister, Catherine Dior. However, Catherine was more than an inspiration; she was a Resistance fighter during World War II and a concentration camp survivor. Her story—which for so long was left untold—now lives on through the pages of this remarkable book.

Oh William! concludes Pulitzer Prize winner Strout’s Amgash Series. After My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible, the trilogy’s final work follows Lucy as she helps her ex-husband uncover a family secret. However, as William attempts to piece together life-altering information, Lucy tries to figure out Williama puzzle she’s never quite been able to solve. 
During the 1920s in New York City, everyone who was anyone knew Polly Adler. She ran some of the city’s most popular brothels, where figures from the underworld rubbed elbows with the swells of high society, and in doing so turned herself into a quintessential American success story. Kind of. In this thrilling biography from Pulitzer Prize winner Debby Applegate, Adler’s one-of-a-kind story is recounted and reminds us that if we’re meant to be living in a new Roaring ’20s, we’ve all got to get a lot more interesting—and fast.   
For those of us who know Katie Couric, we’re probably most familiar with her role as one of the most iconic journalists in the media industry.  But beyond the TV screen, there were so many moments in her personal life that were never discussed publicly, until now. In her memoir, Going There, Couric candidly reflects on her journey behind the scenes, one marked by trauma, love, perseverance, and so much more.  

A novel set during the pandemic, Wish You Were Here‘s lead character, Diana, ends up trapped in the Galápagos a few days before her 30th birthday. Rather than enjoying her trip with her surgical resident boyfriend, Diana is alone and unable to leave because of quarantines. However, Diana ends up forming connections with the people around her and learns that this trip gone awry might be just what she needs. 
Ann Patchett is best known for her novels, the most recent of which, The Dutch House, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. However, in her new collection of essays, Patchett gives readers a glimpse into the personal, taking us through the both monumental and quiet moments that shaped her as both as a writer and a human being. As Patchett notes, these essays contemplate “what I needed, whom I loved, what I could let go, and how much energy the letting go would take.”
This book, by the author of Diana’s Boys explores the adult lives of princes William and Harry and investigates how this relationship could shape the future of the British monarchy. It goes beyond the headlines to explore how these two brothers (and the women they married) relate to one another and maneuver the world around them, and what it could mean for the future of one of the world’s most watched dynasties. 
The journalist and TV news regular Anushay Hossain’s searing look at the state of the American health care system is a well researched, studiously observed account of how women, and especially women of color, are mistreated by the very people who are meant to help them heal. But it isn’t just an academic take on the subject: Hossain’s book gets much of its heart from recounting her own harrowing experiences and puts a face to a massive issue that many people don’t know about until it’s nearly too late. 
The Brooklyn Museum’s upcoming Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is one of the fall’s most anticipated exhibitions, and this catalogue is a perfect way to bring the show—which features more than 200 haute couture garments in addition to sketches, videos, photos, and other items—home with you.  
it isn’t every day that one of the world’s most storied hotels turns 90. In honor of New York City’s Carlyle Hotel hitting that milestone—though looking appropriately younger thanks in part to a recent renovation by designer Tony Chi—this stunning book (with a cover illustrated by by Kera Till) combines a history of the Upper East Side landmark with archival images, celebrity recollections of memorable stays, and more than a dash of the magic that’s made the Carlyle one of the world’s most iconic properties. 
Published in conjunction with a major exhibit in Qatar, this coffee-table book, edited by curator Masimilliano Gioni, features more than 60 works by Jeff Koons—one of the best known artists alive—as well as an interview with Koons and essays on his work and its impact by leading art writers. If you’re not going to make it to Doha for the exhibition, treat yourself to the book.