Autumn 2021


Greetings from Three Lives & Company!


After a long, straggling summer, there is finally a bite in the air and the promise of an all-too-brief Northeast fall. It was around this time four years ago that we published our letterpress edition of OÕHenryÕs story ŅThe Last Leaf,Ó a consummate West Village tale for the season: ŅAn old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.Ó


We have plenty of copies of ŅThe Last Leaf,Ó but – as you have likely heard already – some other books will be in short supply as we approach the holidays. Supply chain disruptions, plus printing and delivery delays, mean that the earlier you can order the books you need for the end of the year, the better! DonÕt leave your book shopping to the last minute (or last week, or even last month if possible): tell us now what you need, and we will do everything we can to get it to you. That goes double for signed and personalized copies of Amor TowlesÕs The Lincoln Highway, which we are pleased to be offering again – let us know if you would like a copy, or many copies, and we will get them to you before the holidays. (And looking ahead, we are excited to do the same for To Paradise, the new novel from A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara, and Billy HayesÕs Sweat: if you would like a signed and personalized copy of either, get in touch with us before the books go on sale in January!)


Whatever the supply issues, it has been an incredible fall season for books, and there are lots of treasures to pick from. We wonÕt repeat the massive list of recent marquee titles – see our September newsletter for that – but as always, we have rounded up our recent staff favorites below! We also want to know what you have been reading and what has stuck with you over the course of the year. Send us a sentence about your top read(s) of 2021, and we will feature a selection in our holiday newsletter.


One last note: if you do find yourself bookless in the eleventh hour this holiday season, remember that we also offer gift certificates, in any amount, and they do not expire.



~ Recent Staff Favorites ~


IÕve got a curveball for you. The best thing IÕve read in the last few months – the text that proved most informative and enjoyable – is a guidebook! I recently spent a long weekend in Savannah (go if you havenÕt!) and decided to take a new guide for a whirl: Wildsam. Long a devotee of Moon, FodorÕs, and Rough Guides, I felt hesitant about branching away from my tried and true, but Wildsam was an amazing discovery. Less geared toward where to eat/stay/shop and more an introduction to the history and culture of the place, Wildsam Field Guides: Savannah is a repository of newspaper clippings; interesting facts about local flora, fauna, industries, etc.; short biographies of local notables; and original essays from current inhabitants. It was the perfect companion while I sat in the cityÕs coffee shops and Spanish moss-draped squares and provided texture and insight to my own impressions. Would it be going too far if I admitted that I perused WildsamÕs catalog to see which American cities I should visit next? – Miriam



ThereÕs an unsettling mixture of feelings when a favorite author has a big new book coming: excitement, of course, but also a certain fear that it wonÕt live up to their standard. And when youÕve been waiting for the next book for eight years, as I have been waiting for Ruth OzekiÕs Book of Form and Emptiness (Viking), thereÕs also a palpable sense of relief when it does turn out to be very good indeed. OzekiÕs latest is another big novel of big ideas – about loss, mental illness, environmental ruin, the prevalence of things in our lives – wrapped into the story of a boy, Benny Oh, who loses his father and begins to hear voices. OzekiÕs books are always a mˇlange of darkness and humanity, very deliberately constructed, with a compassion for lifeÕs difficulties that few other authors can match.


My other recent favorite read was the Brazil edition of EuropaÕs travel-oriented series The Passenger, each issue of which collects writing and photography on the history and culture of a particular country or city. ItÕs a gorgeous production, and a wide-ranging one: I read about Brazilian politics, samba, the Amazon, and an especially interesting piece on postal service in the favelas. (My colleagues also had to tolerate days of bossa nova soundtracks at the bookstore. Check out Lisa Ono!) – Ryan



Ah, finally: some poetry to love! Winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, Michael Kleber-DiggsÕs Worldly Things (Milkweed) is my standout poetry collection of 2021. Striking the right balance of small, precious moments (teaching his daughter to drive, learning to bake) and abject sorrow (the murder of his father, the death of Black lives at the hands of police), Kleber-Diggs explores life from all sides with refreshing frankness – see ŅAmerica Is Loving Me to DeathÓ – while reminding us of the joys of the world and how there is always the possibility of something good. Keep an eye out for ŅGloria Mundi,Ó maybe the most beautiful piece of writing IÕve read this year. – Nora



I have always been easily seduced by the seasons and what they uniquely offer. This applies to the laden tables at the greenmarket, the display case of a bakery, and even the stacks of books that surround my bedside table. So this seemed like the perfect time to read Ali SmithÕs Autumn (Anchor), the first book in her now-completed seasonal quartet. ItÕs a wonderful, artful novel, partly set during Brexit-era Great Britain, but at its heart is the unforgettable friendship between a young girl named Elizabeth and her much older neighbor, Daniel. Daniel is always asking young Elizabeth what she is reading, and on one occasion he follows up with ŅAnd what did it make you think about?Ó And there you have it: the chemistry between the reader, the writer, and the story.


Writing about that inner dialogue between the reader/observer and the author/artist is what Patti Smith does so beautifully and poetically. Woolgathering (New Directions), a book from 1992, has just been re-released this fall with a new afterword and photographs. As I read this coming-of-age memoir, I was stirred by my own memories of childhood and the people and experiences that shaped me. Smith inspires a dreaminess in her readers. In the foreword, Smith writes ŅEverything contained in this little book is true, and written just like it wasÉ I hope that in some measure it will fill the reader with a vague and curious joy.Ó It most certainly did.


Speaking of joy, Stanley TucciÕs Taste: My Life Through Food (Gallery) is all about the joys, pleasures, satisfactions (and hardships too) of living, through the lens of cooking, eating, and sharing meals. ItÕs impossible not to think about oneÕs own life through food as Tucci takes us through his with such charisma, honesty, and wit. (Relatedly, the book I am most excited to get my hands on is Claudia RodenÕs Mediterranean: Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travel from Ten Speed Press, out on November 9th.) – Troy



Befitting the season, I read several books that cross into the world of the dead: Karl Ove KnausgaardÕs The Morning Star (Penguin Press), Joy WilliamsÕs Harrow (Knopf), and John AshberyÕs Parallel Movement of the Hands (Ecco) posthumous, so death-adjacent. The standout from this excellent group is Harrow, a novel so good that I hesitate to say anything except that you should read it. WilliamsÕs prose is like that new black paint thatÕs so dark it swallows light. Prepare for a serious downer. Then, the books that colleagues recommended: Aidan HigginsÕs Balcony of Europe (Dalkey Archive) and Jonathan FranzenÕs Crossroads (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – thank you, Toby!


Many of these books I loved because they are fragmentary, resisting closure (Ashbery, Higgins, Knausgaard, Williams). But Crossroads is beautiful because it feels like a perfect whole. FranzenÕs narrative is so balanced, so well-constructed. He loves his characters, doling out pain and mercy in equal measure. I stayed up late into the night reading this book because, as one character reflects, ŅThe dream of a novel was more resilient than other kinds of dreaming.Ó DonÕt you agree?


I also left my comfort zone to read some creative nonfiction, and it paid off. Justin BealÕs Sandfuture (MIT Press) was such a lucky discovery, a brilliant hybrid that combines personal memoir with an illuminating biography of Minoru Yamasaki, the architect behind the World Trade CenterÕs twin towers. In BealÕs erudite voice, everything in the world seems interesting: the geology of ManhattanÕs bedrock, a skyscraper, a migraine. ItÕs complex, humane, and fascinating. A wonderful read! Lucas



What a stellar season for books! IÕll admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed and nearly frozen by the many offerings being published this fall – picking up a book but all the while glancing at the TBR pile next to the bed (and lined up on the floor and stacked up on the dining table). But I have managed to find some focus and some recent favorites, nevertheless.


I was a massive fan of Box Hill in 2020, so was delighted to see that Adam Mars-Jones had a new novel out this year. Though it could not be more different from Box Hill, Batlava Lake (Fitzcarraldo) is another exemplar of the short novel: crisp, concise, powerful. In the form of testimony (or is it an interrogation?) given to an unseen inquisitor, Barry Ashton, a civil engineer assigned to the British military during the Kosovo War, gives a rambling, anxious, impertinent account of his service in-country. Ashton is a man at the extremes both in his chaotic work situation as well as the state of his marriage and family back in England.


Jonathan Franzen is back with Crossroads and delivers another immersive, all-consuming novel to wrestle with. ItÕs December 23, 1971, and the Hildebrandt family is in total freefall – engines whining, rivets popping, windows imploding – as each family member seeks immediate and dramatic release from the confines of their life together. It is a brutal read – at times I felt unable to sit still as I read – but also a terrific accounting of the psychological stew of family and the unsettling ramifications of actions taken. The first of a planned trilogy that will span the decades, I look forward to Book Two: what happens to these Hildebrandts?!Toby



~ Signed Editions ~



Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Darling Baby by Maira Kalman (Little, Brown)

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Grove)

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King (Grove)

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki (Viking)

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Oh William! By Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Penguin)

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Viking)

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)



Baggage by Alan Cumming (Dey Street)

Little Pieces of Hope by Todd Doughty with illustrations by Josie Portillo (Penguin Life)

WhatÕs Good? by Peter Hoffman (Abrams)

The Other Talk by Brendan Kiely (Atheneum)

That Sounds So Good by Carla Lalli Music (Clarkson Potter)

Burnt Toast and Other Disasters by Cal Peternell (William Morrow)

Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell (William Morrow)

Graceland, At Last by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed)

Let the Record Show by Sarah Schulman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Brothers on Three by Abe Streep (Celadon)

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang (Doubleday)

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria (W.W. Norton)



~ The Three Lives & Company Bestseller List ~ 


1. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Viking)

2. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

3. Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Washington Square)

5. Normal People by Sally Rooney (Hogarth)

6. Taste by Stanley Tucci (Gallery)

7. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

8. A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris (Little, Brown)

9. Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados (Verso)

10. Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer (Bloomsbury)

11. The Magician by Colm T—ib’n (Scribner)