By A.J. Jacobs
Simon & Schuster, October, $25
If author A.J. Jacobs were just a drop less funny or a drop less smart, he'd come off as truly annoying. But he is that funny and smart, so … all is forgiven - especially since his latest book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, offers an accessible way to think about religion in modern life. Yes, studying religion can be fun. Wander the path with Jacobs as he grows a freakishly unruly beard, tends sheep in the Negev Desert, and figures out where religion fits into the life of a guy who grew up in an ever-so-secular home. The book, which has caused quite the buzz, is the author's follow-up to 2004's The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (see, even the title would be annoying if it weren't so funny).
Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography
By David Michaelis
HarperCollins, October, $35
We all think we know Charles Schulz. After all, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the lot have played at least some role in the life of, well, everybody in America. Anybody who claims that he or she has never read a Peanuts strip or seen A Charlie Brown Christmas has been living under a mighty big rock. Mighty big. But we don't really know Schulz - he wasn't the most openmouthed about his own life. It was the life of his characters that he was most interested in sharing with all of us. Now Michaelis offers an authorized look at Schulz himself - along with, of course, a look at Schulz's favorite bunch of artfully drawn kids.
The Used World: A Novel
By Haven Kimmel
Free Press, September, $25
Haven Kimmel, one of the best author names around, is most well known for her memoirs, A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana. These days, though, she's all about the fiction - and the reading world is a better place for it. The Used World gives us Hazel, Claudia, and Rebekah, the women who run an Indiana antiques shop called (and this might sound familiar from the title) Hazel Hunnicut's Used World Emporium. They are characters worth knowing. This is one of those books that people will keep handy on a shelf, ready for them to read again every few years or so.
Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
By Steve Martin
Scribner, November, $23
I admit it: I still love The Jerk. But that's not why I picked this one. Martin has had one of the most interesting careers of anybody in entertainment these days, yet he's remained such a mystery. He doesn't even seem to give up very much about himself in interviews. And that's made me even more curious. So now I want to see what he's going to give up about himself. Everybody I mentioned the book to responded with, "Oh, I want to read that!" So I figured you would as well.
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
By David Halberstam
Hyperion, September, $35
When it comes to historical narratives, there aren't many writers who do it better than David Halberstam did. He set the standard - and set it high - with The Best and the Brightest, his 1972 account of the Vietnam War. In The Coldest Winter, his latest and last, as he was killed in a car accident earlier this year, Halberstam turned his narrative strengths and incredible reporting skills (he's been a Yoda to generations of journalism-school students) on the Korean War. This is sure to be the - and we mean the - history book of the season.