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For bibliophiles, a buzzworthy autumn

Book buyers and bookstore owners offer tips as to fall's best new books, from Phillip Roth's new novel to Stephen Colbert's guide to America.

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"It is a spectacular fall," says Carole Horne, general manager of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. "One of the best that I've seen."

By "spectacular," Ms. Horne isn't referring to the weather. Nor does she mean a potential bumper crop of apples or incoming college students. Horne is gushing about the autumn's harvest of fresh books, and her basket of picks brims with Claptons, Clintons, Colberts, and Clarkes, to name the ripest ones.

With the back-to-school, hit-the-books season in mind, we asked publishing and bookselling insiders which September, October, and November releases are attracting the biggest buzz. The fall list should satisfy all tastes, from old favorites to new kids on the block.

For fiction, Horne reels off some heavy-hitters: Denis Johnson, Alan Lightman, Ann Patchett, Michael Chabon, Alice Sebold, Junot Díaz, and Philip Roth, all with new novels. "Anytime you have a new Philip Roth," she says of Exit Ghost, "it's an event."

But at the top of her must-read pile sits Richard Russo, whose Bridge of Sighs comes at the end of September. "I thought 'Empire Falls' was the peak of his career," says the 33-year bookselling veteran, of Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. "But this is as good, if not better." Like his other works, "Bridge of Sighs" chronicles the dramas of ordinary folk – this time Lou C. Lynch, a 60-year resident of a small town in upstate New York.

An up-and-coming novelist attracting the most attention is Brock Clarke, for his just-released literary mystery, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. "It's a really interesting oddball novel," says Sara Nelson, editor in chief of industry bible Publishers Weekly, "about an oddball guy who might accidentally be burning down houses."

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