The Eden Hunter (Counterpoint, $16)
By Skip Horack
Published: Sept. 1
Reason to care: Stanford lecturer Horack's stylish historical novel about a runaway slave is moving in more ways than one: It's a page-turner that really gets to you.
Sample line: "Occasionally the prophet would turn his head to spit blood and bits of tooth and flint and stick, and before long a paste had formed in the dirt beside them."
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: Stories (Random House, $25)
By Yiyun Li
Published: Sept. 14
Reason to care: Li has a pearled touch, and anyone who has read any of the Oakland-based author's previous story collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, or her novel, The Vagrants, knows to be excited for her next book.
Sample lines (from the title story): "It was Dickens who had in the end killed Siyu's mother: as a daughter of the British capitalists' loyal lapdog, she had hanged herself when her own daughter was four months of age, barely old enough to be weaned."
Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America (Walker & Co., $25)
By Bill Barich
Published: Oct. 12
Reason to care: Barich, a former San Francisco Public Library literary laureate, reread Travels with Charley and found it depressing. Then he drove across America, retracing Steinbeck's route.
Sample lines: "The bedraggled multitude of outcasts around the Civic Center, once a sight so familiar I accepted it as normal, horrified me now. You rarely see such apparent indifference to human misery anywhere in Europe."
What Technology Wants (Penguin, $28)
By Kevin Kelly
Published: Oct. 18
Reason to care: Seriously, what does technology want? Why won't it leave us alone? Cool Tools publisher Kelly, a founding editor of Wired, has some thoughts.
Sample lines (from chapter 10, "The Unabomber Was Right"): "Technology swells till it fills all holes and spaces between us. We monitor not only our neighbors' affairs but those of anyone we care to spy on."
Palo Alto: Stories (Scribner, $24)
By James Franco
Published: Oct. 19
Reason to care: It's called Palo Alto and is written by the guy who, since growing up there, has made time between his soap-opera performance art and being in Eat Pray Love and enrolling in Yale for an English Ph.D to play Allen Ginsberg in Howl.
Sample lines (from "Just Before the Black"): "I often think about driving off the side of freeway overpasses, just plunge Grandpa's old blue boat through the cement guardrail: The sculpted barrier crumbling about me and Grandpa's blue machine; a great moment of metallic explosion and heavy ripping and jerking and then release; a soft, slow dive of arcing color through the windshield, into a hard second of impact, just before the black."