Readers rejoice: It’s the most wonderful time of the year for book lovers — pandemic notwithstanding.
In fact, this year promises an even deeper bounty than usual, given publishers’ shuffling of release dates due to the novel coronavirus.
“Beautiful Ruins” author Jess Walter will release what appears to be another page-turner with “The Cold Millions.” Marilynne Robinson is back with “Jack,” a new installment in her “Gilead” novels. And Phil Klay, who won the 2014 National Book Award for his story collection “Redeployment,” is publishing his debut novel, “Missionaries.”
Read on for more best bets, presented in order of publication date. We can’t possibly get to them all, but given the strange way time bends these days, we hope you will.
‘Just Us: An American Conversation’ by Claudia Rankine
In “Just Us,” Claudia Rankine continues the urgent conversation about race she started with her National Book Award-winning poetry collection “Citizen: An American Lyric.” By combining poetry, essay, visual elements and other forms, Rankine finds language to excavate this nation’s deepest hurt. (Graywolf, 352 pages, $30, out now)
‘Zorro’s Shadow: How a Mexican Legend Became America’s First Superhero’ by Stephen J.C. Andes
Historian Stephen J.C. Andes argues the mark of Zorro brands even the most modern American superheroes as he traces the character’s sword-slashing roots to 1919 pulp fiction. Andes aims to reclaim the character’s Latinx roots as an avenger in Old Spanish California. (Chicago Review, 304 pages, $18.99, out now)
‘His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life’ by Jonathan Alter
Jonathan Alter offers a sweeping biography of 95-year-old Jimmy Carter, from his farm-boy childhood in the 1920s through his single-term presidency and his innovative post-presidency as a champion for human rights. The biography promises to “change our understanding of perhaps the most misunderstood president in American history” — and one whose decency stands out in today’s political climate. (Simon & Schuster, 800 pages, $37.50, Sept. 29)
‘How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back’ by Jeff Tweedy
Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy offers a primer on the creative promise of songwriting. It works to both demystify the process of divining song, lyrics and the process of putting the two together while observing the wonder and joy in human artistic endeavor. (Dutton, 176 pages, $23, Oct. 13)
‘White Fright: The Sexual Panic at the Heart of America’s Racist History’ by Jane Dailey
Jane Dailey asserts that fear of interracial sex drove white supremacists to fight against civil rights for Black Americans. The book explores how anxiety surrounding sexuality influenced racial violence between Reconstruction and the U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict in Loving v. Virginia, which finally struck down bans on interracial marriage. (Basic, 368 pages, $30, Nov. 17)
‘One Life’ by Megan Rapinoe
Soccer star Megan Rapinoe’s book publishes the Tuesday after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, but it’s teased as “a thoughtful and unapologetic discussion of social justice and politics.” Rapinoe, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup champion, was raised in a conservative Northern California town but has since become an outspoken advocate for equal pay for women, LGBTQ rights and racial equality. (Penguin, 240 pages, $27, Nov. 10)
‘Likes’ by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of the critically acclaimed “Mrs. Hempel Chronicles” and “Madeleine Is Sleeping,” returns with a story collection. Known for her keen observation of human nature as well as her wit and humor, these tales investigate the conundrums of modern American living. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 240 pages, $26, out now)
‘The Lying Life of Adults’ by Elena Ferrante
Perhaps you devoured Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, featuring such beloved titles as “My Brilliant Friend” and “The Story of the Lost Child.” Consider picking up “The Lying Life of Adults,” a new coming-of-age novel that traces another young female protagonist — Giovanna — as she seeks to discover who she is as she navigates the streets of Naples. (Europa, 324 pages, $26, out now)
‘Monogamy’ by Sue Miller
Sue Miller, author of “The Arsonist,” offers a complex portrait of a nearly 30-year marriage. Told from the point of view of the wife after the husband’s sudden death, the book spirals around a revelation of infidelity. (Harper, 352 pages, $28.99, out now)
‘How to Walk on Water’ by Rachel Swearingen
Swearingen will release her debut volume of stories, “How to Walk on Water.” Publishers Weekly called it a “crafty collection,” noting that “Swearingen juxtaposes ... intense story with the darkly comic.” (New American, 182 pages, $14.95, Oct. 1)
‘The Office of Historical Corrections’ by Danielle Evans
“The Office of Historical Corrections,” a novella, is presented here along with other stories that chronicle how history — racial and cultural — continues to reverberate through daily life. Danielle Evans, author of the critically acclaimed “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self,” continues to write provocative fiction about people of color, raising questions about who gets to dictate our national narrative. (Riverhead, 288 pages, $27, Nov. 10)
‘Remote Control’ by Nnedi Okorafor
This one doesn’t come out until 2021, but who doesn’t need something to look forward to in the new year? Award-winning science-fiction author Nnedi Okorafor will return with a new novel about a girl who’s adopted by Death itself. She’s searching for answers. Aren’t we all? (Tor, $19.99, 160 pages, Jan. 19)
And here are six more paperbacks worth checking out.
‘The Yellow House’ by Sarah Broom (Grove Atlantic, $17)
Winner of the 2019 National Book Award for nonfiction, Sarah Broom’s mesmerizing memoir tells the story of a house, and of the lives that flowed in and out of it like a river. Broom’s family home, a modest shotgun house in east New Orleans that was badly damaged by the floods following Hurricane Katrina, no longer stands. “But it lives in these pages,” I wrote after reading it last summer, “in the jostle of children in its rooms, in the stories of an ever-shifting mosaic of neighbors, in the portrait of a part of New Orleans that’s far from tourists (‘Walkers here did not stroll’), and in the vivid, poetic voice of a woman learning the meaning of home.”
‘Your House Will Pay’ by Steph Cha (HarperCollins, $17.99)
Steph Cha’s book, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, follows two L.A. families — one Korean American, one Black — in the aftermath of a violent crime.
‘Three Women’ by Lisa Taddeo (Simon & Schuster, $17)
Journalist/author Lisa Taddeo spent years researching this nonfiction book, which examines the sexual lives of three American women. “The book is sexually explicit — you might blush when reading it — but it never feels gratuitous or clinical,” wrote an NPR reviewer. “Its prose is gorgeous, nearly lyrical as it describes the longings and frustrations that propel these ordinary women. Blending the skills of an ethnographer and a poet, Taddeo renders them extraordinary.”
‘A Better Man’ by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s, $9.99)
No. 15 in Louise Penny's beloved series featuring the French-Canadian village of Three Pines and gentleman detective Armand Gamache, “A Better Man” involves a missing woman and a catastrophic flood.
‘Middle England’ by Jonathan Coe (Knopf Doubleday, $17)
Jonathan Coe’s timely novel, winner of the Costa Novel Award, is set in a contemporary Britain torn apart by Brexit debate. “While we want everything we read at the moment to speak with the voice of our own particular echo chamber,” wrote a reviewer in The Guardian, “Coe — a writer of uncommon decency — reminds us that the way out of this mess is through moderation, through compromise, through that age-old English ability to laugh at ourselves.”
‘How We Fight For Our Lives’ by Saeed Jones (Simon & Schuster, $17)
Winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Stonewall Book Award, Saeed Jones’ book describes his own coming of age as a gay Black man in the American South. A New York Times reviewer described it as “a moving and bracingly honest memoir that reads like fevered poetry.”
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