For the publishing industry, the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many books slated for spring and summer of this year were moved to the fall. Now, the last months of 2020 will feature an abundance of new work from some of the world’s most celebrated authors. There’s Elena Ferrante’s first novel in five years, Pulitzer Prize finalist Laila Lalami’s searing new nonfiction, Margaret Atwood’s latest poetry collection and Marilynne Robinson’s return to the world of Gilead. Readers will also be introduced to emerging voices like Susie Yang and Dolores Reyes. Their stories of heartbreak, humor and hope will guide us through the end of the year. Here, the most anticipated books of fall 2020.
Likes, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (Sept. 1)
In the titular story of Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s electric collection, a father tries to make sense of his 12-year-old daughter through examining her Instagram posts. The narrative captures the tensions that exist between technology, parenthood and growing up—all of which are revisited throughout the different stories in Likes. The nine pieces, though rooted in reality, contain unexpected undercurrents of magic, coalescing into an innovative portrait of modern living.
Daddy: Stories, Emma Cline (Sept. 1)
In 2016, Emma Cline made her debut with The Girls, an explosive coming-of-age novel inspired by the Manson family that found a spot on many best of the year lists. Her follow-up is a quieter, but still haunting exploration of how we interact with one another. The 10 short stories that comprise Daddy range in subject, from a celebrity family’s nanny recovering from a scandal to a father who must pick up his son at boarding school after he’s been expelled. Throughout, Cline asks how familial units are constructed—and illustrates how quickly they can fall apart.
To Be a Man: Stories, Nicole Krauss (Nov. 3)
Novelist Nicole Krauss is known for stories that cross generations, time periods and continents. Her first short-story collection, the luminous To Be a Man, serves up sharply drawn slices of individual human experience. Over 10 stories, a diverse set of characters come to terms with sexuality, maturity and identity.
Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi (Sept. 1)
At the center of Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to her celebrated 2016 debut Homegoing is Gifty, a Ghanaian-American neuroscientist. After her brother died of a heroin overdose as a teenager, Gifty dedicated her life to understanding addiction. In Transcendent Kingdom, she is catapulted back to their shared youth, and the time she spent at her family’s Evangelical church. Gyasi’s timely novel offers reflection on the relationships between science, faith, grief and love.
A Girl is A Body of Water, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Sept. 1)
It’s 1970s Uganda. Idi Amin is in power, and a curious girl named Kirabo, raised by her grandmother in a small village, is just discovering what it means to grow up. In lyrical prose, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi renders Kirabo’s coming-of-age tale as a tender depiction of evolving womanhood, self-awareness in a tight-knit community and the path back to family and history.
His Only Wife, Peace Adzo Medie (Sept. 1)
Afi, a young seamstress in a small Ghanaian town, must contend with cultural mores and her family’s expectations when she’s offered a marriage proposal by a wealthy suitor. When her new husband sends a stand-in to their wedding and she begins living married life alone in the bustling capital of Accra, Afi sees that her marriage is not what she anticipated. But soon she begins to wonder if this unconventional union may be the key to gaining the freedom she’s always dreamed of.
Monogamy, Sue Miller (Sept. 8)
For almost three decades, Annie shared a life with her husband Graham. In Sue Miller’s latest novel, Graham suddenly dies, leaving Annie unsure of how to go on living. Hers is a quiet but heartbreaking dilemma, which is made all the more difficult when Annie discovers that Graham had been unfaithful during their marriage. In Monogamy, Annie is prompted to find the answers to an unsettling question: Who was her husband, really?
What Are You Going Through, Sigrid Nunez (Sept. 8)
The latest novel from Sigrid Nunez shares several themes with her 2018 National Book Award winner The Friend. In both, Nunez contemplates how we write and talk about death, love and friendship. What Are You Going Through follows a middle-aged writer through a series of interactions with various people in her life, from her pretentious ex to an Airbnb host. But when her terminally ill friend makes an unthinkable request, the narrator is forced to reckon with her definitions of living and dying. Nunez crafts an aching look into the ways people can support one another through crisis.
Homeland Elegies, Ayad Akhtar (Sept. 15)
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar examines the intersection of identity and politics through a story that closely resembles his own experiences as the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan living in the U.S. The novel’s narrator, who is also named Ayad Akhtar, struggles to make sense of his place in a country that is fractured by fear and hate. Through the eight chapters of Homeland Elegies, Akhtar weaves together a stunning narrative on the barriers to belonging in Trump-era America.
Jack, Marilynne Robinson (Sept. 29)
Marilynne Robinson makes her triumphant return to the world of Gilead, Iowa in the fourth installment of her acclaimed series. Jack’s titular character is the white adult son of Gilead’s Presbyterian minister, and has fallen in love with a Black high school teacher. An agonizing push and pull of power and love ensues, as two people fight to be together despite objections from family members. Through this blistering story of an interracial romance, Robinson once again mines the intricacies and complications of American life.
Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam (Oct. 6)
It’s summertime in Long Island, where Brooklynites Amanda and Clay are vacationing with their teenage children. The home they rent is perfect—marble countertops in the kitchen, French doors to the deck, a pool out back—except its owners show up in the middle of the night during their stay. There’s no power in New York City, and Ruth and G.H. didn’t feel safe in their apartment, so they trekked to their vacation home, which now has no internet or cell service. What begins as a luxurious getaway spirals into a hellish fever dream as the families live together, cut off from the rest of the world, unsure of who to trust and desperate for information about what’s going on outside their shared walls.
Memorial, Bryan Washington (Oct. 27)
Benson is a Black daycare teacher living in Houston with his boyfriend Mike, a Japanese-American chef. Though they’ve shared a home for a few years, the longevity of their relationship is shaky at best when Mike learns his father is dying. Mike decides to go see him in Osaka—just as his mother shows up in town for a visit. Now, Benson is forced to share his living space with a woman he just met while her son is halfway around the world. Memorial follows the duo on their separate journeys, where they begin to understand the place they hold in each other’s lives.
White Ivy, Susie Yang (Nov. 3)
Ivy Lin has a crush. But as a conflicted teen, torn between her multi-generational Chinese family’s expectations and her desire to assimilate into the culture of their adopted home of Boston, Ivy’s crush becomes a turning point. In a suspenseful debut from Susie Yang, Ivy’s coming-of-age story is complicated by the power of her ambition and the meaning of her past.
The Lying Life of Adults, Elena Ferrante (trans. Ann Goldstein) (Sept. 1)
Twelve-year-old Giovanna has never met her aunt Vittoria. Her parents hate the woman—Giovanna has grown up listening to them call Vittoria cruel and ugly. It’s no surprise then that Giovanna’s world is completely rocked when she overhears her father compare her to the sister whom he despises. In her first novel translated to English in five years, Elena Ferrante follows Giovanna on a wrenching path of self-discovery as the young protagonist decides to find her aunt in an effort to learn more about herself. One of the most anticipated books of the year, The Lying Life of Adults demonstrates Ferrante’s superb ability to capture the anxieties and complications of adolescence.
Earthlings, Sayaka Murata (trans. Ginny Tapley Takemori) (Oct. 6)
Japanese author Sayaka Murata’s previous novel, Convenience Store Woman, offered one of the most original and striking narratives of the last few years, at once eerie and comforting in its depiction of a devoted worker in one of Japan’s ubiquitous convenience shops. Her new novel promises another original premise, following a girl who begins to wonder if she’s an alien after her cousin reveals that he is one. It’s a novel about belonging, changing how we see the world and the struggle against easy conformity.
The Hole, Hiroko Oyamada (trans. David Boyd) (Oct. 6)
Hiroko Oyamada’s 2014 novel, The Hole, will reach English readers this fall with a new translation by David Boyd. The book centers on the darkly fantastical adventures of Asa, a bored Japanese housewife, after she tumbles into a hole on the grassy knoll of a river embankment and meets strange creatures and outlandish characters. If the plot feels reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, know that Alice’s surreal dream is more like a horrific nightmare for Asa, who must confront whether her sanity is at stake as her circumstances grow more and more bizarre.
Red Pill, Hari Kunzru (Sept. 1)
Hari Kunzru’s work is marked by a dogged pursuit of truth, an element that’s readily apparent in his latest novel, Red Pill. The book’s unnamed narrator, a Brooklyn-based writer going through a midlife crisis, decamps to Berlin for a fellowship, leaving behind his family and home for the chance to produce writing of value. His new environment, however, proves to be more disturbing than inspirational, leading him to question everything he knows and values—including his own sanity.
The Searcher, Tana French (Oct. 6)
Midwestern detective Cal relocates to western Ireland to find some peace after a bad divorce. But instead of settling into retirement, Cal finds himself swept up into one last case involving a local teen and his missing brother. Tana French, the author of best-selling crime thrillers including the Dublin Murder Squad series, takes this standalone novel at a measured pace, easing readers into Cal’s quiet life before the thrills unravel.
Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Oct. 13)
With Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse kicks off a new trilogy set in a universe inspired by the pre-Columbian Americas and thick with mythology and magic. Roanhorse, who has won awards for sci-fi writing and contributions to the Star Wars series, builds a world featuring beasts, mermaids and deeply human characters on a quest for survival.
The Arrest, Jonathan Lethem (Nov. 10)
From his detective fiction with Motherless Brooklyn to his evocative writing about childhood in Brooklyn in The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem has demonstrated a chameleon-like ability to take on different forms and subjects. His new novel promises a turn into a post-apocalyptic future, where technology has stopped functioning and the U.S. has been torn apart. In this reality, a former Los Angeles screenwriter living on a farm in Maine confronts a college classmate who is traveling across the country in a nuclear-powered car.
The Kingdom, Jo Nesbø (Nov. 10)
For mystery readers in search of heroes a shade darker than Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, enter Norway’s Jo Nesbø, known for his books starring the admirably effective—and occasionally alcoholic—Inspector Harry Hole. The Kingdom, Nesbø’s new standalone story, sees him peeling back layers of unnerving secrets surrounding a pair of brothers in Oslo, from their parents’ mysterious deaths to their family’s disturbing history and the secrets of their hometown.
Eartheater, Dolores Reyes (Nov. 17)
In Dolores Reyes’ debut novel, a young woman in Argentina is given a rare if terrifying gift: the ability to see visions of lives lost when she eats dirt. She first encounters her powers following her mother’s death; upon impulsively tasting soil, she learns the real and shattering truth about her mother’s passing. In a series of beautifully haunting moments, the woman’s newfound gift becomes the vehicle for those around her to confront the traumas surrounding the mysterious losses of their loved ones.
Ready Player Two, Ernest Cline (Nov. 24)
Ernest Cline’s 2011 sci-fi adventure Ready Player One became a best-seller, a prophetic vision of a technology-fueled dystopian future and a Steven Spielberg blockbuster. The sequel arrives nearly a decade later and promises more action and even more predictions about what happens when the real and virtual worlds inevitably meld.
African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, Kevin Young (Editor) (Oct. 13)
One of the U.S.’s most talented poets, Kevin Young is the perfect guide to reconstruct the American canon. His sweeping anthology of African-American poetry across U.S. history is an exhilarating collection of voices that have helped shape the country, many of whom never got their full due. By including new forms and overlooked schools, Young’s anthology promises to rewrite the history of American verse.
Buy Now: African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song on Bookshop | Amazon
Dearly: New Poems, Margaret Atwood (Nov. 10)
While Margaret Atwood is best known for novels like The Handmaid’s Tale, readers would be remiss to forget that her writing career began with poetry. Atwood’s new book—her first collection of poems in over a decade—is a good reminder of her mastery of the craft. In Dearly, Atwood’s inspirations run the gamut from the intoxicating pleasures of nature to the fantastical goings-on of zombies, but the themes are grounded in the familiar: love, loss, desire and the inevitability of time passing. Atwood blurs the lines of what we know and asks us instead to give credence to what we feel.
Eat a Peach, David Chang (Sept. 8)
The affecting memoir from chef and Momofuku founder David Chang details his path to culinary success amid his struggles with bipolar disorder. In Eat a Peach, Chang opens up about growing up as a Korean-American kid in Virginia, where he battled a mental illness that he only began to understand years later. In vulnerable and honest terms, Chang puts these experiences into the context of his life and career, delving into the chaos of working in a kitchen and outlining his rise to cooking stardom.
Let Love Rule, Lenny Kravitz (Oct. 6)
Rock ‘n’ roll icon Lenny Kravitz looks back on his first 25 years in Let Love Rule, his memoir co-written with songwriter and biographer David Ritz. With roots in New York and Los Angeles, Kravitz narrates the story of a colorful youth spent exploring music, discovering his passions and coming to terms with his star power before signing his first record deal.
Is This Anything?, Jerry Seinfeld (Oct. 6)
Longtime Seinfeld viewers will know that Jerry always opened his hit sitcom with a stand-up set. Is This Anything, the comedian’s first book in 25 years, is the written version of sets like those and more, seeing him spell out jokes on subjects from airplane bathrooms to the pitfalls of being left-handed. These are his best “bits,” in chronological order from 1975 onward. And beyond his dry humor, they trace the development of one man’s distinctive (and wildly successful) craft.
Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life, Christie Tate (Oct. 27)
Popular blogger Christie Tate is no stranger to looking to her personal life for writing material, but her debut memoir about her years participating in a psychotherapy group takes it to the next level with fearless candor and vulnerability. In Group, Tate revisits how group therapy changed her life by forcing her to be radically honest about everything from her former eating disorder to her childhood traumas. She reflects on the group of strangers who helped her to find connection and intimacy with others, and perhaps most importantly, with herself.
One Life, Megan Rapinoe (Nov. 10)
Megan Rapinoe became a household name thanks to her winning performances in the 2016 Olympics and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup as a star of the U.S. women’s soccer team. Her defiant insistence on standing up for pay equity and her visibility as an LGBTQ icon and ally have only reinforced her stature. In One Life, Rapinoe traces her roots in conservative California, her journey with soccer and her growth into a social justice leader.
Buy Now: One Life on Amazon
No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, Michael J. Fox (Nov. 17)
Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 29, Michael J. Fox has fueled his advocacy work surrounding Parkinson’s with his trademark optimism—an element that was undeniably apparent in his first two memoirs, Lucky Man and Always Looking Up. In Fox’s new memoir, No Time Like the Future, the actor and activist re-evaluates his sunny outlook on life in light of new health challenges. Filled with humorous and thoughtful anecdotes and reflections, the book offers insights into a man who knows struggle all too well, but refuses to let it get in the way of living.
Essays and journalism
Having and Being Had, Eula Biss (Sept. 1)
“What does it say about capitalism that we have money and want to spend it but we can’t find anything worth buying?” The question comes from Eula Biss’ husband as the two search for furniture for their first home. The answer is undoubtedly complicated, and one that Biss rips apart in her sharp collection of essays fixated on class, privilege and how we assign value. From how her son trades Pokémon cards to mass reliance on IKEA, Biss underlines the uncomfortable truths that accompany American consumerism.
Just Us: An American Conversation, Claudia Rankine (Sept. 8)
Claudia Rankine has been writing about injustice and Black oppression for years, most notably in 2014’s Citizen. That multidisciplinary book was written partially in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. Her timely follow-up, Just Us, weaves together poetry, personal essays, historical documents and more to explore how the dominance of whiteness hovers over every aspect of American life, from corporate culture to classrooms to hair color.
Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America, Laila Lalami (Sept. 22)
Moroccan-born author Laila Lalami became a U.S. citizen in 2000, just before national upheaval brought about extreme prejudice against people who looked like her. Astute and timely, Conditional Citizen uses Lalami’s personal journey as a jumping-off point to illustrate the dangers and challenges that whole segments of U.S. society continue to face on a daily basis: assimilation, xenophobia and the ongoing threat of white supremacy.
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, Anne Helen Peterson (Sept. 22)
Last year, Anne Helen Peterson illuminated the realities of millennial burnout in a piece for Buzzfeed that went viral. Now, she follows up on her reporting with a book that explains how that burnout got to be so bad. In dissecting how workplaces have evolved, along with the pressures that come from social media, Peterson continues to address the increasingly impossible expectations that millennials face.
One Last Song: Conversations on Life, Death, and Music, Mike Ayers (Oct. 13)
If you could listen to one last song before you died, what would it be—and why? That’s the slightly morbid yet endlessly entertaining question journalist Mike Ayers posed to 30 musicians, ranging from jazz legend Sonny Rollins to activist and rapper Killer Mike, in his debut book. The answers to this seemingly simple query vary widely (and are helpfully aided by charming illustrations), but all provide insight into the deeply personal ways music helps us make sense of our time on earth.
Politics, history and activism
What Can I Do?: My Path from Climate Despair to Action, Jane Fonda (Sept. 8)
“When you’re famous,” actor Jane Fonda writes, “there are so many ways to lift issues and amplify voices. God knows I’ve done it before to varying degrees of success.” Since last year, the lifelong activist has been leading “Fire Drill Fridays,” a weekly climate change protest in Washington, D.C., lately transformed into a virtual event series. Her new book What Can I Do? is a history of that project, a basic education on the impact of climate change on our planet and an outline of actions that like-minded readers can take. With information and sidebars from scientists and fellow celebrities, Fonda’s book is a pointed use of her platform.
If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future, Jill Lepore (Sept. 15)
One of the U.S.’s most acclaimed historians follows her bestselling, sweeping history of the country, These Truths, with a book about the origins of Big Data. Jill Lepore tells the story of how a group of social scientists created a new company in 1959 that claimed to analyze, predict and sway public opinion. Before they collapsed in 1970, they were used by everyone from John F. Kennedy Jr., for his presidential campaign, to major companies. In unearthing their story, Lepore finds resonant echoes today with controversies around Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and election security.
Rage, Bob Woodward (Sept. 15)
We don’t know much about fabled Washington reporter Bob Woodward’s follow-up to Fear, his first book about the Trump Administration. But reports that Trump spoke to Woodward 17 times for Rage promise an informed look inside the White House just weeks before the election. Whatever Woodward reveals, there is no doubt that this will be one of the most talked about—and contested—political books of the season.
The Queer Advantage: Conversations with LGBTQ+ Leaders on the Power of Identity, Andrew Gelwicks (Oct. 13)
This collection of interviews from fashion stylist and writer Andrew Gelwicks feels less like a book of tips from queer power players and more like a series of intimate chats between good friends—that is, if your good friends were LGBTQ+ icons like George Takei, Adam Rippon and Margaret Cho. Offering deeply affecting anecdotes from queer leaders and the life lessons they learned in real time in the worlds of business, tech, sports, entertainment and more, The Queer Advantage encourages readers to find power in their identities.
The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart, Alicia Garza (Oct. 20)
In 2013, Alicia Garza wrote a Facebook post that she called “a love letter to Black people,” which went viral after the man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin was acquitted. Garza’s powerful words about why Black lives matter soon became a rallying cry—and the hashtag—for one of her generation’s most pivotal movements. But before Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter, she had done nearly two decades of organizing, a time when she learned how change really happens, encountering plenty of challenges along the way. In her new book, The Purpose of Power, Garza shares her insights and the lessons she’s taken to heart from the frontlines of Black Lives Matter and beyond, providing a guide for anyone who’s ready to take action to create the world they want to live in.
Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, Ijeoma Oluo (Dec. 1)
Ijeoma Oluo’s sharp yet accessible writing about the American racial landscape made her 2018 book, So You Want to Talk About Race, an invaluable resource for anyone looking to understand and dismantle racist structures. Her new book, Mediocre, builds on this exemplary work, homing in on the role of white patriarchy in creating and upholding a system built to disenfranchise anyone who isn’t a white male.
Correction, Sept. 3
The original version of this story misstated the central characters of Jo Nesbø’s The Kingdom. It is brothers Roy and Carl Opgard, not Inspector Harry Hole.