New reads to look forward to this fall

Angela Haupt

THE WASHINGTON POST – There’s little we can count on during this strange, pandemic-centric interlude of life. But this much is certain: There will be books to entertain, distract and comfort us. This year, the fall season brings an impressive batch of new releases, including exciting debuts and titles from literary heavy hitters. Here are 12 that span a variety of genres.

ANXIOUS PEOPLE BY FREDRIK BACKMAN

What a prescient title: In his new novel – after Beartown and A Man Called Ove – Backman again captures the messy essence of being human, and what it’s like to be pushed to the brink emotionally. Anxious People is ripe with dark humour, a layered tragicomedy about a would-be bank robber with six degrees of separation from a motley crew of hostages. It’s clever and affecting, as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you cry.

THE MEANING OF MARIAH CAREY BY MARIAH CAREY

Like any diva worth her salt, Carey made fans wait three decades before finally delivering a memoir. The pop queen promises to spill on her highs and lows, including a running feud with rapper Eminem. Give the audiobook a listen: She narrates it herself, with those famous pipes.

GOOD MORNING ZOOM BY LINDSAY RECHLER AND ILLUSTRATED BY JUNE PARK

Margaret Wise Brown’s beloved bedtime story Goodnight Moon is timeless – but our unprecedented circumstances call for an update. In this parody, Rechler riffs on Zoom school, laptop-attached parents and bread-making in a kid-friendly, hopeful way. It’s a children’s book, but parents will get a kick out of it, too.

LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND BY RUMAAN ALAM

Race, parenthood and privilege complicate this suffocating suspense novel from the author of Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother. A White family is vacationing in a Hamptons rental when a Black couple knocks on the door, claiming they’re the homeowners and that they need shelter from a blackout. Fear seeps in as questions about the visiting couple’s true identity escalate. Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts are set to star in the movie adaptation, which will air on Netflix.

BLACK SUN BY REBECCA ROANHORSE

Roanhorse opens a new trilogy with Black Sun, an epic fantasy inspired by pre-Columbian Americans. The plot centres on three characters whose story lines converge during a solar eclipse, in scenes fraught with magic and danger. Readers are in for intricate world-building, engrossing adventure and stunning backdrops.

MEMORIAL BY BRYAN WASHINGTON

Washington’s first novel – following 2019’s visceral short-story collection, Lot – is about Benson and Mike, who live together in Houston but are questioning their relationship. As Mike rushes to Japan to say goodbye to his estranged, dying father, his mother arrives in Texas, becoming Benson’s unconventional roommate. The experience is transformative for all involved.

COBBLE HILL BY CECILY VON ZIEGESAR

From the Upper East Side to Cobble Hill: von Ziegesar, author of the popular Gossip Girl series, switches up neighbourhoods in this novel, trading privileged prep-schoolers for Brooklyn creatives. It’s a fun, quirky character study of four couples harbouring secrets that inevitably implode in over-the-top fashion. Blair Waldorf would approve.

THE OFFICE OF HISTORICAL CORRECTIONS BY DANIELLE EVANS

In this collection of short fiction, Evans’ storytelling shines. A Confederate flag-themed bikini and replica of the Titanic are among the absurdities she uses to help illustrate race in modern-day America. Her characters are sharp, with terrific depth, and her prose is a pleasure to read. It’s a strong, acerbic follow-up to her prizewinning 2010 release, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.

SECRET SANTA BY ANDREW SHAFFER

Merry, happy, horrifying everything: Shaffer’s horror-comedy, set in a 1980s publishing house, is billed as The Office meets The Shining. It’s about a gnome doll that someone receives during a company gift exchange, leading to ho-ho-horrible events. Expect a touch of the supernatural, malefic colleagues and plenty of eccentricity.

DEARLY: NEW POEMS BY MARGARET ATWOOD

For the first time in more than a decade, Atwood – an accomplished poet, though best known for The Handmaid’s Tale, among other novels – is releasing a wide-ranging new collection of poetry. It’s hauntingly beautiful, with reflections on life and death, time and change, and nature and zombies. The strong imagery and atmosphere will probably hook even those who had only been familiar with Atwood’s fiction.

HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING BY DENISE WILLIAMS

In this steamy romance, Naya Turner is an overachieving math professor blowing off work stress with a night in town, which leads to a night out with a dapper stranger. And then another, and another. She’s smitten by the time she realises there’s a professional complication, and the relationship could put her job at risk. Williams blends rom-com fun with more weighty topics in her winsome debut.

MEDIOCRE (THE DANGEROUS LEGACY OF WHITE MALE AMERICA) BY IJEOMA OLUO

Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race has been one of the most recommended books during the ongoing racial justice movement. Her new offering is a nuanced analysis of White male America – and how white supremacy has affected politics, football and more. Oluo deftly combines history and sociological study with personal narrative, and the result is both uncomfortable and illuminating.