September 22, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Autumn is the hottest season for new books

Have you EVER been less entertained by entertainment? Movies stink, and the new television season doesn’t begin for another week. The one bright spot right now is the world of publishing, which acknowledges September as the perfect time to settle down and hit the books. No matter your taste or attention span, there are some wonderful things out there — some new, some not so — to get you through your end of summer doldrums.

”The Kommandant’s Mistress” by Sherri Szeman has just been published in paperback. A spooky, mysterious love story of the darkest kind, ”Mistress” tells the story of the relationship between a Nazi and his Jewish concubine, first from his point of view and then from hers, moving back and forth between the present and the past until it ends in a harrowing showdown worthy of the finest thrillers.

Smaller in scope but not necessarily any less disturbing is Cuban American writer Ivonne Lamazares’ debut novel ”The Sugar Island,” which also takes a fraught relationship — this time that between a mother and daughter — and places it in the world of politics: Cuba during Castro. Another stellar tale of family difficulties, with a little mystery mixed in, is Irish author Emer Martin’s ”More Bread or I’ll Appear,” about a clan that would be too insane for even the Jerry Springer show.

If it’s humor you’re after, and you’ve had the misfortune to miss it until now, run out and grab John Kennedy Toole’s ”A Confederacy of Dunces,” the Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a complete lunatic living in New Orleans. (Best to read it in the privacy of your own home, since you will giggle aloud throughout.) Finally, check out Australian writer Patricia Carlon’s mysteries — especially ”The Souvenir” and ”Crime of Silence.” They’re not trendy or new, but they’re brilliantly constructed and written, and even the most seasoned of mystery readers won’t be able to guess the endings. And that’s certainly more than you can say about the movies out there right now!

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