The biggest and best books to read this fall

Memoirs, love stories, and stories for the moment dominate the season.
By EW Staff
September 18, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT

The world is in turmoil but at least we have our books, right? As the global pandemic continues to shape pop culture in ways we couldn’t have predicted all those months ago, the publishing industry has experienced its own disruptions in production — release-date delays have become the norm — but output has for the most part remained steady, much to readers’ relief. For those with the mental wherewithal to escape into books, this fall brings both the return of literary stalwarts (Martin Amis, Marilynne Robinson) and buzzy follow-ups (Nic Stone, Bryan Washington), as well as plenty more for every mood — twisty thrillers, a love story or two, something for the currently unsatisfied film buffs. Most importantly, all the new books offer distraction of the highest caliber.

Memoirs & Biographies

Illustration by EW

The Best of Me by David Sedaris

America's favorite humor essayist puts together a greatest hits collection after decades of bestselling essays. Expect to see old editions of his Shouts & Murmurs (from The New Yorker), as well as fan favorites like "The Perfect Fit," wherein he describes shopping for expensive clothing at a hilariously obscene store in Tokyo. (Nov. 3) — Seija Rankin

The Nolan Varations: The Movies, Mysteries, and Marvels of Christopher Nolan by Tom Shone

We can say with certainty that this book, unlike Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, will be available for everyone, pandemic or not. Written with Nolan’s cooperation, it offers a highly informed look at the director’s career and filmography, up to, and including, his latest movie. (Nov. 3) — Clark Collis

Red Comet by Heather Clark

This expansive (1,100-page!) biography of Sylvia Plath looks deep into her brilliant life for an empathetic portrait of an American visionary. — Mary Sollosi

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey

Mimi emancipates herself from the public narrative o fher life by releasing her very first memoir — with the help of writer and activist Michaela Angela Davis. (Sept. 29) —SR

No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox

The actor considers his mortality, writing about the experience of aging with Parkinson’s disease. (Nov. 17) —SR

Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

The comedian releases his first book in 25 years — through the sharing of his many, many notebooks chock full of notes for jokes and standup bits, he lets the world in on his process, hoping to give a leg up to aspiring stars. (Oct. 6) —SR

Highly Anticipated Follow-Ups

Illustration by EW

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Longtime readers of Robinson will find the comfort of the familiar: a book entirely devoted to John “Jack” Ames Boughton, prodigal son of the Gilead series. A heavy drinker and habitual bum, he seems an unlikely object of devotion for Della, a Black bishop’s daughter from Memphis. Still, their love story — one forbidden by the anti-miscegenation laws of circa-1950s St. Louis — becomes not just a meditation on faith and human suffering but a singular portrait of the divine. (Sept. 29) —Leah Greenblatt

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

The long-awaited sequel to the pop-culture stuffed 2011 best-seller that melded video games, ’80s nostalgia, and a dystopian future has a plot as secret as the location of James Halliday’s Easter eggs. What can we confirm? It’s a sequel. (Nov. 24) —James Hibberd

Memorial by Bryan Washington

After breaking out with the lauded collection Lot, the author returns with his wryly funny, gently devastating debut novel Memorial. Following a gay couple in the Texas city on the verge of breaking up — Benson, a Black man who works in child care, and Mike, a Japanese-American chef — the book untangles the complex relationships queer people have with one another, as well as with their parents. (Oct. 27) —David Canfield

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

Stone’s searing sequel to her breakout Dear Martin interrogates systemic racism and the fate of too many young Black men. Quan tells his story in letters to old schoolmate Justyce (Martin’s hero) while — perhaps wrongly — serving time in a youth detention facility. —DC

Dearly by Margaret Atwood

The venerable fiction writer takes a pause from the tales of Gilead to deliver a book of poetry about everything from love to zombies. —SR

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

With the 25th anniversary of Practical Magic looming, the author conjures up an origin story for the ages — by going back to the 1600s to trace the Owens family's mystical history to founding matriarch Maria. (Oct. 6) —Maureen Lee Lenker

Timely Tomes

Illustration by EW

To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss

The author, typically known for literary fiction like The History of Love, releases her first short-story collection — it's full of hauntingly prescient tableaus, like a New York City in the midst of an imagined plague and an America in the midst of an imagined domestic refugee crisis. (Nov. 3) —SR

Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen

The journalist takes her internet-breaking essay on millennial burnout and expands it into 300 pages of exploration about unrealistic expectations in the workplace — and so much more. (Sept. 22) —SR

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Set at a remote Airbnb, Behind centers on a white middle class family from Brooklyn whose getaway is interrupted by the midnight arrival of an older Black couple claiming to be the owners of the house — and asking to stay the night, due to a supposed blackout across New York City (and a possible pending apocalypse). (Oct. 6) —David Canfield

Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami

In Conditional’s sharp, bracingly clear essays, Lalami lays out all the ways that the basic rights of citizenship are unevenly applied to those whose faith or skin tone fall outside the realm of “traditional” Judeo-Christian values. By fusing deep research with lived experience, the book doesn’t just ask you to consider that the personal is political; it makes you marvel that anyone could still presume otherwise. (Sept. 29) —LG

The Silence by Don DeLillo

Five not-quite friends observe the end of technology as we know it from within the confines of a New York City apartment. (Oct. 20) —SR

Loved & Wanted by Christa Parravani

In an achingly personal memoir, Parravani (the author of 2013’s Her) recounts an unplanned pregnancy, which opened her eyes to the ways in which the American health care system denies women agency over their own bodies and their children’s futures. (Nov. 10) —MS

A Different Kind of Love Story

Illustration by EW

Just Like You by Nick Hornby

Unlikely romance is old hat for Hornby, but the Juliet, Naked author’s latest imagines his most surprising courtship yet: the budding connection between a 41-year-old teacher and mother of two and the 22-year-old man she hires to babysit. —DC

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

In 18th-century France, Addie LaRue makes a deal with the devil to live forever, at the price of being forgotten by all who she meets — until she sees a man in a bookstore and something extraordinary happens: He remembers her name. —MLL

White Ivy by Susie Yang

The titular Ivy develops a penchant for shoplifting during her upbringing with strict Chinese immigrant parents. Cut to her late 20s: After a chance encounter, she inserts herself into the wealthy Boston family of her childhood crush. —SR

Inside Story by Martin Amis

Fanfiction for highbrow literary lovers, this autobiographical novel details the close friendship between the author and his closest friend, the late Christopher Hitchens (he describes them as platonic soulmates), starting with their early magazine days. Amis’ famous novelist father, Kingsley, and Saul Bellow make appearances too. —SR

Haunting Tales

Illustration by EW

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

A set of grisly murders at a girls boarding school in the early 1900s inspires a current day film adaptation that’s cursed in its own chilling ways. —SR

The Searcher by Tana French

The queen of crime returns with a thriller about a retired Chicago police officer who discovers the sinister underbelly of a seemingly quaint Irish town. —SR

Daughter of a Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Far-off history comes to life in this story of two generations of women. In Iron Age Britain, a rapidly changing world threatens a mother’s dreams, while her daughter searches for the strength within herself to protect their way of life. —MS

The Orchard by David Hopen

Picture The Secret History but instead of an elite college campus, an elite Jewish high school. Instead of rural Vermont, Miami. And instead of a commandeering classics professor with a penchant for bacchanalia, a rabbi using religion to push his students. —SR

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The specter of what might have been — and the awesome enormity of existence — looms over this tale of a woman who visits an infinite library, in which every book tells a different story of what her life might have been had she changed a single choice. —MS

For more from EW's Fall Books Special, order the October issue of Entertainment Weekly now, or find it on newsstands beginning Sept. 18. You can also find a special edition of the issue at Barnes & Noble stores beginning Sept. 25. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Related content: