Turn the Page: 15 Editors' Picks for Fall/Winter 2020

In a year when the ground is constantly shifting beneath our feet, one thing remains steady—our excitement over new books.

In a year when the ground is constantly shifting beneath our feet, one thing remains steady—our excitement over new books. Many of our fall picks reflect the industry’s nuanced take on horror; exploring racism, gentrification, and even disease, these socially conscious novels help us make sense of a changing world. Books serve as a balm this season, too, as we await new releases from old friends, including Elena Ferrante, Alyssa Cole, and Anthony Bourdain. And they’re a call to action, with authors such as Alicia Garza and Ijeoma Oluo urging us to ponder activism and systemic racism.—Mahnaz Dar


 

Mahnaz Dar, Reference & Professional Reading Editor, LJ Reviews

Glen Kenny’s Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas (Hanover Square: Harlequin, Sept.; see starred review, LJ 8/20) is that rare book that’s as mesmerizing as the film it profiles. Kenny explains how it took a village to realize Martin Scorsese’s visceral, unsentimental depiction of mob life—from the brilliant eye of editor Thelma Schoonmaker to the storytelling prowess of screenplay writer Nicholas Pileggi. Switching gears to children’s lit, I’m eagerly anticipating Leslie Brody’s Sometimes You Have To Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy (Seal, Dec.), a look at a writer who, like her heroine, lived life on her own terms. Finally, a book from the late Anthony Bourdain brings an unexpected jolt of pleasure; fans will devour his World Travel: An Irreverent Guide (Ecco, Oct.), completed by longtime partner-in-crime Laurie Woolever.

 


Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews

Award-winning author Alyssa Cole, known for her romances, moves into thriller mode with September’s When No One Is Watching (Morrow), a gentrification horror story about a traditionally Black Brooklyn neighborhood under siege. Cole injects humor, adventure, romance, and a pointed history lesson into her narrative, which her publisher calls a cross between Get Out and Rear Window. There’s no neighborhood left in the rebel city of Dayara, Syria, which endures constant bombardment by the Assad regime. A group of young men discover a cache of books in a bombed-out basement and begin building a library for their blockaded community in Iranian-French journalist Delphine Minoui’s nonfiction account, The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War (Farrar, Oct.; see starred review, LJ 8/20). Finally, Lee Child, creator of 24 thrillers starring Jack Reacher, rootless avenger, is handing over the Reacher reins to his brother, author Andrew Grant. The brothers are working together on The Sentinel (Delacorte, Oct.), which is sure to be on everybody’s wish list this fall.

 


Stephanie Klose, Media Editor, LJ Reviews

Emily M. Danforth’s (The Miseducation of Cameron Post) adult debut, Plain Bad Heroines (HarperCollins, Oct.), is a queer gothic horror-comedy whose dual time lines are connected by the Brookhants School for Girls, a potentially cursed boarding school in New England. In 1902, Clara and Flo were obsessed with an author named Mary McLane and each other—though not necessarily in that order. They died gruesomely in the apple orchard where they had their trysts, attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets. Then three more people died under mysterious circumstances on the property before the school closed forever. More than 100 years later, hot young author Merritt Emmons’s book celebrating the school’s feminist history is being adapted into a movie, with influencer Harper Harper and former child star Audrey Wells as Flo and Clara. After filming begins on location at Brookhants, things take a turn for the deeply weird.

 


Kiera Parrott, LJS Reviews & Production Director

I cannot resist a horror story featuring evil kiddos; blame it on The Omen. This fall sees an intriguing and timely debut, Evie Green’s We Hear Voices (Berkley, Oct.), about a little boy, just recovered from a deadly flu, whose new imaginary friend exerts a sinister influence. Elsewhere on the dark fiction front, we have multi-award winner P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout (Tor.com, Oct.), a visceral work of speculative history in which the demon hordes of the Ku Klux Klan, aiming to bring literal hell on Earth, are hunted by the Buffy-esque Maryse Boudreaux and her band of resistance fighters. In September, Roxane Gay presents The Selected Works of Audre Lorde (Norton), featuring 12 essential poems and essays by the self-described "Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." Finally, the elusive Elena Ferrante ("Neapolitan Novels") and translator Ann Goldstein gift readers with the much-anticipated The Lying Life of Adults (Europa, Sept.), a stand-alone bildungsroman set in Naples.

 


Annalisa Pešek, Assistant Managing Editor, LJ Reviews

Being of a more historical and literary sensibility, I’ve been riveted by The Glorious American Essay: One Hundred Essays from Colonial Times to the Present (Pantheon, Nov.), which continues Phillip Lopate’s decades-long exploration (begun in The Art of the Personal Essay) of a form long geared toward engaging conversations reflecting the most urgent issues of the day. The book’s unique arrangement works to tell the parallel stories of the essay itself and the continued experiment that is our American democracy, highlighting such disparate pieces as Cotton Mather’s "Of Poetry, and of Style" (1726) and Zadie Smith’s "Speaking in Tongues" (2008). A doorstopper of cultural and political history, this is the first in a projected three-volume series tracking generations of thought and past events that truly speak to our current moment. Forthcoming installments will cover the postwar era, 1945–2000, and essays in the 21st century.

 


Stephanie Sendaula, Associate Editor, LJ Reviews

Like many of you, I’ve been awaiting the latest by Allie Brosh, after her best-selling Hyperbole and a Half. The follow-up, Solutions and Other Problems (Gallery, Sept.; see starred review, LJ 8/20), features her trademark wit and humor as she approaches everyday situations—you will not be disappointed. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo still holds a coveted place on my bookshelf, and I know her upcoming book, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America (Seal, Dec.), will as well, with its much-needed critical examination of white male identity and systemic racism in the United States, both past and present. I’m also saving space for The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart (One World, Oct.) by Alicia Garza, cofounder of Black Lives Matter and host of the podcast Lady Don’t Take No. Besides learning more about her life in and outside of activism, I’m also eager to see how she embraces self-care in stressful times. 


This article was originally published in Library Journal's August 2020 issue as part of Neal Wyatt's publishing feature, "A Full Fall."

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