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Fall books preview 2014

Lena Dunham's memoir, Billy Joel's "Definitive" biography, a new novel by LI native Jodi Picoult and more: Here are 12 new titles worth leafing through this fall.

THE CHILDREN ACT, by Ian McEwan

Another short, sharp novel from the author of
Photo Credit: Doubleday

Another short, sharp novel from the author of “Atonement” and “On Chesil Beach.” “The Children Act” follows a family court judge who must decide the case of a teen with leukemia whose Jehovah’s Witness parents refuse a blood transfusion. The case — which seems straightforward to Fiona Maye at first — is anything but after she gets to know the boy, a soulful poet and violinist who accepts the inevitability of his own death. (Doubleday, out Sept. 9)

DATACLYSM: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), by Christian Rudder

You may think of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit
Photo Credit: Crown

You may think of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit as social media, but for Christian Rudder — a founder of the online dating site OKCupid — they’re laboratories for a grand behavioral experiment, and the data they collect have a lot to say about human nature. Rudder’s “Datacylsm” explores, through user-friendly charts and words, what “Big Data” tells us about race, gender, sexuality, relationships and Internet rage, among other topics. (Crown, Sept. 9)

THE PAYING GUESTS, by Sarah Waters

Waters is the reigning queen of English period
Photo Credit: Riverhead

Waters is the reigning queen of English period dramas that skew too alternative for Masterpiece Theatre. “Fingersmith” took on crime and lesbians in Victorian London; “The Little Stranger” was a 1940s country house novel with supernatural visitors. In her latest, a genteel family in 1920s London is forced to take in vulgar middle class tenants, setting off bitter class conflicts and unexpected passions. (Riverhead, Sept. 16)

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr

Anyone who caught the revival of “The Glass
Photo Credit: W.W. Norton

Anyone who caught the revival of “The Glass Menagerie” with Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto earlier this year can appreciate the hothouse brilliance of Tennessee Williams, the complicated playwright who also gave us “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Sweet Bird of Youth.” This biography, by New Yorker drama critic Lahr, promises a definitive portrait of the mercurial genius. (W.W. Norton, Sept. 22)

NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned," by Lena Dunham

There was a lot of eye rolling when
Photo Credit: AP

There was a lot of eye rolling when news broke that 28-year-old Dunham, creator and star of HBO’s “Girls,” had reportedly nabbed a book deal worth more than $3 million. Sure, sure, it’s a ridiculous sum of money — but don’t you still want to read it? An excerpt in The New Yorker last month, about Dunham’s years in therapy (surprise, surprise), certainly whet my appetite. (Random House, Sept. 30)

HOW WE GOT TO NOW: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, by Steven Johnson

The companion book to a six-part PBS series
Photo Credit: Riverhead

The companion book to a six-part PBS series airing this fall, Johnson (“Where Good Ideas Come From,” “Future Perfect”) here looks at the “hummingbird effect” — where one invention has a ripple effect that leads to other, further innovations. The printing press and the Guttenberg Bible, for example, led ultimately to the need for eyeglasses, which spawned the microscope, the telescope and the camera. (Riverhead, Sept. 30)

REBEL YELL: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, by S.C. Gwynne

The pious, teetotaling Confederate general who gave Union
Photo Credit: Scribner

The pious, teetotaling Confederate general who gave Union commanders such grief on Civil War battlefields is the subject of this intriguing biography by the author of the bestselling “Empire of the Summer Moon,” about Quanah Parker and the Comanches. Jackson’s death in 1863 — accidentally shot by Confederate soldiers, he then succumbed to pneumonia — seemed to spell the end for the “Lost Cause.” (Scribner, Sept. 30)

NORA WEBSTER, by Colm Toíbín

It’s hard to imagine Irish novelist Toíbín (“The
Photo Credit: Scribner

It’s hard to imagine Irish novelist Toíbín (“The Master,” “The Testament of Mary”) improving on his lovely, note-perfect “Brooklyn,” about a young Irish woman’s journey from her home village to outer-borough New York in the 1950s. “Nora Webster” returns to Ireland, and the same village of Enniscorthy, to tell the story of the title character, a lonely middle-aged widow and mother. If it’s as good as “Brooklyn,” it should be splendid. (Scribner, Oct. 7).

LEAVING TIME, by Jodi Picoult

The Nesconset native, who rose to bestsellerdom with
Photo Credit: Ballantine

The Nesconset native, who rose to bestsellerdom with compulsively readable issue-driven novels such as “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Change of Heart” and “House Rules,” returns with a new story about a young teen trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance from the elephant sanctuary where she worked 10 years earlier. Throw in a psychic, a private detective and, of course, some unforgettable pachyderms — this one should be another winner. (Ballantine, Oct. 14)

SUPERSTORM: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy, by Kathryn Miles

Long Island lived through Sandy in real time,
Photo Credit: Dutton

Long Island lived through Sandy in real time, but author Miles (“All Standing,” “Adventures With Ari”) pulls back to offer a wide-angle, ticktock account of the massive Atlantic storm system that slammed the Eastern Seaboard on Oct. 29, 2012. She follows a handful of characters (meteorologists, sailors, politicians and homeowners) to broadly document the experience and to ask the vital questions: Why were we so ill-prepared? And could it happen again? (Dutton, Oct. 16)

BILLY JOEL: The Definitive Biography, by Fred Schruers

We’ve been waiting on this one for a
Photo Credit: Crown Archetype

We’ve been waiting on this one for a while. Long Island’s favorite son and bard was originally scheduled to deliver a memoir, “The Book of Joel,” in 2011, but canceled at the last minute. (“I’m not all that interested in talking about the past,” he said at the time.) But he gave his ghost writer, Rolling Stone contributor Schruers, the OK to write this biography, drawing on the many hours they spent collaborating. If you call yourself a Billy Joel fan, you’ll be reading this. (Crown Archetype, Oct. 28)

Forget about Superman and Batman — here’s a
Photo Credit: Knopf

Forget about Superman and Batman — here’s a superhero with a juicy backstory. Wonder Woman — the Amazonian princess with the red boots and the Lasso of Truth — was created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston, a Harvard-educated supporter of feminism who invented the lie detector test and led a decidedly unconventional (and secret) family life. Cultural historian Lepore (“Book of Ages,” about Benjamin Franklin’s sister Jane) unpacks the complicated layers of this comic-book icon. (Knopf, Oct. 28)

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