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Fall books preview: 12 great reads

Once again, not everything is going swimmingly as we look ahead to fall, and once again, the publishing industry is here to assist with magnificent options for respite and escape. Perhaps because many books were held back last year, we're seeing a blockbuster lineup, with new work from many beloved novelists and memoirs that light up unseen corners of the American experience. Whether it's the medieval English countryside or the 1970s American Midwest, a small town on the Irish coast or a star-crossed spot on our own island that beckons, you'll find a ticket to ride below.

BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY by Qian Julie Wang

The story of Wang's family, who lived with
Credit: Doubleday

The story of Wang's family, who lived with constant terror, hunger, exhaustion and cruelty as undocumented immigrants in New York City's Chinatown, was a deeply buried secret. Now Wang, a citizen and a graduate of Yale Law, has resolved to share her truth for those who cannot. For fans of "Angela's Ashes" and "The Glass Castle." (Doubleday, out already)

MATRIX by Lauren Groff

This mesmerizing and inspiring tale is set in
Credit: Riverhead

This mesmerizing and inspiring tale is set in 12th century England at a rundown convent full of starving nuns. When young Marie is banished there for life by her royal half-sister, Marie's rage metamorphizes her from an ungainly outcast into a visionary Mother Superior who brings prosperity and growth.  (Riverhead, out already)

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU by Sally Rooney

A great many people can't wait to get
Credit: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

A great many people can't wait to get their mitts on this novel by the author of "Normal People." Rooney's latest focuses on female friendship: one character is a young, newly famous Irish writer, while the other is an equally smart but less successful friend. Their email correspondence climaxes with a meetup on the Irish coast. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, out already)

WHERE TOMORROWS AREN'T PROMISED by Carmelo Anthony with D. Watkins

Sports fans will remember Anthony's glory years with
Credit: Gallery Books

Sports fans will remember Anthony's glory years with the New York Knicks; now, the three-time Olympian collaborates with a noted Black author from his old neighborhood to tell his tale. Coming of age in the projects of Brooklyn and Baltimore, he overcame tough losses to earn his place at the top. (Gallery Books, Sept. 14)

HARLEM SHUFFLE by Colson Whitehead

Coming off consecutive Pulitzer Prizes for "The Underground
Credit: Doubleday

Coming off consecutive Pulitzer Prizes for "The Underground Railroad" and "The Nickel Boys," Whitehead turns his titan talents to a crime caper novel set in Harlem from 1959 to 1964. Shopkeeper and family man Ray Carney has connections to the underworld his customers and community don't know about. When a heist goes wrong, things get complicated. (Doubleday, Sept. 14)

SMILE: THE STORY OF A FACE by Sarah Ruhl

Macarthur-winning playwright Ruhl gave birth to twins while
Credit: Simon and Schuster

Macarthur-winning playwright Ruhl gave birth to twins while awaiting the opening of her Broadway debut -- and amid these joyous events, lost the ability to smile. Though everyone said Bell's palsy wouldn't last long, she spent a decade with it, her sense of humor, intelligence and spirituality more effectual than any treatment. Bonus: a brilliant discussion of celiac disease. (Simon and Schuster, Oct. 5)

CROSSROADS by Jonathan Franzen

"Crossroads" is the first in a trilogy planned
Credit: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

"Crossroads" is the first in a trilogy planned to continue to the present day. This deep dive into the heart of a Midwestern pastor's family is set in the 1970s, complete with a Christian youth group, a high school drug dealer and the sexual revolution. Rotating its perspective among the parents and three children, it illuminates their connections and divisions with compassion. (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, Oct. 5)

WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza

Co-written by a Black author and a white
Credit: Simon and Schuster

Co-written by a Black author and a white author, this of-the-moment plot traces the friendship of a Black newscaster and a white woman married to a Philadelphia city cop who have been best friends since preschool. When the white woman's husband shoots a 14-year-old Black boy ... a novel happens. Book club alert. (Simon and Schuster, Oct. 5)

NEGLECT by Kim Wozencraft

The timing of Wozencraft's novel about the shattering
Credit: Arcade

The timing of Wozencraft's novel about the shattering effects of her experiences in Afghanistan could not be more poignant. Best known for her dark 1990 classic "Rush," Wozencraft again spotlights a woman under enormous pressure, here losing custody of her children and struggling like hell to get them back. (Arcade, Oct. 19)

THESE PRECIOUS DAYS by Ann Patchett

This beautifully written collection of personal essays invites
Credit: v

This beautifully written collection of personal essays invites us into the past and present of one of our favorite novelists. The title essay is the story of a unique pandemic friendship; others focus on Patchett's marriage, her life in Nashville, and her writing career -- earliest influences (Snoopy!), grad school experience, and more. (Harper Collins, Nov. 2)

OUR COUNTRY FRIENDS by Gary Shteyngart

What a delight that the first great pandemic
Credit: Random House

What a delight that the first great pandemic novel is a brilliant comedy, but who could expect anything less from the author of "Lake Success." It's set at the Hudson Valley estate of an aging novelist who invites his oldest friends, plus a Hollywood celebrity, for a visit. It's March 2020 -- so look out, kids, it's going to be a long visit. (Random House, Nov. 2)

MY CHRISTMAS WISH by Jeannie Moon

From Long Island's queen of romance comes the
Credit: Tule Publishing

From Long Island's queen of romance comes the fourth volume of a series set in Compass Cove, a fictional, but familiar hamlet on the North Shore. When a local who made good as an art dealer in London returns home under mysterious circumstances, the aristocrat boyfriend she left behind gets a job at the local college and comes after her. (Tule Press, Nov. 2)

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