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Fall books preview 2020: 12 great reads

The magical abilities of a good book to transport us to another world have never been more enticing than they are now. Whether it’s the pandemic, the presidential election, Zoom, Twitter, or just your own four walls you need a break from, you’ll find terrific options in the bounty of new books this fall. We’ve pulled out a dozen, including eagerly awaited releases from beloved authors, follow-ups to smash debuts, and first books in both fiction and nonfiction. Plus native Long Islanders Jerry Seinfeld and Mariah Carey. Now, that’s entertainment.

THE EXILES by Christina Baker Kline

Historical fiction fans won't want to miss the
Credit: Custom House/HarperCollins

Historical fiction fans won't want to miss the latest from the author of "Orphan Train." A London governess and a Scottish teenager are sent to a penal colony in Australia, where they eventually cross paths with an aboriginal girl who is the last of her tribe. It's women in prison, 19th century style, with a treatment that's both intelligent and satisfyingly dramatic. (Custom House, out already)

THE SECRET LIFE OF CHURCH LADIES by Deesha Philyaw

Credit: West Virginia University

"My mother's peach cobbler was so good, it made God himself cheat on his wife." Each story in this debut collection revolves around Black female characters, the Black church and what goes on behind closed doors -- of a motel room, of a car in a hospital parking lot, of the kitchen of a woman who receives a weekly visit from the pastor. Funny, poignant and filled with truth. (West Virginia University, out already)

TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM by Yaa Gyaasi

After losing her brother to an overdose at
Credit: Knopf

After losing her brother to an overdose at 16, Gifty, the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, has pursued a career in neuroscience, studying addiction in mice. When her mother shows up at her door, lost in depression, old wounds are reopened. This intimate first-person narrative explores the possibilities of healing through science, faith and love. (Knopf, out already)

THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS by Elena Ferrante

Fans of the Neopolitan quartet (
Credit: Emanuele Ragnisco/ Dmitriy Bilous/Getty Images

Fans of the Neopolitan quartet ("My Brilliant Friend," etc.) and the TV series based on them will find everything they love about Ferrante in this intense coming-of-age story. Giovanna's comfortable childhood is permanently interrupted when she overhears her father compare her to his estranged sister. Of course, she is determined to start a relationship with this hated aunt immediately. (Europa Editions, out already)

DADDY by Emma Cline

Cline's bestselling debut,
Credit: Random House

Cline's bestselling debut, "The Girls," revolved around a fictional version of the Manson family, and many of these stories also feature unappetizing men and the intricacies of female friendship. This time, we're very much in the present -- premises include the arrival of famous chef at a luxury rehab center, a Hollywood nanny scandal and a MeToo'ed magazine editor hired to edit the memoir of a tech billionaire. (Out already)

WHAT ARE YOU GOING THROUGH by Sigrid Nunez

Using the intimate storytelling style familiar from her
Credit: Riverhead

Using the intimate storytelling style familiar from her National Book Award winner "The Friend," Nunez again confronts matters of life and death. The narrator is asked by a dying friend if she will help with an assisted suicide by accompanying her to a guest house where she plans to live her last days. A riveting, one-sitting read. (Riverhead, Sept. 8)

MONOGAMY by Sue Miller

When an unusually lovable serial adulterer dies suddenly,
Credit: Harper Collins

When an unusually lovable serial adulterer dies suddenly, he leaves major loose ends hanging. His first and second wives have become good friends, but there's someone they don't know about ... yet. Miller's skill at depicting the intricacies of marriage, parenting and domestic life adds texture to the suspenseful plot. (Harper, Sept. 8)

CONDITIONAL CITIZENS: ON BELONGING IN AMERICA by Laila Lalami

A wonderfully readable series of essays touching on
Credit: Pantheon

A wonderfully readable series of essays touching on all the different ways American citizens who were born in another country, who have a non-white skin color, a non-Christian religion, a non-English language, or non-dominant cultural traditions are mistreated and disenfranchised in the land that once begged the world to give us its huddled masses yearning to breathe free. (Pantheon, Sept. 22)

THE MEANING OF MARIAH CAREY by Mariah Carey

Nobody, but nobody is getting an early copy
Credit: Ruven Afanador

Nobody, but nobody is getting an early copy of this superstar memoir -- so we can't tell you how much ink Carey gives to her hometown of Huntington, or anything else. The much-loved singer has had a real rollercoaster of a life, and devoted fans will doubtless line up to read her story in her own words. (Andy Cohen Books, Sept. 29)

THE COLD MILLIONS by Jess Walter

The author of
Credit: Harper Collins

The author of "Beautiful Ruins and Financial Lives of the Poets" is back with a tale of two orphaned brothers set in the author's hometown of Spokane, Washington, in the early 20th century. As Gig and Rye Dolan struggle to survive without a home or a penny to their name, they cross paths with both real and invented characters. Their amazingly rough times will make you forget our own, at least for a few hours. (Harper, Oct. 6)

IS THIS ANYTHING? by Jerry Seinfeld

The Massapequa High School alum native has selected
Credit: Simon & Schuster

The Massapequa High School alum native has selected his favorite material from 45 years of stand-up. In almost 500 pages, arranged by decade, Seinfeld shares with readers the development of his uniquely low-key approach to humor. Perhaps even better, there's an audiobook. (Simon & Schuster, Oct. 6)

WHITE IVY by Susie Yang

Filled with suspense and offering sharp insights into
Credit: Simon & Schuster

Filled with suspense and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, Yang's debut centers on driven and daring anti-heroine Ivy Lin, whose crush on the scion of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Boston plays out over more than a decade. (Simon & Schuster, Nov. 3)

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