Fall 2020 book preview: 12 to must-read titles to add to your reading list

©Chicago Tribune

Readers rejoice: It’s the most wonderful time of the year for book lovers — pandemic notwithstanding.

In fact, this year promises an even deeper bounty than usual, given publishers’ shuffling of release dates due to the novel coronavirus. Elsewhere, we cover the latest from Chicago’s Eula Biss, Ayad Akhtar’s highly anticipated autobiographical novel, and a new comprehensive history of the Great Chicago Fire.

“Beautiful Ruins” author Jess Walter will release what appears to be another page-turner with “The Cold Millions.” Marilynne Robinson is back with “Jack,” a new installment in her “Gilead” novels. And Phil Klay, who won the 2014 National Book Award for his story collection “Redeployment,” is publishing his debut novel, “Missionaries.”

Read on for more best bets, presented in order of publication date. We can’t possibly get to them all, but given the strange way time bends these days, we hope you will.

Nonfiction

“Just Us: An American Conversation” by Claudia Rankine

In “Just Us,” Claudia Rankine continues the urgent conversation about race she started with her National Book Award-winning poetry collection “Citizen: An American Lyric.” By combining poetry, essay, visual elements and other forms, Rankine finds language to excavate this nation’s deepest hurt. (Graywolf, 352 pages, $30, out now)

“Zorro’s Shadow: How a Mexican Legend Became America’s First Superhero” by Stephen J.C. Andes

Historian Stephen J.C. Andes argues the mark of Zorro brands even the most modern American superheroes as he traces the character’s sword-slashing roots to 1919 pulp fiction. Andes aims to reclaim the character’s Latinx roots as an avenger in Old Spanish California. (Chicago Review, 304 pages, $18.99, Sept. 15)

“His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life” by Jonathan Alter

Chicago native Jonathan Alter offers a sweeping biography of 95-year-old Jimmy Carter, from his farm-boy childhood in the 1920s, through his single-term presidency and his innovative post-presidency as a champion for human rights. The biography promises to “change our understanding of perhaps the most misunderstood president in American history” — and one whose decency stands out in today’s political climate. (Simon & Schuster, 800 pages, $37.50, Sept. 29)

“How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back” by Jeff Tweedy

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy offers a primer on the creative promise of song-writing. It works to both demystify the process of divining song, lyrics and the process of putting the two together, while observing the wonder and joy in human artistic endeavor. (Dutton, 176 pages, $23, Oct. 13)

“White Fright: The Sexual Panic at the Heart of America’s Racist History” by Jane Dailey

Jane Dailey, an associate professor of history at the University of Chicago, asserts that fear of interracial sex drove white supremacists to fight against civil rights for Black Americans. The book explores how anxiety surrounding sexuality influenced racial violence between Reconstruction and the U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict in Loving v. Virginia, which finally struck down bans on interracial marriage. (Basic, 368 pages, $30, Nov. 17)

“One Life” by Megan Rapinoe

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe’s book publishes the Tuesday after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, but it’s teased as “a thoughtful and unapologetic discussion of social justice and politics.” Rapinoe, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup champion, was raised in a conservative Northern California town, but has since become an outspoken advocate for equal pay for women, LGBTQ rights and racial equality. (Penguin, 240 pages, $27, Nov. 10)

Fiction

“Likes” by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of the critically acclaimed “Mrs. Hempel Chronicles” and “Madeleine is Sleeping,” returns with a story collection. Known for her keen observation of human nature as well as her wit and humor, these tales investigate the conundrums of modern American living. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 240 pages, $26, out now)

“The Lying Life of Adults” by Elena Ferrante

Perhaps you devoured Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, featuring such beloved titles as “My Brilliant Friend” and “The Story of the Lost Child.” Consider picking up “The Lying Life of Adults,” a new coming-of-age novel that traces another young female protagonist — Giovanna — as she seeks to discover who she is as she navigates the streets of Naples. (Europa, 324 pages, $26, out now)

“Monogamy” by Sue Miller

Sue Miller, author of “The Arsonist” and a Chicago native, offers a complex portrait of a nearly 30-year marriage. Told from the point of view of the wife after the husband’s sudden death, the book spirals around a revelation of infidelity. (Harper, 352 pages, $28.99, Sept. 8)

“How to Walk on Water” by Rachel Swearingen

Rachel Swearingen, a faculty member at the School of the Art Institute, will release her debut volume of stories, “How to Walk on Water.” Publishers Weekly called it a “crafty collection,” noting that “Swearingen juxtaposes … intense story with the darkly comic.” (New American, 182 pages, $14.95, Oct. 1)

“The Office of Historical Corrections” by Danielle Evans

“The Office of Historical Corrections,” a novella, is presented here along with other stories that chronicle how history — racial and cultural — continue to reverberate through daily life. Danielle Evans, author of the critically acclaimed “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self,” continues to write provocative fiction about people of color, raising questions about who gets to dictate our national narrative. (Riverhead, 288 pages, $27, Nov. 10)

“Remote Control” by Nnedi Okorafor

This one doesn’t come out until 2021, but who doesn’t need something to look forward to in the new year? Flossmoor native and award-winning science-fiction author Nnedi Okorafor will return with a new novel about a girl who’s adopted by Death itself. She’s searching for answers. Aren’t we all? (Tor, $19.99, 160 pages, Jan. 19)

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