The Best Books of Fall 2020—So Far
Including new books from Elena Ferrante and Marilynne Robinson.
Photos: O Magazine
The season of beach reads—and attempting to read comfortably on the beach— is officially coming to a close. But during difficult times like these, we need books more than ever, so our reading marathons will continue long after August. Luckily, the best books of fall 2020 are here to sweep us away into other worlds—or help us understand this one.
Fall releases are marked by new titles from some of fiction's most beloved voices. Elena Ferrante, the author of My Brilliant Friend, returns to Naples for another dark, blisteringly honest tale of a girl's bumpy path into adulthood as she reevaluates the parental figures in her life. Marilynne Robinson, best known for Gilead, stuns with Jack, a moving story about an interracial relationship during the era of Jim Crow. And award-winning poet Claudia Rankine prompts crucial conversations about race in America with Just Us: An American Conversation.
That's just the start of our favorite books this fall. Expect suspense thrillers, political books, feminist texts, stories about the immigrant experience, and more. Read on to find out what you're reading next—and don't forget to shop from an indie bookseller, if possible.
1. Jack by Marilynne Robinson
In 2005, Marilynne Robinson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gilead. In its citation, the Pulitzer committee said the novel offered "a hymn of praise and lamentation" to a "God-haunted existence." In the books that followed, Home and Lila, Robinson continued to explore characters from the Iowa town she created—the eponymous Gilead—and, through them, themes of faith, existentialism, and connection. Now, with the sublime Jack, a sublime love story set during segregation, she resumes and deepens her quest, extending it to the contemplation of race. Shop Now
2. Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
Ayad Akhtar, a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright, has written an immigrant saga unlike any other. Discarding the traditional fresh-off-the-boat three acts (we left, we suffered, I returned to my native country and tried to learn the language), Akhtar folds time and space to produce a mesmerizing portrait of a Muslim Pakistani family coming into its own in Wisconsin during the hard years between the Iran hostage crisis and the Trump presidency. Homeland Elegies is singular in its richness, inventiveness, and braininess and the fiery candor with which Akhtar chars nearly every sentence. It speaks to his gifts that a novel so ruminative and digressive is also bursting with page-turning head-blowers. Shop Now
3. The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
"You can turn ugly because of worries," 12-year-old Giovanna believes, "and if the worries go away you can be pretty again." But anxiety can't simply be washed off, as Giovanna learns over the course of Elena Ferrante's incendiary new novel. Ferrante is preternaturally attuned to the nitty-gritty of girlhood, territory she explored in her Neapolitan novels. What also remains true here: The Lying Life of Adults affirms that Ferrante is an oracle among authors, writing literary epics as illuminating as origin myths, explaining us to ourselves. Shop Now
4. Monogamy by Sue Miller
When Annie and Graham first meet at the latter's Cambridge, Massachusetts, bookstore in the 1970s, each is divorced and seeing other people. Soon after, they marry. Theirs is a long, near-perfect union, or so Annie thinks. As Sue Miller’s sensual and perceptive 11th novel, Monogamy, begins, the couple is comfortably settled in their 60s—she's a photographer with a new exhibition; he’s a successful bookseller—until one morning Annie wakes and her husband doesn't. Compounding her bereavement is the discovery that Graham has been unfaithful. With humor and humanity, Miller, whose first novel was the 1986 bestseller The Good Mother, resists the simple scorned-wife story and instead crafts a revelatory tale of the complexities—and the absurdities—of love, infidelity, and grief. Shop Now
5. Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser
Why, in so many of our stories, do women get the blame when things go awry, starting with the mother of them (us) all—Eve? That's the question at the heart of Elizabeth Lesser's ambitious and illuminating Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. In this empowering heroine's journey, the Omega Institute cofounder revisits the tales that have shaped our thinking about ourselves and our culture. Shop Now
6. The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey
Margot Livesey is a literary pointillist whose prose is both impressionistic and as precise as a geometry equation. Her latest novel, The Boy in the Field, is a mystery and bildungsroman, with three characters sharing center stage: Matthew, Zoe, and Duncan Lang, teenagers living with their parents outside Oxford, England. Their childhood has been idyllic—until one day, after their father fails to pick them up at school, they stumble upon a boy lying stabbed and unconscious. Their individual responses to the discovery—which has the effect of jarring them out of their youthful innocence—alter their paths in unpredictable ways. Tiny piece by tiny piece, Livesey builds an intimate universe that expands and expands "until it grows large enough, almost, to keep everything else at bay." Shop Now
7. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
The author of Homegoing spins an enthralling tale of a brilliant young scientist who must navigate the traumas of her Ghanaian immigrant family in Alabama. A sumptuous meditation on the tensions between what can be empirically proved and what can never be understood about the human condition. Shop Now
View the full story here: The Best Books of Fall 2020—So Far .