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Fall reading: 12 books to keep you occupied for the rest of 2020


What a prescient title: In his new novel — after “Beartown” and “A Man Called Ove” — Backman again captures the messy essence of being human, and what it’s like to be pushed to the brink emotionally. “Anxious People” is ripe with dark humor, a layered tragicomedy about a would-be bank robber with six degrees of separation from a motley crew of hostages. It’s clever and affecting, as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you cry.

Like any diva worth her salt, Carey made fans wait three decades before finally delivering a memoir. The pop queen promises to spill on her highs and lows, including a running feud with rapper Eminem. Give the audiobook a listen: She narrates it herself, with those famous pipes.

Good Morning Zoom,” by Lindsay Rechler and illustrated by June Park (Philomel, Oct. 6)

Margaret Wise Brown’s beloved bedtime story “Goodnight Moon” is timeless — but our unprecedented circumstances call for an update. In this parody, Rechler riffs on Zoom school, laptop-attached parents and bread-making in a kid-friendly, hopeful way. It’s a children’s book, but parents will get a kick out of it, too.

Race, parenthood and privilege complicate this suffocating suspense novel from the author of “Rich and Pretty” and “That Kind of Mother.” A White family is vacationing in a Hamptons rental when a Black couple knocks on the door, claiming they’re the homeowners and that they need shelter from a blackout. Fear seeps in as questions about the visiting couple’s true identity escalate. Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts are set to star in the movie adaptation, which will air on Netflix.

Black Sun,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery/Saga, Oct. 13)

Roanhorse opens a new trilogy with “Black Sun,” an epic fantasy inspired by pre-Columbian Americans. The plot centers on three characters whose story lines converge during a solar eclipse, in scenes fraught with magic and danger. Readers are in for intricate world-building, engrossing adventure and stunning backdrops.

Memorial,” by Bryan Washington (Riverhead, Oct. 27)

Washington’s first novel — following 2019’s visceral short-story collection, “Lot” — is about a gay couple, Benson and Mike, who live together in Houston but are questioning their relationship. As Mike rushes to Japan to say goodbye to his estranged, dying father, his mother arrives in Texas, becoming Benson’s unconventional roommate. The experience is transformative for all involved.

Cobble Hill,” by Cecily von Ziegesar (Atria, Nov. 10)

From the Upper East Side to Cobble Hill: von Ziegesar, author of the popular “Gossip Girl” series, switches up neighborhoods in this novel, trading privileged prep-schoolers for Brooklyn creatives. It’s a fun, quirky character study of four couples harboring secrets that inevitably implode in over-the-top fashion. Blair Waldorf would approve.

In this collection of short fiction, Evans’s storytelling shines. A Confederate flag-themed bikini and replica of the Titanic are among the absurdities she uses to help illustrate race in modern-day America. Her characters are sharp, with terrific depth, and her prose is a pleasure to read. It’s a strong, acerbic follow-up to her prizewinning 2010 release, “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.”

Merry, happy, horrifying everything: Shaffer’s horror-comedy, set in a 1980s publishing house, is billed as “ ‘The Office’ meets ‘The Shining.’ ” It’s about a cursed gnome doll that someone receives during a company gift exchange, leading to ho-ho-horrible events. Expect a touch of the supernatural, malefic colleagues and plenty of eccentricity.

For the first time in more than a decade, Atwood — an accomplished poet, though best known for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” among other novels — is releasing a wide-ranging new collection of poetry. It’s hauntingly beautiful, with reflections on life and death, time and change, and nature and zombies. The strong imagery and atmosphere will probably hook even those who had only been familiar with Atwood’s fiction.

In this steamy romance, Naya Turner is an overachieving math professor blowing off work stress with a night on the town, which leads to a night with a dapper stranger. And then another, and another. She’s smitten by the time she realizes there’s a professional complication, and the relationship could put her job at risk. Williams blends rom-com fun with more weighty topics in her winsome debut.

Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” has been one of the most recommended books during the ongoing racial justice movement. Her new offering is a nuanced analysis of White male America — and how white supremacy has affected politics, football and more. Oluo deftly combines history and sociological study with personal narrative, and the result is both uncomfortable and illuminating.

Angela Haupt is a freelance writer and full-time health editor in D.C.

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