Ease On Down: 27 Great New Reads for October

October just might be our favorite month around here. The fall publishing rush is in full swing, it’s time for the Southern Festival of Books, and we all get to dress up and pass out a bunch of candy at the end. Hard to beat, really. Oh, and there’s playoff baseball, too, if you’re into that sort of thing. We only mention it because there are 27 outs in a nine-inning game, the same number of fantastic new books we have picked out for you. Shall we?

FICTION
Recommended by Karen

Harlem Shuffle: A Novel Cover ImageHarlem Shuffle: A Novel

“Carney was only slightly bent when it comes to being crooked” is how Whitehead describes the main character of Harlem Shuffle. Carney walks the knife’s edge dividing the criminal and respectable life and you will love seeing him right himself when he often falls on wrong side of that edge.

Recommended by Lindsay

Fight Night Cover ImageFight Night

When I try to think of writers to compare to Miriam Toews, I always come up short. There just isn’t anyone else with her balance of humor, grace and beautiful language. Fight Night is no exception. This novel is funny, raw and heartfelt. The way that Toews write about maternal relationships in all their messiness and hilarity is unparalleled. Don’t miss this one!

Recommended by Lindsay

Harrow: A novel Cover ImageHarrow: A novel

Joy Williams is not the kind of writer who’s going to give you a hug or say that everything will be OK — and amid the many mini-apocalypses of the past few years, that kind of feels justified. Harrow is a powerful gut punch of a novel set in a post-apocalyptic future, told with the signature sharp and wry humor we come to expect from Williams. It’s truly one of her best.

Recommended by Sissy

The Missing Hours: A Novel Cover ImageThe Missing Hours: A Novel

After blacking out and being sexually assaulted by fellow university students, Claudia Castro is filled with shame. Not only does she not recall what happened, but she also reflects on previous times she’s regretted her actions. Dahl carefully reminds us how society lets those with privilege make mistakes but others must pay dearly.

Recommended by Hannah

Under the Whispering Door Cover ImageUnder the Whispering Door

I’m hard pressed to think of a book I’ve read this year that’s made me feel this deeply for its cast of characters. Written with Klune’s signature wit, this is a deeply emotional, ultimately heartwarming story about found family, reckoning with grief, and living every day like it’s your last. If you loved The House in the Cerulean Sea as much as I did, you’ll devour this — I promise.

Recommended by Ben

Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel Cover ImageCloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel

Told from the perspectives of Anna, Omeir, Zeno, Seymour, and Konstance in settings as varied as the 1453 siege of Constantinople, a public library in present day Idaho and a futuristic interstellar ship — all ingeniously twined together by an invented comedic text by Diogenes — this is a bighearted and vivid tale about the interconnectedness of people and stories, even across vast time and space.

Recommended by Hannah

The Book of Form and Emptiness: A Novel Cover ImageThe Book of Form and Emptiness: A Novel

I don’t say it lightly: This is easily one of the very best books I’ve read this year. Ozeki’s prose is clean and efficient without sacrificing elegance, sophistication, or richness of detail. A probing meditation on family and our relationship to inanimate objects, this is a story you won’t soon forget.

Recommended by Chelsea

The Last Graduate: A Novel (The Scholomance #2) Cover ImageThe Last Graduate: A Novel (The Scholomance #2)

El, Orion and their classmates of the Scholomance are back in the second installment of this dark academia series. El’s interior monologues are as witty as ever, and Novik keeps the twists coming as graduation day looms closer and closer. I couldn’t get enough.

Recommended by Sissy

When Things Get Dark: Stories inspired by Shirley Jackson Cover ImageWhen Things Get Dark: Stories inspired by Shirley Jackson

By Ellen Datlow (Editor)

What a fun autumn read! Shirley Jackson’s work is exciting because of how it throws us off; I always have so many questions after reading her work! These stories have that same feel, and (bonus) I was introduced to several new writers.

Recommended by Kathy

When Ghosts Come Home: A Novel Cover ImageWhen Ghosts Come Home: A Novel

This starts with a plane crash near the coast of North Carolina, and the action and suspense don’t let up. More than this, however, it’s a story of a sheriff with a past and the family who loves him. This is Wiley Cash’s best yet!

Recommended by Patsy

Talk to Me: A Novel Cover ImageTalk to Me: A Novel

Recently divorced college professor Guy Schermerhorn is an animal behaviorist raising chimpanzee Sam as a human child. Sam effectively communicates via sign language, joking, conniving and lying. Boyle raises the question of animal consciousness: Do animals have morals? Souls? This sometimes comic, sometimes dark tale combines campus drama and a road trip for an entertaining page-turner.

Recommended by Jordan

We Are Not Like Them: A Novel Cover ImageWe Are Not Like Them: A Novel

Riley and Jen have been like sisters since childhood. Now as adults, Riley is on track to become one of the first Black news anchors on their towns biggest channel, and Jen is pregnant and married to a police officer. When Jen’s husband is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager, controversy and anger arise in their town and in their friendship. This story explores complex questions of race and relations and is written so well.

Nashville: See the authors in-person this Thursday, Oct. 7 at 6:30pm! To limit capacity, registration is required, but it’s free.

Recommended by Sissy

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed Cover ImageAn Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed

By Helene Tursten, translated by Marlaine Delargy

Do you like mysteries with a bit of humor? Did you like the series Dexter? Well, then, you will love Maud, a sassy lady who lives in Sweden. These interlocking stories are shocking and often hilarious. Perfect for a night by the fire.

Recommended by Rae Ann

The Orphan Witch: A Novel Cover ImageThe Orphan Witch: A Novel

A woman who has been alone her entire life, travels to an island to uncover her true identity. She finds her family and an old curse that must be broken in this atmospheric debut novel, perfect for fall reading.

Recommended by RJ

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables) Cover ImageA Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables)

This insightful take on the Sleeping Beauty story packs a lot of character, humor, action, commentary, and multi-versal shenanigans into a slim novella package. This is absolutely essential reading for anyone who loves fairy tale re-tellings.

Recommended by Aly

Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery Cover ImageSlewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery

By Brom

If you want a spooky book to read this October, look no further. A mysterious beast awakens in a Puritan village. Could it be the devil knocking at their doors? Do they have the strength to resist his promises of a delicious future? Brom manages to craft a narrative that is as exquisitely beautiful and wonderfully grotesque as their artwork.

Recommended by Jordan

Apples Never Fall Cover ImageApples Never Fall

Much like Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, this story follows the perspectives of multiple characters as a suspenseful mystery unravels. Soon after a stranger named Savannah moves in with the Delaney’s, Mrs. Delaney goes missing. Was her husband to blame? The strange young woman who invited herself into their lives? Her four adult children take sides and the drama keeps you on your toes.

NONFICTION
Recommended by Karen

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King Cover ImageKing of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

De Visé really did his research for the detailed and fascinating biography. I’ve loved B.B. King ever since I first heard his music, but this biography really makes me appreciate him even more. This is a must-read for any music fan.

Recommended by Elyse

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People Cover ImageThe Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

Rick Bragg’s telling of the stray dog he finds and befriends, the relationship between the dog and members of the family, of time and place, and ties that bind, is one that you can’t stop reading until you’ve turned over the last page.

Recommended by Becca

For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color Cover ImageFor Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color

Prisca tells of her journey from childhood in Nicaragua, to her youth in Miami, to her current life in Nashville, where she graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School and established herself as an activist with her Latina Rebels platform. She uses her experiences with colonialism, the myth of meritocracy, and the challenges of imposter syndrome to teach other women of color to find success on their own terms.

Recommended by Sissy

Mennonite Valley Girl: A Wayward Coming of Age Cover ImageMennonite Valley Girl: A Wayward Coming of Age

After reading the very first page, I knew I’d love this book. Funk’s language is poetic, and the humor is soft and subtle. I braced myself for trauma, but was so delighted to find the interior life of a young girl who wants more out of life than what she sees around her. Universal, old as time, yet fresh and gripping. I saw myself in every page.

Recommended by Ben

Philomath: Poems Cover ImagePhilomath: Poems

Sensual and sacred desires surge through these gritty, expressive poems. They are often long, meandering through memory and clinging to the clarity of strong details. From the secrets of ghost towns, mysteries of ancestry, to meditations on innocence and death, the words return to the bodies we find ourselves in, the places we are from and formed.

Recommended by Sydney

A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003-2020) Cover ImageA Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003-2020) (Hardcover)

The perfect complement to Theft by Finding. David Sedaris does it again, but this time spanning the years between 2003-2020. If you’re the type of person to enjoy people-watching, read this. Absurdly funny.

Recommended by Hannah

Antoni: Let's Do Dinner Cover ImageAntoni: Let’s Do Dinner

Y’all, let’s be real: Beyond his beautiful face, Antoni is a brilliant chef. The Queer Eye star’s new cookbook, centered around the most show-stopping meal of the day, is packed with richly flavorful dishes. Healthy without sacrificing any fun, Antoni serves up helpful tips alongside scrumptious recipes.

Recommended by Sissy

If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans Cover ImageIf God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans

Every book by Pavlovitz gets closer and closer to my heart. One cannot preach about God while treating people like hell. My favorite chapter in this book is “The Dude Abides.”

Recommended by Hannah

The Date Night Cookbook Cover ImageThe Date Night Cookbook

Organized by the stages of a relationship, this fun cookbook is full of delicious, easy-to-execute recipes perfect for foodies & cooking-newbies alike! Regardless of whether or not you’re a devoted fan of The Try Guys like myself, this cookbook is a delight from cover to cover — I’ve bookmarked more meals from these pages than any other cookbook I own!

First Editions Club: October Selection

The Lincoln Highway: A Novel Cover ImageThe Lincoln Highway: A Novel

Dear friends,

It’s been a long pandemic. Does anybody feel like a road trip?

Welcome to the enormous pleasure that is The Lincoln Highway, a big book of comaradery and adventure in which the miles fly by and the pages turn fast. Amor Towles has a special genius for writing books that are both smart and wildly entertaining. Here we have the story of Emmett and Billy, brothers from 1950 Nebraska who mean to head to California to begin a better life for themselves. Their plans are derailed by Duchess and Woolly, colorful friends who just need to make a quick swing to New York first. That’s not so far out of the way, right?

Set over the course of ten riveting days, the story of these four boys unfolds, refolds, tears and is taped back together. When you aren’t actually reading the book, you’ll be worrying about the characters, so you might as well stay in your chair and keep reading. I sent an early copy to Tom Hanks, who wrote back, “The Lincoln Highway had me going 65mph through to the end.” He later said he wished the book had been several hundred pages longer.

Who doesn’t agree with Tom Hanks?

Enjoy yourself. You’re in for a thrilling ride.

Yours,
Ann Patchett