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The Best Books of October 2019

The books you should read this month.

Every October brings some of the best and most anticipated books of the year, and 2019 is no different. Our best-of list is long this month, but we promise we did our best to narrow it down. (Okay, we didn’t try THAT hard, because let’s face it: the more books the better!) From fiction to nonfiction to poetry, here’s our list of favorites hitting shelves in October 2019.

False Bingo
By Jac Jemc
MCD X FSG

“In Jac Jemc’s dislocating second story collection, False Bingo, we watch as sinister forces—some supernatural, some of this earth, some real and some not—work their ways into the mundanity of everyday life.”

Erosion: Essays of Undoing
Terry Tempest Williams
Sarah Crichton Books

“In these new essays, Williams explores the concept of erosion: of the land, of the self, of belief, of fear. She wrangles with the paradox of desert lands and the truth of erosion: What is weathered, worn, and whittled away through wind, water, and time is as powerful as what remains. Our undoing is also our becoming.”

Read an excerpt here.

Frankissstein
By Jeanette Winterson
Grove Press

“Lake Geneva, 1816. Nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley is inspired to write a story about a scientist who creates a new life-form. In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI and carrying out some experiments of his own in a vast underground network of tunnels. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his mom again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life.”

Crossfire: A Litany for Survival Kindle Edition
By Staceyann Chin
Haymarket Books

Crossfire collects Staceyann Chin’s empowering, feminist-LGBTQ-Caribbean, activist-driven poetry for the first time in a single book. According to The New York Times, Chin is ‘sassy, rageful and sometimes softly self-mocking.’ The Advocate says that her poems, “combine hilarious one-liners with a refusal to conform” and note ‘Chin is out to confront more than just the straight world.'”

Rerun Era
By Joanna Howard
McSweeney’s

Rerun Era is a captivating, propulsive memoir about growing up in the environmentally and economically devastated rural flatlands of Oklahoma, the entwinement of personal memory and the memory of popular culture, and a family thrown into trial by lost love and illness that found common ground in the television. Told from the magnetic perspective of Joanna Howard’s past selves from the late ’70s and early ’80s, Rerun Era circles the fascinating psyches of her part-Cherokee teamster truck-driving father, her women’s libber mother, and her skateboarder, rodeo bull-riding teenage brother.”

Pigs
By Johanna Stoberock
Red Hen Press

“Four children live on an island that serves as the repository for all the world’s garbage. Trash arrives, the children sort it, and then they feed it to a herd of insatiable pigs: a perfect system. But when a barrel washes ashore with a boy inside, the children must decide whether he is more of the world’s detritus, meant to be fed to the pigs, or whether he is one of them.”

Read an excerpt here.

The Topeka School
By Ben Lerner
FSG

“Deftly shifting perspectives and time periods, The Topeka School is the story of a family, its struggles and its strengths: Jane’s reckoning with the legacy of an abusive father, Jonathan’s marital transgressions, the challenge of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity. It is also a riveting prehistory of the present: the collapse of public speech, the trolls and tyrants of the New Right, and the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.”

Arias
By Sharon Olds
Knopf

“The atom bomb, Breaking Bad, Rasputin, the cervix, her mother’s return from the dead: the peerless Sharon Olds once again takes up subject matter that is both difficult and ordinary, elusive and everywhere. Each aria
is shaped by its unique harmonics and moral logic, as Olds stands center stage to sing of sexual pleasure and chance wisdom, and faces the tragic life of our nation and our planet.”

The Beadworkers
By Beth Piatote
Counterpoint

“Beth Piatote’s luminous debut collection opens with a feast, grounding its stories in the landscapes and lifeworlds of the Native Northwest, exploring the inventive and unforgettable pattern of Native American life in the contemporary world.”

Celestial Bodies
By Jokha Alharthi; Translated by Marilyn Booth
Catapult

In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the
man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a
rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families
to those making money through the advent of new wealth.”

Grand Union
By Zadie Smith
Random House

“Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically-respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and inimitable voice to
mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world.”

Reinhardt’s Garden
By Mark Haber
Coffeehouse Press

“At the turn of the twentieth century, as he composes a treatise on melancholy, Jacov Reinhardt sets off from his small Croatian village in search of his hero and unwitting mentor, Emiliano Gomez Carrasquilla, who is rumored to have disappeared into the South American jungle—“not lost, mind you, but retired.” Jacov’s narcissistic preoccupation with melancholy consumes him, and as he desperately recounts the myth of his journey to his trusted but ailing scribe, hope for an encounter with the lost philosopher who holds the key to Jacov’s obsession seems increasingly unlikely.”

Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race
By Thomas Chatterton Williams
W.W. Norton & Company

“Thomas Chatterton Williams, the son of a “black” father from the segregated South and a “white” mother from the West, spent his whole life believing the dictum that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person black. This was so fundamental to his self-conception that he’d never rigorously reflected on its foundations—but the shock of his experience as the black father of two extremely white-looking children led him to question these long-held convictions.”

Suicide Woods
By Benjamin Percy
Graywolf Press

“Benjamin Percy is a versatile and propulsive storyteller whose genre-busting novels and story collections have ranged from literary to thriller to postapocalyptic. In his essay collection, Thrill Me, he laid bare for readers
how and why he channels disparate influences in his work. Now, in his first story collection since the acclaimed Refresh, Refresh, Percy brings his page-turning skills to bear in Suicide Woods, a potent brew of horror, crime, and weird happenings in the woods.”

Supernova Era
By Cixin Liu; Translated by Joel Martinsen
Tor Books

“Eight light years away, a star has died, creating a supernova event that showers Earth in deadly levels of radiation. Within a year, everyone over the age of thirteen will die. And so the countdown begins. Parents apprentice their children and try to pass on the knowledge needed to
keep the world running. But when the world is theirs, the last generation may not want to continue the legacy left to them. And in shaping the future however they want, will the children usher in an era of bright beginnings or final mistakes?”

The Man Who Saw Everything
By Deborah Levy
Bloomsbury

“It is 1988 and Saul Adler, a narcissistic young historian, has been invited to Communist East Berlin to do research; in exchange, he must publish a favorable essay about the German Democratic Republic. As a gift for his translator’s sister, a Beatles fanatic who will be his host, Saul’s girlfriend will shoot a photograph of him standing in the crosswalk on Abbey Road, an homage to the famous album cover. As he waits for her to arrive, he is grazed by an oncoming car, which changes the trajectory of his life—and this story of good intentions and reckless actions.”

Your House Will Pay
By Steph Cha
Ecco

“In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. Protests and vigils are being staged all over the city. It’s in this dangerous tinderbox that two
families must finally confront their pasts.”

Everything Must Go
By Kevin Coval 
Haymarket

Everything Must Go is an illustrated collection of poems in the spirit of a graphic novel, a collaboration between poet Kevin Coval and illustrator Langston Allston. The book celebrates Chicago’s Wicker Park in the late 1990’s, Coval’s home as a young artist, the ancestral neighborhood of his forebears, and a vibrant enclave populated by colorful characters.” 

Intelligence for Dummies: A Portrait
By Glenn O’Brien
ZE Books

“Glenn O’Brien collaborated with visual artists, writers, fashion houses, and musicians throughout his almost 50-year career. Intelligence for Dummies gathers Glenn O’Brien’s essays, aphorisms and tweets, to create a portrait of the artist as cultural bellwether, complimented by artwork and photographs from his collaborators.”

Ghosts of Berlin
By Rudolph Herzog; Translated by Emma Rault
Melville House Publishing

“In these hair-raising stories from the celebrated filmmaker and author Rudolph Herzog, millennial Berliners discover that the city is still the home of many unsettled—and deeply unsettling—ghosts. And those ghosts are not very happy about the newcomers.”

Salt Slow
Julia Armfield
Flatiron Books

“In her electrifying debut, Julia Armfield explores women’s experiences in contemporary society, mapped through their bodies. As urban dwellers’ sleeps become disassociated from them, like Peter Pan’s shadow, a city turns insomniac. A teenager entering puberty finds her body transforming in ways very different than her classmates’. As a popular band gathers momentum, the fangirls following their tour turn into something monstrous.”

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
By Megan Phelps-Roper
FSG

“At the age of five, Megan Phelps-Roper began protesting homosexuality and other alleged vices alongside fellow members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Founded by her grandfather and consisting almost entirely of her extended family, the tiny group would gain worldwide notoriety for its pickets at military funerals and celebrations of death and tragedy. A gripping memoir of escaping extremism and falling in love, Unfollow relates Phelps-Roper’s moral awakening, her departure from the church, and how she exchanged the absolutes she grew up with for new forms of warmth and community.”

The Hidden World of the Fox
By Adele Brand
William Morrow

“Today the red fox is the nature’s most populous carnivore, its dancing orange tail a common sight in backyards. Yet who is this wild neighbor, truly? How do we negotiate this uneasy new chapter of an ancient relationship? Join British ecologist Adele Brand on a journey to discover the surprising secrets of the fabled fox, the familiar yet enigmatic creature that has adapted to the human world with astonishing—some say, unsettling—success.”

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