It’s spooky season, which means lots of creepy books are hitting shelves. But don’t worry if straight-up horror isn’t your thing. This month also brings books steeped in speculative realties and existential dread—the kind that forgoes gore and jump scares for simmering tension. And if even that’s too much, we’ve got some non-spooky books as well. Here are ten of the editors’ favorite books out in October.
By Molly Spencer
Southern Illinois University Press
“Readers enter “a stunted world,” where landmarks-a river, a house, a woman’s own body-have become unrecognizable in a place as distorted and dangerous as any of the old tales poet Molly Spencer remasters in this elegant, mournful collection. In myth and memory, through familiar stories reimagined, she constructs poetry for anyone who has ever stumbled, unwillingly, into a wilderness. In these alluring poems, myth becomes part of the arsenal used to confront the flaws and failures of our fallible bodies.”
By Sayaka Murata; Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
“As a child, Natsuki doesn’t fit into her family. Her parents favor her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut who has explained to her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. Each summer, Natsuki counts down the days until her family drives into the mountains of Nagano to visit her grandparents in their wooden house in the forest, a place that couldn’t be more different from her grey commuter town. One summer, her cousin Yuu confides to Natsuki that he is an extraterrestrial and that every night he searches the sky for the spaceship that might take him back to his home planet.”
By Scott O’Connor
“Los Angeles, the late 1970s: Jess Shepard is an installation artist who creates environments that focus on light and space, often leading to intense sensory experiences for visitors to her work. A run of critically lauded projects peaks with Zero Zone, an installation at the once upon a time site of nuclear bomb testing in the New Mexico desert. But when a small group of travelers experience what they perceive as a religious awakening inside Zero Zone, they barricade themselves in the installation until authorities are forced to intervene. That violent showdown becomes a media sensation, and its aftermath follows Jess wherever she goes.”
By C.J. Cooke
“Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it’s as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale. But this family has a history—and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory.”
By Thomas Maltman
“Recovering from a terrible auto accident just before the turn of the millennium, college dropout and hobbyist computer-game programmer Lucien Swenson becomes the caretaker of a house in northern Minnesota. Shortly after moving in, Lucien sets out to find a woman with whom he had an affair, who vanished along with money stolen from the bank where they had worked together. His search will take him to Rose of Sharon, a white supremacist church deep in the wilderness, where a cabal of outcasts await the end of the world at a place they call The Land. Lucien is visited at the house by a mysterious guest, who may not be who she claims, as well as a vast flock of violent ravens out of an apocalyptic vision.”
A Lover’s Discourse
By Xiaolu Guo
“A story of desire, love, language, and the meaning of home—told through conversations between a Chinese graduate student and an Australian man, falling in love against the backdrop of Brexit London.”
Future Sea: How to Rescue and Protect the World’s Oceans
By Deborah Rowan Wright
University of Chicago Press
“The world’s oceans face multiple threats: the effects of climate change, pollution, overfishing, plastic waste, and more. Confronted with the immensity of these challenges and of the oceans themselves, we might wonder what more can be done to stop their decline and better protect the sea and marine life. Such
widespread environmental threats call for a simple but significant shift in reasoning to bring about long-overdue, elemental change in the way we use ocean resources. In Future Sea, ocean advocate and marine-policy researcher Deborah Rowan Wright provides the tools for that shift.”
Leave the World Behind
By Rumaan Alam
“Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But with a late-night knock on the door, the spell is broken. Ruth and G. H., an older couple who claim to own the home, have arrived there in a panic. These strangers say that a sudden blackout has swept New York, and—with nowhere else to turn—they’ve come to the country in search of shelter.
But with the TV and internet down, and no cell phone service, the facts are unknowable. Should Amanda and Clay trust this intruding couple—and vice versa? What has happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from each other?”
By Destiny O. Birdsong
Tin House Books
“What makes a self? In her remarkable debut collection of poems, Destiny O. Birdsong writes fearlessly towards this question. Laced with ratchetry, yet hungering for its own respectability, Negotiations is about what it means to live in this America, about Cardi B and top-tier journal publications, about autoimmune disease and the speaker’s intense hunger for her own body—a surprise of self-love in the aftermath of both assault and diagnosis.”
By Rebecca Roanhorse
“In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world. Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.”
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