October’s most exciting new books *really* run the gamut: There’s a thought-provoking memoir about loneliness, a generational saga set against the building of the transcontinental railroad and an essay collection about fatphobia and sex work. (Oh, and a new novel by two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward that we can’t wait to get our hands on.) Without further ado, nine books we’re eager to read as we slide into spooky season.
9 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in October
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Poet and essayist Dixon’s (The Incredible Shrinking Woman) second book asks the question: What does it mean to be a body behind a screen, lost in the hustle of an online world? Living alone and working 40 hours a week from home, hundreds of miles from her family and friends, Dixon begins watching videos on YouTube, listening to podcasts and playing video games just to hear another human voice. She then learns the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died alone, her body remaining in front of a glowing television set for three years before anyone noticed. Dixon then investigates communal loneliness, asking if humans are linked by a shared loneliness, how we see the world and our place in it and how we find our way back to each other.
In the late 19th century, 10-year-old Sixiang is sold to a human trafficker after her village in China is devastated by famine. She’s taken to America, where her father immigrated before she was born. This heartbreaking generational saga from the author of the 2021 story collection Hao traces the parallel lives of father and daughter as they struggle to survive in a country that’s rejecting them while also relying on their labor. Moving from the villages of China to the dawn of the transcontinental railroad and the anti-Chinese movement in California, Straw Dogs of the Universe is a meditation on courage and the tenacity of family ties.
After the tragic death of his boyfriend, Cam leaves Los Angeles and returns to his hometown of Houston, where he’s thrust back into the orbit of TJ, his former best friend. For his part, TJ isn’t sure how to navigate this changed version of Cam, or their estrangement. Might they find a way back to being OK again (or maybe for the first time)? Spanning Los Angeles, Houston and Osaka, the latest from Washington (Memorial) is about how the people who know us the longest can hurt us the most, but how they also set the standard for love.
Alice is the middle daughter of struggling California fruit farmers, accustomed to feeling inferior and destitute. But when her older sister’s husband strikes gold in the Yukon Territory, Alice joins a wave of settlers making the dangerous trek to join them. Alice soon becomes tightly intertwined in her sister and brother-in-law’s newfound fortune, as well as the beginning of a generations-long family quest for wealth. One hundred years later, in 2015, Alice’s great-great-granddaughter Anna grapples with moral conflict as she travels to the Klondike to bequeath her would-be inheritance to the First Nations peoples who paid the price for its creation. Djanikian’s (The Office of Mercy) new novel examines the American Dream and its rippling effects across generations in a can’t-put-it-down, sweeping story that forces us to confront the inequities of the classic rags-to-riches tale.
The latest from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward is a reimagining of American slavery. Annis is a young woman sold by the white enslaver who fathered her and brought from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and ultimately to a Louisiana sugar plantation. As she struggles through the journey, she’s buoyed by memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. A story of rebirth and reclamation, Let Us Descend takes on grief, resilience, imagination and kinship—all with Ward’s dreamy-yet-gutting exquisite prose.
The bestselling author of Capote’s Women turns his focus to Alfred Hitchcock in his latest. The director of North by Northwest, Rear Window and other classic films was fixated on the blonde actresses who started in his movies, but the women themselves have rarely been at the center of the story. In Hitchcock’s Blondes, Leamer offers an intimate look into the lives of eight legendary actresses—including Ingrid Bergman and Tippi Hedren—whose stories helped propel the troubled, talented director’s career forward, from Janet Leigh’s first marriage (when she was 14 years old) to forcing The 39 Steps star Madeline Carroll to rehearse while handcuffed and soaking wet.
In Emma Noyes’s (The Sunken City) adult debut, recent Harvard grad Ginny is a guy’s girl—she’s always found friendships with boys easier to form and keep drama-free. That is, until she meets Adrian, the only guy friend who’s ever made her crave more than friendship. As they begin to fall for each other, Ginny threatens to destroy Adrian's belief that love isn’t worth the risk, while Ginny risks exposing her struggles with disordered eating if she lets Adrian get too close. As they figure out whether they should be more than just friends, they learn important lessons about true love, self-love and growing up.
Fancy Feast is a burlesque performer, sex educator and social worker, whose debut collection of essays is about sex, communication and power. In “Doing Yourself,” she tackles fatphobia and dating, self-love and fantasies, while “Yes/No/Maybe,” brings the reader from sex parties to polyamorous relationships, contrasting the sexiness of enthusiastic consent with the devastating effects of miscommunication and entitlement. Part backstage pass, part long-form literary striptease, Naked is a powerful punch-back at a culture that wants fat people to be self-hating or sexless.
9. Hotel Kitsch: A Pretty Cool Tour of America’s Fantasy Getaways by Margaret Bienert and Corey Bienert
Before you book your next vacation, pick up this gorgeous coffee table book for inspiration. Margaret and Corey Bienert are the creators of A Pretty Cool Hotel Tour, which highlights unique hotels around the world. Their first book, Hotel Kitsch, celebrates dozens of one-of-a-kind hotels across the United States to Mexico, Spain and the UK. From Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, where the rooms are reached by scuba diving, to a jungle room in Iowa with fake trees and foliage that looks like something out of Where the Wild Things Are, Hotel Kitsch is a celebration of some of the world’s most creative, nostalgic and one-of-a-kind properties.