Events of the past can be painful to look back on — and even more challenging to move forward from. But several of the best books coming out in November tackle troubling histories, both big and small, in fresh and imaginative ways. Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir uses literary tropes to describe damaging power dynamics in a past relationship. Bernadine Evaristo’s Booker Prize winning book moves between 12 fictional narrators to trace the plight of black British women over the decades. And Erika Lee’s latest history puts America’s relationship with xenophobia on full display. Here, the best new books to read in November.
The Crying Book, Heather Christle (Nov. 5)
Though the title suggests otherwise, poet Heather Christle’s book is about more than crying. As she reflects on the loss of a close friend to suicide and her own battle with depression, Christle asks why and how we cry and what it means, especially for women, to do so. But in The Crying Book, the author’s blend of personal experience and scientific research gives way to broader discussions about motherhood, mental health, grief and art.
Buy Now: The Crying Book
Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo (Nov. 5)
In October, British author Bernadine Evaristo made history when she became the first black woman to receive the Booker prize. She shared the 2019 award with Margaret Atwood. Evaristo’s book Girl, Woman, Other comprises 12 interconnected stories focused on primarily black British women over several decades. Though the characters who populate the novel are radically different — a 10-year-old orphan narrates one chapter, while a feminist playwright voices another — they are linked by Evaristo’s expert commentary on race, womanhood, sexuality and more.
Buy Now: Girl, Woman, Other
In the Dream House: A Memoir, Carmen Maria Machado (Nov. 5)
This highly inventive memoir by 2017 National Book Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado explores the trauma and horror of domestic abuse. Each chapter is designed around a different narrative trope — the unreliable narrator, choose-your-own-adventure and more — to further illustrate the painful years Machado spent in a relationship with a woman she describes as erratic and dangerous. Moving beyond the intricacies of her personal story, Machado incorporates examples from literature, history and pop culture to investigate the dialogue surrounding abuse in same-sex relationships.
Buy Now: In the Dream House: A Memoir
The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern (Nov. 5)
As she demonstrated in her best-selling 2011 novel The Night Circus, author Erin Morgenstern knows how to submerge readers into enchanted worlds filled with secrets, magic and long-lost lovers. Her latest fantasy follows graduate student Zachary as he happens upon an authorless book that recounts an experience from his childhood in dizzyingly accurate detail. In an attempt to understand the book’s origins, Zachary unknowingly enters a mystical universe and opens doors to unknown places — including an enormous underground library — as he unravels how he fits into the book’s narrative.
Buy Now: The Starless Sea
Little Weirds, Jenny Slate (Nov. 5)
Actor and comedian Jenny Slate’s new book invites readers into the way she thinks about the world around her. The subject matter of Little Weirds may bounce between topics, from living in a haunted house to undergoing the pain of a divorce, but Slate’s voice remains an eccentric and powerful central force as she comments on politics, patriarchy and her personal life.
Buy Now: Little Weirds
The Revisioners, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (Nov. 5)
In the follow-up to her 2017 debut A Kind of Freedom, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton again showcases the impact of racism across generations. The Revisioners opens in 2017 New Orleans with Ava, a biracial single parent who has just moved herself and her son into her white grandmother’s home. Then the story flashes back to nearly a century earlier, when Ava’s great-great-grandmother Josephine, a former slave, has just met her new white neighbors in 1924. As the two characters’ storylines converge, Sexton crafts a haunting portrait of survival, freedom and hope.
Buy Now: The Revisioners
The Witches Are Coming, Lindy West (Nov. 5)
Known for her best-selling memoir Shrill, which was adapted for television by Hulu this year, Lindy West turns away from her personal story and toward politics in her new book. The 18 essays in The Witches Are Coming cover different facets of the misogyny women face in the post-MeToo era, including President Trump’s use of the phrase “witch hunt.”
Buy Now: The Witches Are Coming
Man’s 4th Best Hospital, Samuel Shem (Nov. 12)
In 1978, author and psychiatrist Samuel Shem introduced readers to the chaotic world inside a fictional hospital in his satirical cult favorite The House of God. Years later, the author has propelled the action forward, and the interns who made up the center of the first book are now doctors. Man’s 4th Best Hospital finds the group navigating fresh challenges as they must guide the new interns and deal with difficult insurance companies. Like its predecessor, Shem’s sequel is darkly funny, but still pokes at bigger present-day issues plaguing the American healthcare system.
Buy Now: Man’s 4th Best Hospital
User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play, Cliff Kuang with Robert Fabricant (Nov. 19)
Journalist Cliff Kuang breaks down the relationship between design, technology and consumerism in his debut book. Kuang unveils the comprehensive history of user-experience design in User Friendly, which tracks a variety of technological advancements made over time, from the washing machine to Apple products. Through his analysis of these developments, Kuang illuminates the lesser-known ways the rules of design have infiltrated everyday life.
A Warning, Anonymous (Nov. 19)
In September 2018, the New York Times ran an opinion piece by an anonymous author that rocked the internet. The op-ed, titled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” sparked conversation across the country — even President Trump himself weighed in, calling on the Times to identify the author. Still writing as “Anonymous,” the unnamed senior Trump Administration official is now publishing a book that promises new behind-the-scenes information about the Trump White House.
Buy Now: A Warning
America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States, Erika Lee (Nov. 26)
Erika Lee wants us to remember that xenophobia has always been a troubling part of the American narrative. Lee offers a sweeping record of xenophobia in the U.S., highlighting the different ways minority groups have been humiliated, discriminated against and even deported. America for Americans also delves into how the hatred and anxieties people feel about others can be maliciously used to benefit politics, businesses and more.
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Write to Annabel Gutterman at firstname.lastname@example.org