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The only explicitly spooky book on this list of October releases is Out There Screaming, edited by John Joseph Adams and Jordan Peele. This anthology of new Black horror spans from the supernatural, like a girl searching for the demon that killed her parents, to the all too real, like traffic stops and lynch mobs. Other books on this list, though, border on the uncanny: Walter Mosely’s Touched personifies death as a pale man with white hair and a dapper suit, and in Molly McGhee’s Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind, the titular protagonist enters other people’s dreams to scrub out the bad parts. Also arriving this month are the hotly anticipated memoirs from Jada Pinkett Smith and Britney Spears. Here are the best new books to read this October.
Out There Screaming: An Anthology of New Black Horror, John Joseph Adams and Jordan Peele (editors) (Oct. 3)
First, Jordan Peele co-created and starred in the sketch comedy series Key & Peele. Then, he made a string of films—Get Out, Us, and Nope—that fuse horror with the realities of Black American life. Now, alongside editor and publisher John Joseph Adams, he has collected and edited short stories by 19 Black authors into an anthology of contemporary Black horror. The likes of N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Tananarive Due, P. Djèlí Clark, and Rebecca Roanhorse are featured alongside emerging writers like Erin E. Adams, Violet Allen, and Justin C. Key. Real life (traffic stops) and real history (Freedom Riders, lynch mobs) meet speculative fiction and the supernatural in this bone-chilling collection.
Brooklyn Crime Novel, Jonathan Lethem (Oct. 3)
In 2003, Jonathan Lethem wrote the New York Times-bestselling novel The Fortress of Solitude, set in Boerum Hill, the Brooklyn neighborhood where he was raised. Two decades later—and with six novels, three short story collections, and a MacArthur Fellowship in between—he has returned to the New York City borough. Brooklyn Crime Novel, organized into six sections, traces the crime of gentrification through a series of stories in the style of oral history. This time around, Lethem spoke with the people he grew up with, of all races and backgrounds, to craft a story about memory, community, race, and privilege.
How to Say Babylon, Safiya Sinclair (Oct. 3)
Safiya Sinclair burst onto the literary scene in 2016 with the award-winning debut poetry collection, Cannibal. Her glimmering debut memoir, laced with poetic voice, arrives with self-possessed power. How to Say Babylon is a liberatory memoir in which Sinclair tangles with her past, patriarchy (“I would watch the men in my family grow mighty while the women shrunk”), and tradition and colonialism in her home, Jamaica. Babylon, in this case, refers to the oppression that the author’s father, a strict Rastafarian, sees in the Western ideology. When Sinclair eventually moves to the U.S. for college, she reckons with the gap between her worlds and tries “to write the ache into something tangible.”
A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy, Nathan Thrall (Oct. 3)
Nathan Thrall—a journalist and former director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group—conducted extensive interviews and research to reconstruct the tragic February 2012 day when seven people were killed in a traffic accident near Jerusalem. He tells this story through the lens of a father, Palestinian phone company worker and political activist Abed Salama, and his frantic quest to find his five-year-old son, Milad. On that day, Milad had been on a school bus traveling to a theme park field trip, but he would not survive the journey. His death, as Thrall illuminates through exhaustive reporting, was largely due to the systemic inequities of being Palestinian in Jerusalem: the wall dividing the communities, poorly maintained infrastructure, and an oppressive bureaucracy.
The Leftover Woman, Jean Kwok (Oct. 10)
At 14, Jasmine Yang married her husband Wen in a rural Chinese village. Then, she gave birth to a girl and was told the baby had died. But that’s not what happened. As Jasmine learns in a devastating twist, Wen, who wanted a son and was all too aware of the One Child Policy, gave their daughter away in an informal adoption. Upon finding out, she flees to America to escape her marriage and search for her daughter. She juggles two jobs to repay the smugglers who brought her: a cocktail waitress at a strip club, and a nanny for a white family with an adopted Chinese daughter. In The Leftover Woman, Jean Kwok weaves a riveting drama about motherhood and belonging.
Touched, Walter Mosley (Oct. 10)
Walter Mosley, distinguished by a laundry list of literary awards, is best known for his crime fiction—especially for his series about Easy Rawlins, a Black private investigator in Los Angeles. He has dabbled in science fiction before, and now he’s back with Touched, an alternative fiction novel that is, in fact, very alternative. Touched follows Marty Just as something inside of him, an entity called Temple, takes over. Suddenly, Marty has strange new powers including super strength and the ability to resurrect the dead. But when Tor Waxman, an embodiment of death and a harbinger of white-on-Black genocide, begins stalking Marty's family, the story takes on a dystopian tone.
The Hive and the Honey, Paul Yoon (Oct. 10)
The seed of Paul Yoon’s third short story collection is the movement of Korea and its people. The Hive and the Honey comprises seven masterful short stories that span 500 years of Korean diaspora. In 17th century Japan, a samurai escorts an orphan to find fellow Koreans, and in 19th century Eastern Russia, a soldier writes a ghost story about a Korean settlement to his uncle. Around 1980, a North Korean maid travels from Barcelona to Russia to reunite with her son, and in the present day, a South Korean immigrant builds a new life after being incarcerated. Yoon’s grandfather escaped North Korea, and the author’s works deal fittingly with belonging, home, immigration, and identity.
Tremor, Teju Cole (Oct. 17)
Teju Cole’s first novel in 12 years is worth the wait. Tremor begins as seeming autofiction: Both the author and the protagonist, Tunde, are Nigerian, were raised in Lagos, teach at Harvard, and are cultural critics, photographers, and writers. Butitbecomes more nebulous, a tapestry of perspectives, art and artists, race, and history. The title refers to the omnipresent threat of something—a strained marriage, casual racism, colonial atrocities—shattering the illusion of a less complicated, more carefree reality. Through an address to a late friend, a lecture at an art museum, and the voices of 24 Lagos residents, Cole sculpts commentary about life and art in an age of uncertainty.
I Love Russia: Reporting from a Lost Country, Elena Kostyuchenko (translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse and Bela Shayevich) (Oct. 17)
I Love Russia might be the last piece of work that journalist and activist Elena Kostyuchenko publishes from her homeland of Russia. She has been assaulted and arrested multiple times in retribution for her journalism and activism, and I Love Russia, while true to its name, holds that the greatest form of patriotism is criticism. It’s a mixture of Kostyuchenko’s reporting—on the 2014 war in Donbas, Ukraine, the contract killing of six of her colleagues, the Russian government’s grim denial of the fighting in Donetsk in 2012—and her deeply personal essays. And the author makes a point to foreground the overlooked and oppressed: sex workers, queer people, especially in remote areas, the homeless, and Indigenous Nganasan people facing alarming rates of suicide.
Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind, Molly McGhee (Oct. 17)
After her mom passed away in 2020, author Molly McGhee was saddled with 20 years' worth of debt. She began having nightmares about a man who was constantly trying to pay off his debt by entering other people’s dreams and trying to ease their sadness at his own expense. This is, in essence, the plot of her surrealist debut novel. In Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind, the eponymous character is also mired in debt—until he gets a job with a government contractor that sends him into the minds of workers while they sleep to scrub away anything that might be making them unproductive. It’s a scathing critique of capitalism that holds onto the humanity of its characters.
Worthy, Jada Pinkett Smith (Oct. 17)
Jada Pinkett Smith feels like she’s surrounded by misunderstanding. Her highly anticipated memoir, Worthy, is meant to change that. The book traces her journey from involvement with drugs as a young person in Baltimore to her close friendship with Tupac Shakur to her move to Los Angeles, where she would pursue acting and later meet and marry Will Smith. “Adventures of my youth, meaningful friendships, marriage, motherhood, self-betrayal and self reclamation are mere reflections of the adventures so many of us have taken in search of happiness,” Pinkett Smith wrote on Instagram. “It’s a harrowing ride of reclaiming my self-worth while unraveling unspoken truths.”
The House of Doors, Tan Twan Eng (Oct. 17)
Tan Twan Eng’s third novel is based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1926 short story “The Letter.” Maugham’s story, in turn, was inspired by the real-life Ethel Proudlock case, in which Proudlock was charged with the murder of a man who tried to rape her. In The House of Doors, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, Proudlock is a side character, a close friend of Lesley Hamlyn, wife of Robert Hamlyn. Lesley and Robert welcome Maugham, who goes by Willie, to their home in 1921 Penang, Malaysia, then colonized by the British. Tan effortlessly fuses fiction and fact as he paints a portrait of Maugham’s trip to Malaysia, his desperate search for a new writing subject, colonialism, and the restraints of heteronormative marriage.
A Memoir of My Former Self, Hilary Mantel (edited by Nicholas Pearson) (Oct. 24)
This posthumous collection of more than 70 of Hilary Mantel’s essays, talks, and reviews, spanning 31 years of her career, does the beloved writer justice. Her work runs the gamut from the personal and poignant—like the surgery she underwent for endometriosis in her 20s, which left her post-menopausal and infertile—to the irreverent and clever—like her assessments of Princess Diana and Kate Middleton and her experience with a hypnotist. As the author of the Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall trilogy(a fictional account of Thomas Cromwell's rise to power), she also imparts plenty of knowledge about history and writing: “Ink is a generative fluid. If you don’t mean your words to breed consequences, don’t write at all.”
Tupac: The Authorized Biography, Staci Robinson (Oct. 24)
The author and screenwriter Staci Robinson (also an executive producer on the series Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur) and hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur met at Tamalpais High School, outside of San Francisco. They stayed in touch until Tupac’s death at age 25. Tupac’s mother, the activist Afeni Shakur, reached out to Robinson and asked her to write this authorized biography. Because of that level of familial access, the book brims with material: conversations with his loved ones, handwritten lyrics, album track lists, and liner notes. While Robinson doesn’t speculate on Tupac’s unsolved murder, she does stay true to his “revolutionary vigilance against a system complicit in keeping Black Americans powerless and poor,” as she writes in the book.
The Woman in Me, Britney Spears (Oct. 24)
Other people have been telling Britney Spears’ story for a long time. The iconic pop star was confined in a conservatorship, in which her father was her conservator, for over 13 years, until 2021, when a court agreed to terminate the arrangement. Now, Spears has decided to tell her own story on her own terms. The Woman in Me will document both her trajectory toward superstardom and how that journey shaped her.
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