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24 Brilliant Books You Must Read This Autumn

Recommended reading in October and November. UK release dates.

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Dan Dalton / BuzzFeed

1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – Out Now

Fleet, Madeline Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most. Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can, and the pair take the perilous decision to escape to the North. With Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, close on their heels, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Blown away by @colsonwhitehead 'The Underground Railroad'. Only 'A Little Life' had this effect on me of late. Well done, sir. Brilliant.

2. Nicotine by Nell Zink – Out Now

Ecco, David Levenson / Getty Images

Unemployed business major Penny, has rebelled against her family her whole life – by being the conventional one. Her mother was a member of a South American tribe; her father a Jewish Shamanist with a psychedelic 'healing centre'. But everything changes when her father dies and Penny inherits his childhood home. Left weightless and unmoored, Penny finds the property occupied by a group of squatters, united in defence of smokers' rights – and herself unexpectedly besotted with them, particularly Rob, the hot bicycle-and-tobacco activist.

My favorite line from NICOTINE by @NellZink: "All at once, she trusts him. His expectations are so terrifically low." @eccobooks

3. The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasm – Out Now

Granta, Halik Azeez

Dinesh, a young man trapped on the frontlines between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers, is approached by an older man who asks him to marry his daughter Ganga, hoping that victorious soldiers will be less likely to harm a married woman. For a few brief hours, Dinesh and Ganga tentatively explore their new and unexpected connection, trying to understand themselves and each other, until the war once more closes over them.

The story of a brief marriage - slow immersive and intensely physical meditation into the mind of a man in the eye of the Civil-war storm.

4. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – Out Now

Hogarth, Jean Malek

Margaret Atwood's retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge.

I reviewed Hag-Seed for this month's @Lit_Review & loved it. Among other things it's a perfect novel if you love theatre.

5. Mama Can't Raise No Man by Robyn Travis – Out Now

Own It

A novel told through a series of letters between a colourful cast of characters and the main protagonist, Duane, who despite his efforts to turn his life around, once again finds himself in prison. This time it’s on charges of intent to supply drugs and domestic violence, but things are not as clear-cut as they seem.

Hundreds pay to attend launch of debut Mama Can’t Raise No Man via @thebookseller

6. Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest – Out Now

Picador Poetry, Niamh Convery

A long poem written for live performance and heard on the album release of the same name. Seven neighbours inhabit the same London street, but are all unknown to each other. The clock freezes in the small hours, and, one by one, we see directly into their lives: lives that are damaged, disenfranchised, lonely, broken, addicted. Then a great storm breaks over London, and brings them out into the night to face each other – and offers them a chance to connect.

Happy publication day @katetempest! Let Them Eat Chaos is out today & it is an important and brilliant collection about our world right now!

7. Dead Dogs & Splintered Hearts by Tom Ward – Out Now

Crooked Cat, Tom Ward

A collection of 24 short stories, at times heartbreaking, occasionally violent, and often perverse.Featuring: a sophisticated assassin, celebratory Parisian cabaret dancers and a magazine cool enough to literally explode minds, fingers cut to the bone, a bag of eyeballs, Charles Bukowksi’s pub, and the latest in scientific seduction techniques. Oh, and there’s the occasional dog, as well.

#Dead Dogs & Splintered Hearts by @TomWardWrites is thought provoking, pushing you to use your imagination and with a deeper undertone. xXx

8. The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick – Out Now

Harvill Secker, Via Twitter: @helensedgwick

Roisin and Francois are immediately drawn to each other when they meet at a remote research base in Antarctica. Older by a few years, Roisin, a daughter of Ireland and a peripatetic astronomer, joins the science team to observe the fracturing of a comet overhead. Francois, the base's chef, has just left his birthplace in Bayeux, France, for only the second time in his life. Yet devastating tragedy and an indelible bond that stretches back centuries connects them to each other.

On topic of beautiful books, I can't recommend enough that you read The Comet Seekers by @helensedgwick. I've never read anything like it.

9. The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore – Out Now

Simon & Schuster, Matt Sayles

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

Loving the book The Last Days of Night so far. It's the book I always wanted: Edison/Tesla/Westinghouse novelization.

10. The Mothers by Brit Bennett – 13 October

Riverhead, Via Twitter: @britrbennett

It is the last season of high school life for seventeen-year-old Nadia Turner. Mourning her mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son, Luke, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance and the subsequent cover-up will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. Read an excerpt here.

i have loved many books this year but i think i will still love brit bennett's "the mothers" the most once december ends

11. Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra – 13 October

Granta, Beowulf Sheehan

Life is full of choices. Some will bring you joy and others will bring you heartache. Multiple Choice is a novel in the form of an exam, a series of test questions, asking you to choose: will you cheat, or will you copy? Will you fall in love? Maybe, in the choices you make, you'll find yourself. Are you ready? Now turn over your papers, and begin.

Also reading a proof of Zambra's Multiple Choice, forthcoming from @GrantaBooks. A charming and surprisingly moving little oddity.

12. Autumn by Ali Smith – 20 October

Hamish Hamilton, Tristan Fewings

Daniel is a century old. Elisabeth, born in 1984, has her eye on the future. The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic once-in-a-generation summer.

Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand in hand with hopelessness. From the Bailey's Prize-winning author of How To Be Both, Autumn is the first in a seasonal quartet that casts an eye over our own time.

Just finished Autumn by Ali Smith. Poetic, raw, and ultimately reassuring, it's powerful and it's of now and it's of forever. I love it.

13. The Terranauts by TC Boyle – 20 October

Bloomsbury, Jamieson Fry

Eight people take part in an ecological experiment in 1990s Arizona. Competition was fierce between the hopefuls, and all are certain that they would never, ever, break before their two years are up – unlike their discredited predecessors. Inside this humid microcosm, the terranauts are observed by gawping tourists, Mission Control’s cameras and the watchful eye of the media. As the crew struggles with hostilities, sexual dalliances, and the basics of farming – and as hunger sets in – the snake in this Eden starts to look unmistakably human.

Halfway thru The Terranauts by @tcboyle -- entertaining--lord of flies meets the dome, kinda... but with sense of humor...

14. The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler – 20 October

Picador, Urban Zintel

When seventeen-year-old Franz exchanges his home in the idyllic beauty of the Austrian lake district for the bustle of Vienna, his homesickness quickly dissolves in his role as apprentice to the elderly tobacconist Otto Trsnyek. Among the regulars is a Professor Freud, whose predilection for cigars and willingness to dispense romantic advice will forge a bond between him and young Franz.

'Essential reading for the early years of the 21stC' - #ScotlandOnSunday on Robert Seethaler's THE TOBACCONIST, out frm @picadorbooks nxt wk

15. The Power by Naomi Alderman – 27 October

Viking, Via

What if the power to hurt were in women's hands? Suddenly - tomorrow or the day after - girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonising pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman's new novel are utterly transformed.

Just finished The Power by Naomi Alderman in one sitting for work book club and now I'm buzzing! Book club needs to happen with haste.

16. Himself by Jess Kidd – 27 October

Canongate, Jess Kidd

Abandoned on the steps of an orphanage, Mahony, a lovable car thief and Dublin charmer, returns to the town of his birth after an anonymous message suggests that his mother was murdered. When Mahony meets anarchist and ancient actress Mrs Cauley, this improbable duo concoct a slick plan to get the town talking, aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters (living and dead).

‘Jess Kidd is a genius. Her prose sparkles with wit, savagery and startling originality. I loved it.’ Tasha Kavanagh on Himself

17. The Start of Something by Stuart Dybek – 3 November

Jonathan Cape, Mark Bialek

Nineteen tales of growing up, wising up and falling in love, spanning more than three decades of prize-winning work by a North American master of the short story.

Man, Stuart Dybek’s “The Start of Something” is a masterpiece.

18. The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang – 3 November

Fig Tree, Teresa Flowers

Charles Wang has just lost the cosmetics fortune he built up since emigrating to the US. Faced with this loss, he decides to take his family on a trip to China and attempt to reclaim his ancestral lands. First, he embarks on a cross country trip to gather his children. From Bel Air, to New York, to New Orleans, Charles navigates between the life he has and the life he wants, and realises he may have to choose between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of China.

Reading @thejadechang's The Wangs vs the World for The Rumpus Book Club and it's amazing. The language is tight and story is engrossing.

19. Loner by Teddy Wayne – 3 November

Simon & Schuster, Via

David Federman has never felt appreciated. An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, he arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by his high-achieving peers. Initially, however, he seems sentenced to a lifetime of anonymity. Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells. Struck by her beauty and wit, David becomes instantly infatuated. Determined to win her attention, he begins compromising his moral standards. But both Veronica and David, it turns out, are not exactly as they seem.

Loving #Loner by Teddy Wayne. Great writing, fun read, superbly creepy narrator. I think I dated several guys like David Federer. #sociopath

20. An Almond For A Parrot by Wray Delaney – 3 November

HQ, Via Twitter: @thewraydelaney

London, 1756: In Newgate prison, Tully Truegood awaits trial. Her fate hanging in the balance, she tells her life-story. It’s a tale that takes her from skivvy in the back streets of London, to conjuror’s assistant, to celebrated courtesan at the notorious Fairy House. Tully was once the talk of the town. Now her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who can help her avoid the gallows.

Just finished 'An Almond for a parrot' and I loved Tully!! I'm pretty sure her story will stay with me for a while... @HQstories

21. Cove by Cynan Jones – 3 November


Out at sea, in a sudden storm, a man is struck by lightning. When he wakes, injured and adrift on a kayak, his memory of who he is and how he came to be there is all but shattered. Now he must pit himself against the pain and rely on his instincts to get back to shore, and to the woman he dimly senses waiting for his return.

Read an extract of new Cynan Jones novel COVE over @newwelshreview

22. The Dark Circle by Linda Grant – 3 November

Virago, Via

The Second World War is over, but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy, and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.

"Books were a mystery, they came out of nowhere ... conceived, like children, then grown in the dark." Reading Linda Grant's THE DARK CIRCLE

23. Swing Time by Zadie Smith – 15 November

Hamish Hamilton, Via

Two brown girls dream of being dancers - but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either...

Almost forgot to say that SWING TIME by Zadie Smith is just utterly brilliant. I *think* it's going to be my favorite book of the year.#ewgc

24. Moonglow by Michael Chabon – 22 November

Harper, Michael Chabon

A deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as "my grandfather," Moonglow is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, and, above all, of the destructive impact and the creative power of keeping secrets and telling lies.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon was so good & now I'll never again be able to read it for the first time! Smart, dark, tender, human. 💜 🚀