5 Great Books To Read In November
A roundup of recent favorites we've reviewed in the BuzzFeed Books newsletter.
1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel, Station Eleven, opens just as a famous actor has a heart attack in the middle of a production of King Lear. An audience member leaps on to the stage to resuscitate him, but it’s too late. As fake snow continues to fall onstage, the curtains close, and the confused and startled audience wanders out into the Toronto evening. That same night, news breaks of a deadly flu sweeping through the city’s hospitals, killing patients mere hours after they first show symptoms. The world as we know it is over in a few weeks. And that’s just what happens in Station Eleven’s opening pages. Disturbingly timely and incredibly beautiful, Mandel’s novel — a finalist for the National Book Award — imagines a post-apocalyptic landscape where art, miraculously, is as necessary as bullets, matches, and water safe enough to drink. —Saeed Jones
2. Tigerman by Nick Harkaway
Tigerman, the latest novel by Nick Harkaway, comes in like a lamb and out like a lion. What is seemingly the story of a semi-retired British sergeant, Lester Ferris, who is going through a midlife crisis, turns into a gripping story filled with heart and justice. The sleepy, soon-to-be-destroyed (literally) island of Mancreu is filled with more dangerous mystique than previously thought. Ferris and his young friend, known only as "Robin," a la the Batman comics he's obsessed with, must navigate how to handle their newly dangerous home in the wake of the violent death of a close mutual friend. Find out if anyone can save Mancreu from itself before it's too late. —Sami Main
3. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
I read Not That Kind of Girl the way I unwrap a snack on a stressful day at work. Lena Dunham’s highly-anticipated collection of personal essays is an instantly gratifying look at what it’s like to be a young woman navigating complex themes as sprawling as family, friends, love, sex, body, work, mortality, and mental health. Written with both messiness and clarity, the book weaves together Dunham’s experiences of adolescence and adulthood, trauma and triumph in elaborate, and sometimes embarrassing, detail. It feels like the literary equivalent of asking a friend an innocuous “How are you?” and listening with amazement as they proceed to tell you about everything that is wrong, right, and hysterical about their life. In one chapter, Dunham relays a disturbing encounter of the worst sort of violation; in the the next, she captures the pure comfort of being with someone you love (“it felt like dropping my keys on the table after a long trip”). And while many of the experiences Dunham describes are rooted in enormous privilege, her attempts to make meaning of them give way to universal questions that will leave you with plenty to chew on long after you’ve finished reading. —Anita Badejo
4. Reunion by Hannah Pittard
I could write 1000 words on the ways I loved Reunion, Hannah Pittard’s heartbreaking second novel about a woman returning to Georgia to deal with her estranged father’s suicide. (And I did, here!) But for now I’ll say this: Read Reunion if you’ve ever felt like a fraud in your adulthood, if you’re fascinated by families, if you have a love affair with the south, or if you’re just looking for an honest — gritty, uncomfortable, redemptive — story of a woman taking responsibility for her imperfect life. This book will swallow you up whole (but, you know, in the best way).
5. 10:04 by Ben Lerner
Ben Lerner’s first novel, Leaving The Atocha Station, was about a young poet in Madrid who received a grant to research and write a long poem. His new novel, 10:04, is about a slightly older novelist and poet who lives in Brooklyn working on his second book following the minor success of his first. Before you write it off as another knowing and too-cute-by-half quasi-fictional depiction of literary Brooklyn, know that Lerner is on to much bigger things than nasty depictions of his fellow writers. He’s instead trying to figure out just how non-fictional a novel can be and what a novel can do. So we get digressions on Christian Marclay’s 24 hour video collage The Clock, Back to the Future, and the speech Ronald Reagan gave following the Challenger Disaster, which the narrator says inspired his career in poetry. What makes this all work is how genuine it is; Lerner is trying to figure just how novels fit into the real world’s much larger and more real problems (the story is bookended by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy) and is learning by doing. —Matthew Zeitlin