10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2016

Here are ten great books coming out this month, including three Booker Prize contenders.

The Mothers
by Brit Bennett
In a seaside African American community in Southern California, 17-year-old Nadia is reeling from her mother’s recent suicide. Then she discovers she’s pregnant—not long before she’s supposed to leave for college. Her decision to have a secret abortion will reverberate years later when she returns home to care for her ailing father. The elderly members of a prayer group from the local Upper Room Chapel serve as the “mothers” who share the narration, Greek Chorus-style. Publishers Weekly calls it a “brilliant, tumultuous debut novel” and an “exquisitely developed story.” Bennett was recently recognized by the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 award.

The Angel of History
by Rabih Alameddine
Jacob, a gay Arab poet living in San Francisco, is being tormented by grief, Satan and Death. As he waits to check himself into a psychiatric clinic, he reflects on his life, from his childhood in a Cairo brothel to the loss of his lover to AIDS. Meanwhile, the voices of Satan, Death, and fourteen saints wrestle in Jacob’s head for his sanity and his life. Library Journal calls it “darkly funny” and the San Francisco Chronicle says “Alameddine’s excellent, lissome novel concerns itself with the borders between literature and life.” San Francisco author Alameddine’s last novel, An Unnecessary Woman (2014) was a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.

The Mortifications
by Derek Palacio
In 1980, Soledad Encarnacion flees Cuba with her twins Ulises and Isabel, settling in Hartford Connecticut while revolutionary husband Uxbal stays behind. Soledad, Ulises and Isabel each build their own distinct lives, but their homeland and their patriarch inevitably will summon their return. “Palacio's writing is deceptively simple and startlingly original, and his characters, raw, almost mythic in scope, hang on long after the last page. Searching, heartbreaking, and achingly beautiful, the novel is as intimate as it is sweeping.” (Kirkus Reviews)

by Nell Zink
On the heels of her acclaimed novels The Wallcreeper (2014) and Mislaid (2015), Zink is back with “a rich, rewarding tale of love, rebirth, and chewing tobacco.” (Kirkus) Twenty-something Penny Baker loses her father, a hippie shaman with a psychedelic healing center and a cult following. Unmoored by his death, out of work and homeless, she seeks out her inheritance, her father’s childhood home in New Jersey. The home, however, has been squatted by anarchic tobacco-rights activists, and Penny finds herself totally enchanted with its inhabitants. “The resulting disaster is spellbinding, but even the quiet moments here are delightful because Zink does such an incredible job of depicting weirdos as real, smart, vulnerable, complicated people. Social satire with a sharp wit and a big heart.” (Kirkus)

The Wangs Vs. the World
by Jade Chang
Charles Wang left China for the United States, where he built a cosmetics empire. When his company tanks during the economic crash of 2008, he loses his Bel Air house, pulls his younger kids out of college and private school and the family hits the road with the intent to move in with the eldest daughter, a conceptual artist who lives in the Catskills. “Chang’s charming and quirky characters and comic observations make the novel a jaunty joy ride to remember.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Loved Ones
by Sonya Chung
The Lees are a biracial couple raising two young children in Washington D.C.  They will share a surprising and tragic connection with their babysitter Hannah, the 13-year-old daughter of Korean immigrants. “Every last one of Chung’s characters is wholly alive and breathtakingly human… Elegant and empathetic, a book impossible to put down.” (Kirkus) You can read an excerpt here

No Knives in the Kitchens of This City
by Khaled Khalifa, translated by Leri Price
Celebrated Syrian novelist Khalifa follows an extended family in Aleppo from the 1960s to the 2000s. A single mother, her gay brother, and her daughter who swings between political and religious extremes—they all experience chaos and tragedy in the long lead up to the current day conflict. No Knives in the Kitchens of This City was the winner of the 2013 Naguib Mahfouz Medal and shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. “Intricately plotted, chronologically complicated and a pleasure to read. The writing is superb – a dense, luxurious realism pricked with surprising metaphors… A sad but beautiful book, providing important human context to the escalating Syrian tragedy.” (The Guardian)

The following three October releases are contenders for the prestigious Booker Prize, awarded to the best work of fiction written in the English language and published in the UK. Their US editions arrive this month, and the winner will be announced on October 25. The other finalists are Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk and Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh.

All That Man Is
by David Szalay
Nine stories take place in settings across Europe, depicting men from age 17 to 73 united in their quest to find meaning in their lives. Publishers Weekly calls this book “subtle, seductive, poignant, humorous” and gushes “Szalay’s riveting prose and his consummate command of structure illuminate the individual while exploring society’s unsettling complexity.” Szalay was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing
by Madeleine Thien
When mathematics professor Marie Jiang was 10, her father committed suicide and her cousin Ai Ming came to join her family in Vancouver, fleeing China in the wake of the Tiananmen Square protests. Ai Ming helps Marie to discover her father’s secret past as a classical pianist and their shared family’s history. “Thien takes this history and weaves it into a vivid, magisterial novel that reaches back to China’s civil war and up to the present day.” (The Guardian) You can read the first chapter of the book here

His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae 
by Graeme Macrae Burnet
A dark piece of historical fiction masquerades as true crime through a collection of fictional “documents” that shed light on three brutal murders committed by a young man in 1869 rural Scotland, including first and second hand accounts, newspaper articles and courtroom transcripts of the case. “Sly, poignant, gritty, thought-provoking, and sprinkled with wit.” (Publishers Weekly) “A fiendishly readable tale that richly deserves the wider attention the Booker has brought it.” (The Guardian)

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