10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2021

Here are 10 literary treats arriving this month, including a generous dose of horror.

MY MONTICELLO by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
One story in this debut collection follows a woman taking refuge at Monticello as she flees a racist mob; she just happens to be a descendent of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. In another story, a professor explores racism through a social science research experiment on his own son, a story that was honored in the Best American Short Stories 2018 and read by LeVar Burton on the radio show Selected Shorts. “Johnson wrestles with questions of racial identity, post-racial society, and the legacies of slavery… This incandescent work speaks not just to the moment, but to history.” (Publishers Weekly)

In 1926 Nashville, Two Feathers is a young Cherokee woman who performs a Wild West show with her horse Ocher. One day Two and Ocher suffer a terrible accident, prompting a series of mystical and unsettling events. “Richly imagined… Verble beautifully weaves period details with the cast’s histories, and enthralls with the supernatural elements, which are made as real for the reader as they are for the characters.” (Publishers Weekly) Verble is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Maud’s Line (2015).

The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti is recounted through the eyes of ten interconnected individuals, illuminating life before and after the devastating disaster that killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people and affected the lives of millions. “Each of the voices entrances, thanks to Chancy’s beautiful prose and rich themes. This is not to be missed.” (Publishers Weekly)

THE CABINET by Un-su Kim
Kong Deok-geun’s boring office job gets a little more interesting as he assumes a new role as steward of Cabinet 13. Cabinet 13 is filled with documentation of strange people whose bodies and abilities don’t fit the definitions of normal human existence. “These stories straddle the lines between science fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, and acute reality, and all are told in an approachable style. Readers will be drawn in by the subtle yet effective oddities that grow increasingly more bizarre as the work wends on. This deserves a wide audience.” (Publishers Weekly)

STILL LIFE by Sarah Winman
In 1944 Tuscany, two Brits make an unlikely connection while sheltering in a deserted villa during an air raid. Ulysses is a 24-year-old soldier in love with a girl back home and Evelyn is a 64-year-old lesbian art historian--but they are kindred spirits whose relationship endures as they foster a lively ex-pat community years later in Florence. “This is a slow-paced narrative that unfolds as a love story to Florence and a love story to love—romantic, platonic, familial, parental, friend, community, Sapphic, and gay love are all celebrated… An unexpected treatise on the many forms love and beauty can take, set against the backdrop of Florence.” (Kirkus Reviews) Winman is the author of the Costa Award nominated Tin Man (2018) and When God Was a Rabbit (2011).

ON GIRLHOOD by Glory Edim
Edim, founder of the Well-Read Black Girl book club and digital community, returns with a second anthology, featuring fiction by Black women authors including Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Camille Acker, Alexia Arthurs, and Shay Youngblood. “A remarkably vital, revealing, and sustaining literary gathering.” (Publishers Weekly)

DREAMING OF YOU by Melissa Lozada-Oliva
A young poet obsessed with Selena decides to bring the Queen of Tejano back from the dead. “Full of zaniness, humor, and existential questions about the ephemeral nature of fame and the toxic misogyny permeating our culture, this novel in verse is an experimental roller-coaster ride… An enjoyably madcap journey.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A group of childhood friends reunite to celebrate an elopement in the Japanese countryside, but their rented mansion is haunted by the ghost of a bride who was buried alive on her wedding day. “Khaw’s prose oozes dread as malevolent creatures from Japanese mythology swarm the pages and the characters’ interpersonal relationships crash and burn. Horror readers and folklore fans will find this tale of terror to be brutally satisfying.” (Publishers Weekly)

REPRIEVE by James Han Mattson
In 1997 Lincoln, Nebraska, four contestants are on the verge of winning a live haunted escape-room challenge inside the notorious Quigley House when one of the contestants is murdered. “A brilliant hybrid, a thought-provoking look at marginalization and systemic oppression expertly nestled inside a high-anxiety tale about the horror industry itself… Severely unsettling at every turn, the book alternates the unrelenting tension of “the real world” with the in-your-face terror of the haunt, meaning there is no reprieve from the fear.” (Booklist)

Thiago’s wife Vera thought it would be fun to buy Itza, the “world’s most advanced smart speaker!” But then strange things start happening. “Bone-chilling… references to famous horror novels and films trick readers into thinking they’re following a familiar path before the tragic plot veers wildly off-map. Harrowing existential horror that lingers like a nightmare.” (Kirkus Reviews)