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A Cornucopia of Fall Fiction: 9 Great October Reads

From Some of Our Favourite Writers / BY Nathalie Atkinson / October 9th, 2020


As the season turns crisp and October arrives with its dark and stormy nights, our escapist, engrossing and inspiring picks for the reading month ahead are just the thing to curl up with.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Snowby John Banville

(Oct. 2) The Booker Prize-winning Irish author has shed his crime-writing alter ego Benjamin Black to pen a stand-alone whodunit in his own name. The contrarian sets the scene with a plot device he famously deplores: the body in the library, complete with nearby candlestick. As his unlikely posh detective attempts to unravel why a Catholic priest has been found mutilated and murdered in the mansion of one of the county’s few remaining Protestant families, Banville takes the opportunity to explore the religious tensions of the era. He also brings his considerable descriptive powers (and irreverence) to the rural Ireland of 1957 – with tweaks to Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey along the way.


2Leave the World Behindby Rumaan Alam

(Oct. 6) As smart as it is suspenseful, Alam plumbs the tensions (and assumptions) of race and class in an increasingly claustrophobic crisis situation where everyone is desperate for reliable information. It’s not the pandemic, but close enough. The setup is that a middle-class white family books a week at an isolated rental on Long Island to get away from it all and spend time with their teenage kids. The idyll is interrupted when an older Black couple arrives in the middle of the night, claiming it’s their house and they need shelter because there’s a sudden blackout back in New York. Is it the beginning of the end? Cellular service it out and so is the internet. Or is it? Bonus points (and bragging rights) for finding out before it hits Netflix: the streaming giant just won an expensive bidding war for the thriller, and their adaptation will reunite Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington for the first time since The Pelican Brief.


3Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

(Oct. 6) Admit it: you watch the film Practical Magic every October. (That kitchen! It gives even Nancy Meyer a run for her money!) In this prequel to her luminous 1995 bestseller, Hoffman traces the original curse of the Owens women by conjuring the origin story of family matriarch Maria Owens in 17th century England. Orphaned at birth, her descendants will eventually include the sisters played by Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in the beloved movie adaptation, but first she must come into her powers and learn the tricks of her trade. The journey takes her through herbal cures in England and folk magic in the Caribbean to Salem, Mass., and offers insight into how society treats witches, those rare female mythic figures who actually have power in a man’s world.


4The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

(Oct. 6) Journalist Turton’s award-winning debut The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle twisted the traditional country house cozy inside out through a time loop worthy of Groundhog Day. His follow-up is a literary whodunit on the high seas and likewise tweaks Sherlockian conventions. Renowned criminal detective Samuel Pipps and his assistant are aboard the galleon Saardam in 1634 as it makes the months-long voyage from Batavia to Amsterdam. Sure to delight history buffs, the workings of the Dutch East India Company and the twin forces of capitalism and colonialism are at the heart of this ingenious maritime caper.


5The Wrong Kind of Womanby Sarah McCraw Crow

(Oct. 13) Pop culture has looked back on the early years and famous names of second-wave feminism with projects like Mrs. America and The Glorias, but this historical novel set at an elite New England college instead focuses on the pioneering everywomen of the movement. After the unexpected death of her husband, Virginia continues to work at the men’s college where they both used to teach, while navigating life as a single parent and the rising antiwar sentiment and feminist crusading on campus. She falls in with the ‘Gang of Four,’ as the few unmarried women on faculty are known, and the story is told in their alternating voices (including coming-of-age musings from the perspective of Virginia’s teenage daughter, who is both bewildered and inspired by her mother’s new direction). It promises a multi-faceted view of the fight for equality.


6The Blind Light by Stuart Evers

(Oct. 13) Stories about longtime friends are not rare but novels about enduring male friendships tend to be scarcer. Evers offers a look at the consequences of the secret pact made between two young English soldiers when they become friends in 1959 while working at a civil defense training base. One is working-class Essex, the other an upper-classman from the north. The decades-spanning novel charts the trajectories of both families through to the terrorist bombings of the early aughts, at the same time exploring the social history of the English through successive generations, where the shadow of the Cold War and the very real fear of nuclear destruction have loomed large.


7Shelter in Placeby David Leavitt

(Oct. 13) This satire, which kicks off in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 American election, is about a circle of privileged friends in Connecticut. Told mostly through conversations in set-piece vignettes, it follows the different responses of these wealthy New Yorkers who are concerned with keeping up appearances (and their second homes). In the current political climate you’d think we’d have reached saturation point on reading more that makes you want to eat the rich, but Leavitt’s pitch-perfect ear for their dialogue and tone-deaf preoccupations transforms a novel about the shallow, self-absorbed and almost thoroughly unlikable elite into a thoroughly entertaining read.


8Plain Bad Heroinesby Emily M. Danforth

(Oct. 20) The spooky story begins at the turn of the last century, at a girl’s school where a group of students form a secret club and develop intense friendships and romantic relationships until a series of gruesome unexplained deaths occur that close the school for good. Fast-forward 100 years (and several crisscrossing timelines), when a book about the school’s eerie history is being made into a movie – and shot on location. The conceit gives Danforth (The Miseducation of Cameron Post) the perfect opportunity for meta-fiction. Just how gothic is this queer horror tale? It’s blurbed by none other than doyenne Sarah Waters.


9The Forgotten Daughterby Joanna Goodman

(Oct. 27)  In her bestseller The Home for Unwanted Girls, Goodman tackled a dark chapter in Quebec history: the infamous case of the Duplessis orphans. In the 1950s, thousands of Canadian children were falsely reclassified as mentally ill and arbitrarily confined to abusive Catholic-run orphanages by the provincial authorities, in order to qualify for more federal funding. The shameful legacy resurfaces in her new novel in the form of Elodie, who is reliving past trauma as she and a group of other Duplessis orphans fight for justice and reparations. It’s set in 1992 during the referendum on the Charlottetown Accord, and the battle for Quebec sovereignty rages. Véronique Fortin, daughter of a notorious radical Quebec separatist, falls for Elodie’s younger brother (a staunch federalist) but ends up forming a closer bond with his sister. Their friendship explores the country’s recent past and whether you can ever truly outrun your own.


THE SCROLL

Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.


Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.


Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.


Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”


Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956


Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."


The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.


American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


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