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October’s Best Fiction

We've got 12 new titles you don't want to miss, from John le Carré to Jonathan Franzen, plus Elizabeth Strout's next Lucy Barton book and a Star Trek celebrity's pseudo-autobiography / BY Nathalie Atkinson / September 29th, 2021


“Aprils have never meant much to me,” Truman Capote wrote in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.” We know exactly what he means here at Zed: The Zoomer Book Club, because October means fall book season has truly arrived — especially when there are new stories from favourites like Elizabeth Strout, Jonathan Franzen and a final novel from the late, great John le Carré.

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. 

1Claudette on the Keys Joanne Culley

Canadian documentary producer Culley’s historical novel fictionalizes the story of her grandparents Ida and Harry Culley, a popular two-piano, four-hand act that performed on radio and stage in Toronto, England and South Africa from the 1930s through to the 1950s. They accompanied everyone from Bebe Daniels to Raymond Massey and performed at the Coronation concert for King George VI before returning to Canada and becoming regulars on the CBC. You’ll find yourself transported back to the well-evoked, turbulent financial and political times the unassuming, but perseverant, showbiz couple lived through.


2No Man’s Land John Vigna

The British Columbia wilderness at the turn of the 19th century is as much a character as 14-year-old Davey, a girl raised by a group of itinerant eccentrics, in this sprawling saga that renders the truth about the misogyny and violence of the lawless, northwestern part of the province. Author Annabel Lyon praises this new novel by Vigna, an assistant professor at University of British Columbia’s School of Creative Writing, as having “the baroque violence of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian with the reverent prose of Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” (Oct. 1)


3We Are Not Like Them Christine Pride and Jo Piazza

The lifelong bond between two Philadelphia women, Riley and Jen – one Black, one white – is put to the test after a white police officer shoots an unarmed, 14-year-old Black boy. The officer is Jen’s husband and Riley is the local TV reporter covering the case. This joint novel by Piazza, an award-winning journalist, and Pride, a veteran book editor, is an honest and challenging look at how race shapes a friendship between women who are like sisters. (Oct. 5)


4Crossroads Jonathan Franzen

It’s been 20 years since The Corrections changed Franzen’s fate from struggling writer to Great American Novelist. He anatomizes the interior lives and dynamics of a family once again; this time,  it’s about a pastor in small-town Illinois who is in an unhappy marriage during Christmas in 1971. It kicks off a planned trilogy, tracing a midwestern family from the ’70s to present day, and critics are already hailing it as his richest and most satisfying novel to date. (Oct. 5)

 


5What Storm, What Thunder Myriam J. A. Chancy

Chancy, a Haitian-Canadian Guggenheim Fellow who spent years talking to survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, crafts a fictional account of the natural disaster as told by 10 people, including a teenage girl in a refugee camp, a drug dealer, a wealthy prodigal son and a market seller. Their voices form an unflinching chorus that Time magazine called “a heartbreaking tale of regret and resilience, and a fiery rebuke of racism, violence and greed.” (Oct. 5)


61979 Val McDermid

With her first new series in more than 25 years, bestselling crime author McDermid will track the changes in Scottish government and women’s rights decade by decade. The idea is each novel will cover 10 years in the work of protagonist Allie Burns, who is an ambitious young investigative reporter, just as McDermid was once. You can practically taste the cigarette smoke in the newsroom air, and I already can’t wait for 1989. (Oct. 5)


7The Lincoln Highway Amor Towles

When two teenage brothers hit the road to San Francisco in search of their mother, they get derailed. Their train-hopping detour over a week in June 1954 leads to encounters with a series of characters like a Walt Whitman impersonator and a wandering Ulysses. It touches on themes of inheritance – what we are given and what we do with it – that Towles explored in his beloved 2016 novel about Count Rostov, A Gentleman in Moscow (currently being adapted into an AppleTV+ series with Kenneth Branagh), but in a gorgeously written, 600-page adventure story. (Oct. 5)


8Sankofa Chibundu Onuzo

Fifty-something Anna, based in London, is mixed race, but her daughter passes as white. Newly separated from her husband of 20 years, she discovers a diary from the 1960s belonging to her late mother. In its pages she learns about the father she never knew, a revolutionary from the fictional African state of Bamana (a thinly veiled Ghana). This novel from Onuzu, who grew up in Lagos but lives in England, takes its name from the mythical Akan bird whose feet are planted forward with its head looking backwards, symbolic of her interest in identity, and knowing the past before moving forward. (Oct. 5)


9Small Pleasures Clare Chambers

This novel, long listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, is the story of local newspaper journalist Jean, a middle-aged spinster living with her suffocating mother in 1957 suburban London. What starts off as a light and innocuous human-interest story about a virgin birth turns into a complicated investigation and upends her staid routine. It reminds me a bit of Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark, from the setting to Jean’s wry defeatism (particularly her astute deadpan observations) to the way she is torn between happiness and duty. (Oct. 5)


10Silverview John le Carré

Sixty years after the publication of his first novel, Call for the Dead, le Carré’s last novel is being released the week the late author would have turned 90. The former British spy, who died last December, set Silverview in modern-day Britain. A bookseller in a coastal town leaves a big city job for a quieter life, which is suddenly upended after a mysterious Polish visitor and an intelligence leak. Many writers – from Stella Rimington to Zoomer favourite Mick Herron – have assumed le Carré’s mantle, but there’s still no substitute for the grand master himself. (Oct. 12)


11Fan Fiction Brent Spiner

Fans of Galaxy Quest are in for a treat in this auto-fiction subtitled “A Mem-noir: Inspired by True Events.” It’s set in 1991, just as Star Trek: The Next Generation catapults Spiner (who plays the android, Commander Data, on the series) and his castmates to global fame. In this fictional autobiography, real people like Levar Burton, Gene Roddenberry and Patrick Stewart appear as “heightened versions of themselves.” The same goes for Spiner in this thriller about a package of mysterious letters that takes the actor on a noir journey that examines the trade-offs of fandom, obsession and celebrity. (Oct. 12)


12Oh William! Elizabeth Strout

Strout, who won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge, is back with her third novel about writer Lucy Barton. The protagonist, introduced in 2016’s My Name is Lucy Barton and featured in 2018’s Anything is Possible, is now widowed and back in touch her unfaithful ex-husband, William. Divorced for years, they reconnect when he asks her on a Maine road trip to meet his long-lost half sister. The journey provides time to reassess their complex relationship, partnership as parents, her relationship with her emotionally abusive mother and explores whether people can ever truly change. (Oct. 19)

 


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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