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November’s Best Fiction

We've got 13 titles you won't want to miss, from a new Ken Follett mystery to pandemic-themed novels from Jodi Picoult and Louise Erdrich / BY Nathalie Atkinson / October 28th, 2021


Star-crossed lovers, avenging mothers, international intrigue and entertaining new books from popular authors that vie for the title of The Great Pandemic Novel (each in very different ways) are among our 13 most anticipated books for November.

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. 

1Under an Outlaw Moon by Dietrich Kalteis

This lovers-on-the-lam tale by Vancouver-based Kalteis is based on the true story of naïve, Depression-era outlaws Bennie Dickson and his teenage wife Stella Mae. The newlyweds briefly become public enemies after honeymoon heists in South Dakota. It’s told with enough brio to garner a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who dub it “a delightful treat for historical crime fiction enthusiasts.” (Nov. 2)

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2Blue-Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu

A young healer named Kalki, born with blue skin in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is prophesied to be the new human incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Over the next decade, his family fractures, and his sheltered life in the ashram is contrasted with a trip into the kaleidoscopic music scene of New York. Sindu, a Tamil-American novelist, has crafted a luminous, queer, coming-of-age story about living up to the expectations of family and community, coming to terms with sexual identity and working through the trauma caused by faith. (Nov. 2)

 

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3The Collective by Alison Gaylin

This gripping psychological thriller, which counts U.S. crime writers Steph Cha and Megan Abbott among its fans, explores female rage inside a secret group of grieving, vigilante mothers, and raises questions about morality, privilege and justice. The moms come together on the dark web to plot revenge against the men they consider responsible for their loss, and to hold them to account. (Nov. 2)

 

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4Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart

This darkly funny social satire begins with an airborne viral pandemic, when an unhappy Russian-American couple and their neurodivergent daughter Natasha welcome a group of friends to spend lockdown in the bungalows of their cozy upstate New York compound. The setup and dramatis personae suggest The Seagull, and as the months wear on, Russian-born, U.S. author Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story) goes full Chekhov-on-the-Hudson. The residents silently measure their failures and accomplishments against one another through a tangle of jealousy, lust, love affairs and career ambitions, riffing on the immigrant experience and lampooning the culture of tech, Hollywood, and bourgeois, rural hipsters. (Nov. 2)

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5The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

This story centres on star-crossed Cypriot lovers – a Greek Christian and a Turkish Muslim – as tensions mount in postcolonial Cyprus. There are three narratives: that of the 1970s lovers, their 16-year-old daughter, who is living in London and connecting to her cultural heritage for the first time, and the historical exposition imparted to the reader through a talking fig tree (yes, really). It’s compelling look at damaged lives, grief and displacement. (Nov. 2)

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6Five Tuesdays in Winter: Stories by Lily King

Fans of richly imagined character studies are in for a treat. Ten tales of love, loss and grief populate this first collection of stories from the acclaimed U.S. novelist of the drolly witty Writers & Lovers and Euphoria. From families on vacation to misanthropic booksellers to reunited college roommates, it is rife with perfectly calibrated insights – the one about the grandfather at his granddaughter’s hospital bedside is a standout. (Nov. 9)

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7Never by Ken Follett

For his first contemporary novel in more than a decade, Follett wonders if a war no one wanted could accidentally happen again. As it hopscotches from China to North Africa, this thriller imagines what could lead to the Third World War, and brings storylines together in a speculative world of diplomacy, intelligence agencies and political alliances, where the first female American president is a moderate Republican and the sinister machinations are all too plausible. (Nov. 9)

 

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8The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The pandemic, racial unrest and protests that erupt in Minneapolis-Saint Paul following the murder of George Floyd are central to this thoughtful new novel from the author of The Night Watchman, which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction. When an indie bookshop is haunted by a long-time customer after she dies, Tookie, an Ojibway ex-con who discovered a love of reading in prison, must tackle, in turn, the ghost, the pandemic and the Floyd protests. Adding meta to the current events, it’s set in Birchbark Books, the Minneapolis bookstore owned by the author, and Erdrich has also written herself into the book as a minor character. If you pick up just one pandemic-set novel this year, this is the one. (Nov. 9)

 

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9Burntcoat Sarah Hall

A deadly plague-like virus called AG3 is the backdrop to this sensual novel, set in the studio of a celebrated 59-year-old sculptor during a global lockdown, but with a fragmented structure of memories and experiences that span 50 years. Hall, an English writer previously shortlisted for the Booker Prize, examines passion, female ambition, desire and the impulse to create. From the feverish ode to a lost lover and torrid sexual encounter with another, it’s graphically erotic (move over, Sally Rooney) – less Love in the Time of Cholera than Sex in the Era of COVID. (Nov. 9)

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10How to Murder a Marriage by Gabrielle St. George

Canadian screenwriter St. George kicks of a new series with this light and saucy cozy about a popular relationship advice author who moves back to her resort hometown on Lake Huron. Agony aunt Gina Malone is known as “The Ex-Whisperer” and her own ex is always popping up. As the empty nester is turning 50 and renovating her lakefront cabin, she finds she has to outsmart two new stalkers pursuing her because of the advice she gave women in her column. Expect as much sarcasm as local colour. (Nov. 9)

 

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11Still Life by Sarah Winman

This gorgeous novel begins simply but dramatically on a Tuscan terrace in 1944, as a gay art historian in her sixties recounts her life story to a young Cockney soldier as bombs falling around them, but the evening will mark them for the rest of their lives. Steadily, and mostly through dialogue between characters (and also a parrot), it expands in scope, and by the end it’s not only a love letter to Florence, it has covered nearly a century of European history. It’s a novel that invokes E.M. Forster both literally and in style, and embodies the adjective “sweeping.” (Nov. 15)

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12Seven Down by David Whitton

An ingeniously crafted puzzle of a novel is told as a series of interviews with the staff of a posh hotel who, for years and unbeknownst to one another, have been working as sleeper agents. All were involved in a botched assassination attempt, and the novel is a binder of the briefs that attempt to piece together how and why the operation – organized by a geopolitical agency – failed. Think: Daisy Jones and the Six meets Only Murders in the Building. (Nov. 30)

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13Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

A pandemic is on the horizon in spring 2020 as Sotheby’s auctioneer Diana and Finn, a surgical resident, are about to leave on a big, non-refundable vacation to the Galapagos Islands and he’s called back to work in his New York hospital. Diana goes it alone, but she arrives just as the island goes into lockdown. She is stranded with no luggage, let alone a hotel room or reliable cell signal, and has to depend on locals to get by. Picoult contrasts vivid descriptions of the natural world with the experiences of critical care and frontline workers. Though the couple’s situations diverge, both explore the human condition, and the kindness and compassion of strangers. (Nov. 30)

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THE SCROLL

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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