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The Best Books to Read in October

We give thanks for a cornucopia of literary riches, including 12 titles from celebrated authors Ofhan Pamuk, Celeste Ng, Cormac McCarthy and Barbara Kingsolver. / BY Nathalie Atkinson / September 29th, 2022


October brings literary riches, including much-anticipated titles like The Last Chairlift, the book John Irving says will be his last long novel, and scribe Ann-Marie MacDonald’s epic Fayne. And we’re adding a dozen meatier reads on our to-be-read pile. Here are our fiction picks for the month.

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. 

1Nights of Plagueby Orhan Pamuk

Set in the last decades of the Ottoman empire, the Turkish Nobel Laureate’s historical novel tackles nationalism and pandemics on an imaginary island equally populated by Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims (not unlike Cyprus). The suspenseful story will inevitably be called his COVID novel, but it’s much more, as the story probes identity and history in entertaining loops and spirals that shift forward and back between 1900 and the 1950s. (Oct. 4)


2Our Missing Heartsby Celeste Ng

The intense new literary page-turner from Massachusetts writer Ng (whose 2017 hit Little Fires Everywhere was made into a mini-series by Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon) posits an alternate near future where anti-Asian sentiment and violence has been normalized. All so-called foreign cultural traditions are considered dangerous, and nativist legislation – reminiscent of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s and Texas’s recent anti-transgender laws – has the power to remove children from “un-American” parents and assign them to other families. In this paranoid climate, 12-year-old Bird begins receiving missives from his mother, a dissident poet (and child of Chinese immigrants) – who disappeared when he was nine – and discovers a resistance network. To her credit, Ng’s cautionary novel has big ideas about the power of art and the precarious state of present-day America yet never loses sight of the touching family drama at its heart. (Oct 4)


3The Whalebone Theatreby Joanna Quinn

You know you’re in for a grand story when a novel about early 20th century society is likened to Elizabeth Jane Howard’s sumptuous Cazalet Chronicles. Quinn, a British creative writing teacher, makes an assured debut that follows three siblings on the Dorset coast from their childhood just after the Great War through to service in the Second World War. The main heroine is 12-year-old Cristabel, whose taste for amateur acting in a theatre made from a whale ribcage gives the book its name, and who becomes an undercover agent. A captivating delight. (Oct. 4)


4Mr. Wilder and Meby Jonathan Coe

This engaging novel imagines a fictional relationship between Billy Wilder (the Austrian-born refugee from Nazi Germany who directed great films like The Apartment and Some Like It Hot), his close pal and screenwriter, Iz Diamond, and Calista, an aspiring young Greek composer they meet and hire in 1978 as an interpreter on Fedora, Wilder’s penultimate film. Calista tells the story, looking back at that year when the gilded era of classic Hollywood was well behind them. Rooted in the making of the movie about an aging film star, shot on location in France, Germany and Greece (and with sensuous descriptions of the settings), English novelist Coe (Middle England) crafts two bittersweet portraits – of a hopeful coming-of-age and of a man in his twilight — both suffused with humour and nostalgia. (Oct. 7)


5Dinosaursby Lydia Millet

American writer Millet was raised in Toronto and now lives in the Sonoran Desert outside Tucson, Ariz.; her novel A Children’s Bible anatomized a world that easily slipped into climate change-fuelled anarchy and was one of the best books of 2020. The follow-up is completely different. The story is about a vastly wealthy, acutely despairing young man as he recovers from heartbreak after he becomes engrossed in the lives of his Arizona neighbours (who live a literal glass house, naturally), and makes him a study of the nature of virtue. (Oct. 11)


6Illuminationsby Alan Moore

The first short story collection by legendary Alan Moore, widely acknowledged as one of the most influential writers in the history of comics, the British creator of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell ranges from playful paranormal and cerebral sci-fi to imaginative medical horrors and the spooky nostalgia trip of the titular story. The main event, however, is “What We Can Know About Thunderman,” a bitter novella à clef that mines the author’s experience of mainstream American comics and offers a withering portrait of the state of politics and the decay of popular entertainment — one where Hollywood movies are based on comic books and superheroes, but can never hope to measure up to the magic on the page. (Oct. 11)


7Liberation Dayby George Saunders

Time magazine once anointed the award-winning California-based author of Lincoln in the Bardo “the best short story writer in English.”  He delivers nine stories in his first collection in nearly a decade, each polished to a gleam, and considering human nature. They cover varied ground, perhaps with more explicit political and social commentary than usual, like the one about an elderly man in a near-future dystopia attempting to impart wisdom to his grandson in a letter, and another about octogenarian whose memories are erased and rewired as part of a predatory program. (Oct. 18)


8Demon Copperheadby Barbara Kingsolver

The bestselling author of The Poisonwood Bible transports Charles Dickens’ cradle-to-grave tale, David Copperfield, to contemporary Southwest Virginia, her own milieu. The novel was inspired, she said when the book was announced, by the man who spent his career raising awareness about the ravages of poverty on children. (With a cast of outlandishly memorable characters and at 546 pages, it’s as hefty as the original, too.) “I live in a beautiful, rural place where a generation of kids have been damaged or orphaned by prescription drug addiction,” Kingsolver explains of the Appalachian setting. ”It’s such an important story, but not an easy one to tell.” (Oct. 18)


9Shadow Lifeby Michael Decter

I’m intrigued by this debut from the Winnipeg-born, Toronto-based political insider. The well-known economist and health care authority (and former deputy minister of health for Ontario) is a self-confessed book lover who collects rare titles by 20th century women writers. This is the first in a planned trilogy about Matthew Rice, a 60-year-old Toronto politico with a penchant for good scotch, who is reeling after serving on the jury for a child homicide case. He takes a medical leave to retreat to the majestic landscape of Georgian Bay, where he questions his memories and personal mythology. (Oct. 22)


10Everything the Light Touchesby Janice Pariat

Across centuries and species, the stories of four disparate characters (including Goethe) come together in imaginative and complex ways to bring to life the idea that plants have inherent vitality. Through each of these travellers, who avidly explore botany, philosophy and the natural world, the novel also touches on contrasting themes. “Written by a novelist with the eye of a poet, and a poet with the narrative powers of a novelist,” nature writer Robert Macfarlane says, describing the latest by acclaimed writer Pariat, who is based in New Delhi. (Oct. 25)


11The Singularitiesby John Banville

Twenty-five years ago Freddie, the murderer from the Irish writer’s The Book of Evidence, went to prison. As he’s released, Freddie becomes embroiled with the descendants of a character from another Banville novel, The Infinities. This overlapping romp of the Booker Prize winner’s own multiverse is as cheeky as it is lyrical. (Oct. 25)


12The Passengerby Cormac McCarthy

For many of us, the past few years have felt like chapters from The Road, and 16 years after that grim Pulitzer-winning apocalyptic tale, the 89-year-old literary lion (Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses) returns with not one, but two new novels. The Passenger concerns a salvage diver named Bobby, who is haunted by the suicide of his sister in 1980 New Orleans, and is investigating a plane crash where one of the 10 passenger’s bodies is missing. (Conspiracy theories are one of McCarthy’s themes). Its second part, Stella Maris, comes out a few weeks later, and explores the backstory of Bobby’s math-whiz sister Alicia, who lived with schizophrenia. Talk about making up for lost time. (Oct. 25)


THE SCROLL

Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world


Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."


Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."


Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.


Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.


Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.


Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.


Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.


New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.


French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."


Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.


Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'


Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.


Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.


Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature


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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