As we ease our way into the scariest month of the year, it’s time again for us to present our list of the most exciting books due to grace our shelves in the weeks to come. This month, take your pick from October’s virtual smorgasbord of books, and whether your pleasures lie in zombies, genetic anomalies, poetry, God, hell, love triangles or some combination of the above, you’ll find something to like here. Or maybe several somethings — after all, the weather’s getting chilly, and nothing compliments a cup of tea better than a great book. Click through to see our preview of the best bets for great reading this month, and let us know which books you can’t wait to read in the comments.
The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje (October 4)
In 1954, at the start of the novel, Michael is 11 years old and on board the Oronsay, travelling to London from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). At mealtimes, the boy sits at the eponymous Cat’s Table, positioned furthest from the Captain’s, where he meets the ragtag crew of least desirable sailors who help him learn to navigate his new world. As with all Ondaatje’s writing, the prose is delicate and enchanting, but this novel in particular is a beautifully woven tour de force for the already much-lauded writer.
Cain , José Saramago (October 4)
In this posthumous publishing of his last novel, Saramago gives the traditional biblical tale of Cain and Abel his own dry, modernist slant, eyes rolling all the while. For those who know their bible stories, it’s a walk down memory lane as Cain kills his brother, makes a deal with a very fallible God, and runs into everyone from Noah to Isaac, his antics twisting the divine plot as he goes.
The Marriage Plot , Jeffrey Eugenides (October 11)
Jeffrey Eugenides’s much anticipated third novel (you may have heard of his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, or his second, Middlesex) is set at Brown in the 1980s, where Madeleine, a devotee of the suddenly unfashionable Jane Austen and Henry James, falls in love with Leonard, the tobacco-chewing manic depressive biology student, whom she meets in a lit theory class where everyone else fawns over Derrida and Lacan. Add in post-graduate angst, regular doses of Lithium, and Mitchell, Madeleine’s longtime friend who wishes only to marry her, and you’ve got a thick, meaty college novel for the romantic in all of us.
The Stranger’s Child, Alan Hollinghurst (October 11)
In The Stranger’s Child, Hollinghurst’s first novel since his 2004 Booker Prize winner The Line of Beauty, a rich young poet scribbles a few lines in a young girl’s autograph book, a poem that will become the most famous of his life. Thus begins a century-long epic love story that spans generations and creates legends of its own. But it’s no sterile novel of manners — Hollinghurst’s playfulness and and the beauty of his prose make it a singular work that you just might fall in love with.
Trust Me, I’m Dr. Ozzy, Ozzy Osbourne (October 11)
The subtitle of this book’s title is “Advice from Rock’s Greatest Survivor,” and the premise is simple. In 2010, Ozzy, wondering how he could have possibly survived his 40-odd year run of abusing every substance on the planet, spent $65,000 to have his DNA mapped. Turns out, the man is a mutant — or at least a genetic anomaly. His genes have variants the scientist have never seen before. In the book, Ozzy expands on the health column he ran in London’s Sunday Times, answering reader questions and telling his life stories with his own special brand of wit, wisdom and lunacy.
Zone One , Colson Whitehead (October 18)
At last, some high-brow zombie literature. Set in a post-zombie plague New York City, our protagonist Mark Spitz is the head of a squad of ‘sweepers,’ whose job it is to clear out the stragglers in the mostly eradicated zone one in lower Manhattan. However, these zombies are still around only because they have been drained of their bloodlust — instead, they sit in eternal banality, in front of televisions, at black screened computers, running a copy machine. You feel as much, in some ways, for the dead as the living in this novel about survival and humanity. As might be expected, it’s mostly the quality of the prose that elevates this past its compatriots in the zombie genre, a strange half-silly half-horror genre to begin with. Though their appeal has been waning, Whitehead makes it cool to like zombies again. Or for the first time.
Damned, Chuck Palahniuk (October 18)
“It’s kind of like The Breakfast Club set in hell,” Palahniuk once said of this novel. True enough, in Palahniuk’s world, hell is nothing more than, like, the lamest detention ever, but we’re also getting a strong whiff of Judy Blume, as the 11-year-old narrator cries, “Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison.” The novel is a funny, almost optimistic trip through the worst of places, and though death has been done to death, we think the genre can use one more.
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson (October 24)
According to The New York Times , this book went from #384 to #1 within hours of Steve Jobs’ death on Wednesday. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, moved the release date up from November 21 to October 24 in response to public interest. Though Jobs has always had a well-controlled image, this biography is filled with candid interviews covering public and private affairs, and is sure to be an eye-opening visit into the world of one of America’s greatest innovators.
1Q84 , Haruki Murakami (October 25)
If you’re going to enjoy 1Q84, you probably already know it. Way back in July, The Millions published the novel’s opening paragraph, and last month the entire first chapter was made available to those who ‘liked’ Murakami on Facebook. This is all not to mention that the novel has been out in Japanese since 2009. Touted by many as Murakami’s magnum opus, the book is a surreal journey for a cast of strange characters, including Aomame, who accidentally climbs into an alternate reality, and Tengo, who gets a offer to illegally rewrite a 17-year-old’s story for a literary prize. In true Murakami form, this three-volume dystopian epic will shock, confuse and amaze.
Parallel Stories: A Novel, Péter Nádas (October 25)
We already dared you to finish this novel, which clocks in at 1,152 pages (beating Infinite Jest by a margin of about 48). And you probably should take us up on that dare, because the book, being hailed all over as a ‘twenty-first century War and Peace, is a full-fledged masterpiece, the ultimate work by an incredibly innovative, demanding Hungarian author, described by Gábor Csordás as “a virtuoso combination of nineteenth-century high realism with the experimentalism of the nouveau roman.” Sure, it sounds hard. But buck up, it’s good for you — and we think you’ll enjoy it.