It’s the first of the month, and you know what that means: a brand new spate of new literary releases to delve into. Not that we mind — the weather’s getting brisker (not to mention those snowstorms, NYC), and we really can’t think of anything better to do than to curl up with a cup of hot cider and a great novel (or memoir, or book of essays, or short story collection). Don’t be put off by the number of big names on our list this month — we like a struggling first novel as much as the next blog, but November is the month for publishers to pull out their big guns, and boy have they ever. Click through to see our list of ten must-reads coming out this month, and let us know which books you’re most psyched to dig into in the comments.
Blue Nights , Joan Didion (November 1)
Seeing as it’s probably the most hyped book of the month, we doubt we even have to tell you why you should be excited about Didion’s newest memoir. A heartbreaking portrait of loss from one of our most wonderful and powerful contemporary memoirists, Blue Nights is an ode both to Didion’s daughter, to her own grief, and to the senselessness and serenity of the never-ending cycle of birth, old age, sickness and death.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) , Mindy Kaling (November 1)
Like everyone else, we fell in love with Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. Also like everyone else, we became even more smitten when we found out that she writes many of the episodes and has even directed a few. Clearly, the woman is hilarious. The title alone made us laugh out loud, in front of people. So if, like us (and everyone else), you just can’t get enough of her on TV and would secretly like her to be your best friend, let us suggest this wry, self-deprecating comic memoir.
Love and Shame and Love , Peter Orner (November 7)
A captivating family epic that stretches across four generations and fifty years, Orner’s second novel is a vibrant masterpiece about what it is to live in America — and what it is to live. Orner’s characters, the children, parents and grandparents of a Jewish middle-class family, are exquisitely rendered, and though he is not always kind to them, they are easy to fall in love with, no matter their faults.
11/22/63 , Stephen King (November 8)
On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. But in King’s new 960-page novel, a high school English teacher goes back in time to stop it. A ridiculous premise, perhaps, but Stephen King’s talent for suspense writing and the double wish fulfillment of 1950s America and a world where JFK lived make for a fascinating read. You won’t even notice how many pages you just read.
The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, etc. , Jonathan Lethem (November 8)
If you’ve ever wondered what bestselling novelist Jonathan Lethem really thinks about pop culture and the world at large, here’s your chance to find out. In this collection of essays, Lethem tackles what he terms the “white elephant” role of the writer as popular intellectual figure, as well as his own obsessions (cyberculture, Marlon Brando) and influences (Norman Mailer, Brooklyn). The writing is as good as you’d expect, of course, marked by Lethem’s trademark wit and measured thinking, which as far as we’re concerned makes him the perfect fellow to sit down and consider our culture with.
The Prague Cemetery , Umberto Eco (November 8)
Last year’s controversial (due in large part to its denunciation by the Vatican-backed Osservatore Romano newspaper, as well as the Chief Rabbi of Rome) international bestseller has finally made its way into an English translation. In it, Eco tackles political intrigue, assassination, freemasonry and one of the most famous forgeries of all time, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — all while employing as his protagonist the anti-semitic Simone Simonini, whom Eco describes as “the most hateful man in the world,” and who is also the only fictitious character in the novel.
It Chooses You , Miranda July (November 15)
Back in 2009, procrastinating when she should have been working on the screenplay that would become this year’s film The Future, Miranda July began travelling around Los Angeles to meet strangers she found through the PennySaver. Her experiences, which wound up influencing the film a great deal, also make up this book, a series of essays about strangers, procrastination, boredom, and making art.
The Angel Esmerelda: Nine Stories , Don DeLillo (November 15)
Hard to believe as it may be, this is insanely prolific Great American Author Don DeLillo’s first collection of short stories, nine works written between 1979 and 2011. If you love DeLillo, you’ll love them. If you hate him, you’ll probably mildly dislike them. Well, we love him, so there’s that.
The Third Reich , Roberto Bolaño (November 22)
Because we Americans (those of us who don’t read Spanish, at least) didn’t get our hands on Bolaño until the first of Bolaño’s works was published in English in 2003, the year of his death, every time a new novel of his comes out it seems a little like a gift from beyond. Written in 1989 and found intact among Bolaño’s papers after his death, The Third Reich follows German war games champion Udo Berger as he slips into a world marked by dream logic and anxiety.
Woolgathering , Patti Smith (November 28)
This little book is a beauty of a childhood memoir, a secret trove of poems, pictures, illustrations and autobiography that add up to a story about what it means to be an artist. Originally published in a slightly different form in 1992, the re-issue comes complete with new content, and even better, a brand new audience just discovering Patti Smith for the first time.