10 Must-Read Books For November


Is it a drizzly November in your soul? Don’t worry, we feel it, too. Thankfully, November is a pretty great month for books — and especially, as it turns out, for books of essays. It’s also the launch of the awards season in literary publishing, so there are plenty of big-name novels and new discoveries to be had. Ever read Denis Johnson? Richard Ford? Meline Toumani? If not, then hopefully we can introduce you.

Meline Toumani, There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond (November 4)

The wounds of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915 still linger — for reporter Toumani, growing up in New Jersey, her community shunned Turkish products and Turkish restaurants. Wanting to understand this tortured legacy, Toumani moved to Istanbul and investigated the roots of this tension. The results are an extraordinary portrait of Turkish society. — Elisabeth Donnelly

Denis Johnson, The Laughing Monsters (November 4)

Prior to publication, Denis Johnson told Jonathan Galassi, his editor at FSG: “I’m not trying to be Graham Greene. I think I actually am Graham Greene.” Well, well. But Graham Green has his proper novels as well as his “entertainments.” Only, in my opinion, his entertainments are better. Where will Johnson’s The Laughing Monster fall on this spectrum? — Jonathon Sturgeon

Richard Ford, Let Me Be Frank With You (November 4)

Can we talk about the title of this novel? Let’s not. But, actually, the book is a series of novellas that feature the lovable/hateable Frank Bascombe from The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land. You either sort of get Richard Ford, or you don’t. — Jonathon Sturgeon

Lindsay Hunter, Ugly Girls (November 4)

Coastal critics do not understand fiction about Americans who live in trailer parks. I once heard a prominent editor say, “I’d like some really gritty fiction about broader America, but why does it always have to be set in a trailer park?” Thankfully, we have writers like Lindsay Hunter, who can set such critics straight when it comes to the details of lumpen American life. And thankfully we have FSG Originals to publish such fiction. — Jonathon Sturgeon

Shelly Oria, New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 (November 4)

I don’t know much about Shelly Oria’s fiction — yet — but I do know that the blurbs, which mention “post-gender” romance (Gary Lutz) and “obsidian wit” (Karen Russell) sound fascinating. — Jonathon Sturgeon

David Peace, GB84 (November 4)

This behemoth of British fiction was actually published in the UK ten years ago. Now, it’s seeing its American release. The novel details a 1984 miner’s strike, one that threatened to tear the country apart. And it’s pitched as a “shocking fictional documentation of the violence, sleaze and fraudulence that characterised Thatcher’s Britain.” It also seems to have launched its author’s illustrious career. Count me in. — Jonathon Sturgeon

Charles D’Ambrosio, Loitering: New and Collected Essays (November 11)

D’Ambrosio has been a writer’s writer, an essayist’s secret, for years since his slim, limited volume Orphans, which attracted a passionate cult. With the release of Loitering, we have the 11 essays that made up Orphans, along with new work where we get to enjoy the span and depth of D’Ambrosio’s free-ranging mind. — Elisabeth Donnelly

Atticus Lish, Preparation For the Next Life (November 11)

The first novel by Lish, this book puts an Iraq War veteran and a Chinese immigrant on a collision course with each other in — where else? — Manhattan. Lish is a vivid writer of the city and how it changes, and his take on doomed love shows what the elusive American dream is really like today. — Elisabeth Donnelly

Meghan Daum, The Unspeakable: And Other Objects of Discussion (November 18)

Daum’s first proper essay collection since her lauded debut, 2001’s My Misspent Youth, The Unspeakable concerns the difficult lies of American life. Daum is provocative and moving as she writes about her brushes with death, her mother’s mortality, and in a stunning essay that was featured in The New Yorker, her decision not to have children and her limitations as a foster-care advocate. — Elisabeth Donnelly

John Safran, God’ll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi (November 28)

It’s quite the hook: a young, white Australian documentarian (Safran, who is big in Australia, and is in no way related to the Everything Is Illuminated author) went down to Mississippi to interview people for a documentary he was making on race. However, when one of his subjects, a white supremacist, is brutally murdered, Safran investigates the case and falls down the rabbit hole of Southern Gothic weirdness. — Elisabeth Donnelly