12 Must-Read Books of October – Chicago Review of Books


Spooky season is officially here, and you could say it’s downright scary how many exciting books are arriving in October. From triumphant returns from today’s biggest literary stars to exciting debuts, there’s something for everyone this month. 

Whether you’re looking for an enjoyable fright or want to get lost in a book as the weather begins to chill, our team is ready to recommend your next book:

The Passenger
By Cormac McCarthy
Knopf

Cormac McCarthy fans rejoice, because the Pulitzer Prize-winning author is back with his first novel since The Road in 2006. The Passenger is the first volume of a two-part series, which follows salvage diver Bobby Western who discovers a sunken jet with nine bodies still buckled in their seats. What’s missing however is the pilot’s flight bag, the plane’s black box, and the tenth passenger. This gripping mystery is sure to satisfy readers of one of our most acclaimed living authors. 

Dialect of Distant Harbors
By Dipika Mukherjee
CavanKerry Press

We’re thrilled to welcome Chicagoan Dipika Mukherjee’s new poetry collection Dialect of Distant Harbors into the world. Mukherjee’s work is kaleidoscopic in its scope and emotion, a thoughtful examination of migration, belonging, and recovery in a profoundly racist world that leaves room for the full range of emotions associated with resilience. Alternating between wonder, love, and at times even rage, Dialect of Distant Harbors is a remarkable achievement in making sense of our modern world through verse. 

Our Missing Hearts
By Celeste Ng
Penguin Press

Celeste Ng brings her mastery of social commentary and deeply-felt characterization to her new dystopian novel Our Missing Hearts. Following years of economic instability and violence, the United States has passed laws written to preserve “American culture,” which curtails free speech and allows authorities to relocate children of Asian origin. In an era in which books are being banned and our most foundational civil liberties are under threat, Ng’s work is a critical tale on the power of art in the fight for autonomy.    

Jackal
By Erin E. Adams
Bantam

Jackal is the perfect spine-chilling read for the Halloween season. In Erin E. Adams’s debut, Liz reluctantly returns to her predominantly white town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, for a wedding. But after a young girl disappears on the big day, she begins to see a terrifying pattern: young Black girls have been going missing in the surrounding woods for years. This dark mystery will stick with you for long after you read it.

Savor: A Chef’s Hunger for More
By Fatima Ali with Tarajia Morrell
Ballantine Books

Looking for a delicious and cathartic read this fall? Savor is a triumphant memoir about the incredibly talented chef and former Top Chef contestant Fatima Ali, who passed away in 2019 after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Including writing from Fatima herself and contributions from her mother Farezah and collaborator Tarajia Morrell, this heart wrenching read serves as a more than fitting tribute to an unforgettable culinary star.

Lech
By Sara Lippman
Tortoise Books

New from Chicago’s very own Tortoise Books comes Lech, a haunting novel that explores the predatory side of human nature. Following a cast of unforgettably strange and sincere characters—including a daughter trying to start a career as a human mermaid, a scheming real estate agent, and a mother recovering from an abortion, to name a few—Sara Lippman has crafted an intricate portrait of dreaming big in a small town.

Colonies of Paradise
By Matthias Göritz
Translated from the German by Mary Jo Bang
Triquarterly

There are surprisingly few books of poetry by contemporary German writers available to English-speaking readers, so the arrival of Matthias Göritz’s Colonies of Paradise is cause for celebration. Translated by the formidable Mary Jo Bang, these poems take readers on a globetrotting expedition through Paris, Chicago, Hamburg and Moscow while exploring the joys of childhood and the unsettling expectations set upon us in adulthood.

Liberation Day
By George Saunders
Random House

We’re huge fans of George Saunders at the Chicago Review of Books, so imagine how thrilled we were to learn that he’s releasing his first short story collection since Story Prize-winning Tenth of December nearly a decade ago. Bringing his trademark humor and willingness to lay the worst of humanity out on the page, these stories are welcome additions to his sci-fi dystopian bibliography. Saunders is truly a modern master of the form, and Liberation Day does not disappoint.

See Also


When We Were Sisters
By Fatimah Asghar
One World

Longlisted for the 2022 National Book Award in Fiction, When We Were Sisters is a lyrical, emotional journey following three orphaned Muslim American siblings who are left to raise one another after their parents pass away. Poet, performer, and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Fatimah Asghar brings extreme care to every character, creating a stunning celebration of familial love. 

Inciting Joy
By Ross Gay
Algonquin Books

We could all use some poetry that sparks joy, and Ross Gay is here to provide. Contemplative, grateful, and tender, Inciting Joy is a connection-builder, tying together personal memories of healing after loss and small moments of bliss in a way that everyone will recognize in our own lives. This is a remarkable collection from one of the most brilliant poets of our day.

Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist
By Cecilia Gentili
Littlepuss Press

Written with both heart and humor, Cecilia Gentili’s debut Faltas is an exciting reinvention of the transgender memoir. Gentili directly addresses both her friends and enemies in this collection of personal letters, weaving together an audacious and affecting meditation on the messiness of healing after trauma. 

Which Side Are You On
By Ryan Lee Wong
Catapult

Which Side Are You On asks a powerful and important question: How can we live with integrity and pleasure in a world filled with police brutality and racism? After the killing of a Black man by an Asian American NYPD officer, twenty-one-year old Reed wants to drop out of college to devote himself to the Black Lives Matter Movement, which in turn puts him at odds with his mother who herself was once the leader of a Korean-Black coalition. Ryan Lee Wong’s debut stands tall with the care and purpose it brings to the world. 



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