As the days get colder and the nights get longer, there are few things better than curling up with a good book. This month, a slate of exciting new titles from authors known and new are sure to tempt you to stay in, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Elizabeth Strout’s latest tale of love and loss to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fiction debut with her co-written political thriller. Here, we’ve rounded up the best new fiction books being released this October.
The best new fiction books for October
From the acclaimed author of Freedom and The Corrections comes this epic novel that examines the history of an American generation through one family’s saga of dysfunction. Famed for his vivid depiction of characters, Jonathan Franzen’s latest work is perhaps his most ambitious to date, looking at a nation’s moment of moral crisis through the lens of one Midwestern family.
That family is the Hildebrandts, an altogether deeply unsatisfied group living in Chicago, with each member desperate for freedom. Focused on Christmas Day, 1971, the patriarch, Russ Hildebrandt, an associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is looking to escape his joyless marriage to Marion, who has her own secret life. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college with a new moral absolutism and news of a decision that will devastate his father, while Clem’s sister, Becky, has abandoned her high school social queendom in favour of counterculture, and their younger brother Perry, has decided to give up selling drugs to seventh-graders and become a better person. Let the drama commence.
A blend of biography and fiction, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s latest work is an impressive and delightfully sharp exploration of sanity and identity. Set in London in 1965, the novel follows a young woman who believes that a charismatic psychotherapist, Collins Braithwaite, has driven her sister to suicide. Alarmingly invested in proving her suspicions, she disguises herself, creates a fake identity and becomes one of his clients. But as she tries to build evidence to support her case, her grip on her own reality and her identity becomes increasingly uncertain.
Combined with the author’s own biographical research into Collins Braithwaite, Case Study is an unsettling and gripping work that plays with our concept of reality.
Penguin Books (£15.99)
The final, posthumous work by the legendary espionage author John le Carré is finally hitting the shelves this month. A classic le Carré work that digs into the world of spies, secrecy and a web of lies, the novel centres on Julian Lawndsley, an ex-City worker who has given up the flashy London life for something simpler — running a bookshop in a small English seaside town, Silverview. But, as readers will expect, things hardly stay simple for the protagonist for long.
Just a few months into his new life, Julian is visited by Edward, a Polish émigré living in Silverview, who seems to know a lot about Julian’s family and is worryingly interested in how Julian is running his bookshop. Meanwhile, a letter arrives for a spy chief in London, warning him of a dangerous leak, and soon his investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea. So begins a complicated and gripping adventure that sees Julian caught between public duty and private morals, where the issue of guilt and innocence is far from black and white.
Penguin Books (£20)
For those looking to dip into a beautifully written short story, look no further than Penelope Lively’s latest collection. Curated by the author herself, this work combines two brand new pieces with classic stories from the author’s early career, pulling together an impressive portfolio by one of today’s most masterful storytellers.
Wry yet empathetically written, Lively’s intimate stories explore all facets of life, from growing up to growing old, chance encounters to unexpected influences on generations. Interested in the small moments as much as the enormous, Lively explores human interactions and journeys with keen insight and a sympathetic eye, pulling back the layers to get to the heart of the human condition.
Pan Macmillan (£16.99)
Hillary Rodham Clinton applies her political prowess to a new endeavour with an edge-of-your-seat political thriller, co-written with Louise Penny. Clinton’s experience is clearly a strong influence on the novel, which centres on a novice Secretary of State working in the administration of her rival. The president is entering the role after four years of his predecessor pulling America away from the world stage, and now the country is at risk.
As a series of terrorist attacks throws the world into chaos, the secretary becomes responsible for assembling a team that can unravel a deadly conspiracy that is manipulating the fact that the American government is dangerously out of touch with the global order. Combining high-stakes drama and espionage intrigue with a wry, timely comment on our current political times, Penny and Clinton’s drama promises to be a must-read for political thriller enthusiasts.
As London teens who were glued to mobile phones in the early Aughts know, Keisha the Sket was first published by 13-year-old author Jade LB in 2005, existing only as an online coming-of-age story that became a word-of-mouth sensation. Now, for the first time, the impactful work is being released in print, accompanied by essays from esteemed contemporary writers Candice Carty-Williams, Caleb Femi and others, as well as additional content from the author.
The dynamic tale chronicles the life of the charismatic Keisha, an ambitious teen who, when Ricardo finally manages to win her over, seems to have it all — love, smarts and a bright future. But when trauma hits, Keisha is faced with a never ending series of choices that will define the life that awaits and the kind of woman she will be.
Faber & Faber (£12.99)
Many novels will surely weave tales of life in lockdown, by Sarah Hall’s offering stands out for its distinctive exploration of one woman’s experience of facing the fragility of time. Through the lens of art and lust, Hall pulls together a moving tale of surprising connections and their transformative impact.
As she lies in the bedroom above her studio, celebrated sculptor Edith Harkness prepares to die. As she makes her preparations, the studio below her glows with memories of missed opportunities and old desires — it was where, when the first lockdown came, she brought a lover she barely knew, Halit, who offered her an escape into a sensual and unfamiliar world. Feverish and passionate, it’s a beautifully crafted meditation of life, lockdown and great love.
Oneworld Publications (£14.99)
An impressive debut from a rising star writer, The Dust Never Settles offers a modern take on magic realism, with a tale focused on one woman’s journey home to Lima and the ghosts — literal and metaphorical — that she finds there.
Pregnant and alone, Anais Echevarria returns to Lima for the purpose of selling her ancestral home, a locally well-known ‘’yellow house’ that sits about the capital. Historic and notorious, the home is part of the fabric of the city’s history, yet, as Echevarria discovers, there are many private histories hidden within its walls. Soon she cannot ignore the echoing voices of past residents, who will not rest until the sins of the past are atoned for, and Echevarria is forced to finally reckon with her family’s own history and the mystery that shrouds it.
Penguin Books (£14.99)
The beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning, Booker-longlisted author returns with another tale of her popular heroine, Lucy Barton. A moving portrait of love, loss and missed connections, the author reunites us with Lucy during the second half of her life. A recent widow and parent to two adult daughters, Lucy is navigating her new normal as a successful writer in New York City when a surprise encounter leads her to reconnect with William, her first husband.
A longtime on-again-off-again friend and confidante, William’s return prompts the two to revisit and reexamine their pasts, both shared and separate — their romance, the birth of their daughters, the pain of their separation, and the lives they went on to build with other people. Subtle, tender and complex, Strout elegantly and empathetically draws together a study of a partnership and the creation of a family.