If you’re a purist about hardbacks, dear reader, turn away now. In my view there’s nothing better than a paperback. Hardbacks are lovely rectangular objects of beauty, but my backpack carries two work laptops, breakfast and lunch, the four notebooks I seem to needlessly carry around and, well, all the other bag junk. I feel like a hardback just adds to my frenetic pain; this is undoubtedly due to my own laziness, but I’m sticking with my opinion. There is a solution though: behold, jovial paperbacks! Small, equally beautiful rectangular objects, but travel size. Genius.
The other lovely thing about paperbacks is that by the time they come out, many of them have already been tried and tested as hardbacks and well reviewed, giving book clubs an excellent array of choices that are bound to mystify, delight and thrill in equal measure. This list represents some of the best releases from the last few months — and a look forward to the next few weeks. It should be simple to pick a fresh book club pick with this list, running the gamut from magic realism, literary fiction and folklore retellings — with some nifty nonfiction added into the mix. Spoiled for choice!
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Another in the much loved trend of Trojan War retellings, Haynes focuses on the underserved women of the old stories. As Troy falls, the reader lives the smoking burn with a woman fleeing her home. Penelope waits for Odysseus; three feuding goddesses watch consequence unfold. This is a proper woman’s epic, publishing in paperback on November 9.
Memorial by Bryan Washington
Benson and Mike live in Houston, a couple in a relationship that seems to be running out of time. Mike goes to Japan to see his estranged and ill father — and returns to Houston changed utterly, as Benson finds himself looking outside the box of comfort he’s been stuck in for too long. This is a really profound story about family, published in paperback on October 26.
Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley
A racehorse called Paras canters from the accidentally open door of her stall and wanders to Paris, fearless in the strangeness around her. She makes friends with a dog and they hang out with two ducks and a mouthy raven (no, really). But fun turns to seriousness when Paras meets a secluded boy called Etienne. It’s a story about true love and freedom, published in paperback on November 2.
The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar
Publishing in paperback on November 2, this one is the last thing you’d expect of an Everest story. Traumatised from World War I, Maurice Wilson plans to fly a Gipsy Moth plane from England to Everest, crash-landing before climbing to the top alone. Wilson couldn’t fly — and knew nothing about climbing — but this entire adventure is a tribute to the power of the human spirit.
We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza
Jen and Riley have been friends all their lives and are happy: Jen with her husband and long wanted pregnancy, Riley rising to the top of her journalism career. When Jen’s police officer husband is involved in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, both women have to reckon with the implications, for their families, communities and their own friendship.
The Reluctant King by K’wan
The Kings are one of the most influential families in K’wans version of New York City. Shadow’s mother and father find him disappointing because he’s unwilling to accept a place in the hierarchy his father has created. As his father seeks to rise higher, the Kings find themselves in the middle of a storm. Loaded with drama, twists and turns. More please.
The House of Rust by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber
Aisha’s fisherman father is missing, so she takes to the sea on a boat made of a skeleton to mount a rescue. She collects along the way a menagerie of talking animals who offer guidance and advice, as sea monsters wait to meet her and the father of all sharks stands in the way of her rescue effort. Told through the lens of the Hadhrami diaspora in Mombasa, this is wholesale fascinating.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Gifty uses her PhD studies to explore depression and addiction following the loss of her brother to an OxyContin addiction. With her suicidal mother to worry about, Gifty struggles with the promise of hard science and the evangelical guarantee of her childhood church. Does science or faith hold the answer?
The Daughters of Yalta by Catherine Grace Katz
At Yalta, the alliance between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin was strained even as victory approached for the war effort. The stories of these men are widely known — so Katz tells us instead about Kathleen Harriman, daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union; Sarah Churchill, devoted to her father; and Anna Roosevelt, attending in place of her mother Eleanor. This is a great look behind the curtain of the history we think we know.
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