4 New Books You Need to Read This October

It’s officially autumn, which means it’s new books extravaganza time, as publishers release many of the hottest books of the year in the lead-up to the winter holidays (hey, we need something to keep us warm). Settle into your reading nook and buckle up for holiday busyness with some of our editors’ favorites from the fall season so far, including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first novel (oh, Oprah really likes that one, too), Ann Patchett’s latest, and more.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Katie: Oprah loves this book. She says it’s one of the best books she’s ever read. It’s in her top five of all time! She loves it so much, she picked it to kick off her revamped Oprah Book Club this fall. And if Oprah loves it, then you know it’s going to be good.

It’s better than good. It’s magical. Literally. It’s the story of Hiram Walker, a man born into slavery who discovers he posseses the gift of magic. He’s also blessed with a powerful memory, but haunted by the one thing he can’t recall: his mother, who was sold away from him when he was a young boy. After Hiram’s carriage plummets into a river, his near-drowning sets in motion an adventure that finds him part of a guerrilla underground movement to emancipate enslaved people from the brutal Southern plantations to the freedom of the North.

In his first novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates, known for his National Book Award-winning memoir Between the World and Me, and his powerful collection of essays We Were Eight Years in Power, conjures up an enthralling story that soars with suspense, tragedy, and fantasy, all the while grounded by the love of family.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

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Alex: Believe it or not, the gorgeous oil portrait on the cover of The Dutch House was only one of many factors that drove me to pick up Ann Patchett’s latest. As always, autumn is THE season for book releases, and this year has been no exception; I was overwhelmed by how many books I wanted to cover in this month’s picks. But in early September I found myself in Nashville for the first time, escaping the sweltering heat in the aisles of Patchett’s beloved Parnassus Books, and was reminded of how much I enjoyed her previous works — and discovered just how great her taste in others’ books is, as well. That serendipitous visit, combined with the stellar early reviews, the beautiful jacket, and the evocative title, and, well, who was I to resist?

The story of two siblings navigating the disintegration of their family and the loss of their beloved childhood home, the novel feels at once like a modern fairytale of childhood endurance — there’s even a wicked stepmother — and a Victorian work of familial greed and the cruelty of circumstance. But for all the drama behind it, the story is primarily a touching one, about the beautiful relationship between a brother and sister as they navigate the journey to, and through, adulthood. Layered with Patchett’s signature wit and incisive descriptions, this is a novel to get swept up in, and the perfect accompaniment to sweater-weather.

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The Body by Bill Bryson (release date: October 15)

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Ashley: Did you know that you blink about 14,000 times a day, which means your eyes are closed for roughly 23 minutes during your waking hours? Did you know we’ve technically got as much hair as apes do, it’s just that ours is finer and wispier in most places? Bill Bryson drops a ton of fascinating little tidbits about how we function throughout this tour of the human body, which takes a deep dive into all the physical components that make you you.

The beauty, of course, comes from the mystery of how little we understand about ourselves and how (or why) we function. (For instance: What makes a thought? What’s consciousness?) As tour guide through every inch of our physical being, Bryson wanders from the brain to the bowels at a brisk pace that keeps you engaged and intrigued at all times. Some passages made squeamish me queasy (thanks, I didn’t want to know that much about lobotomies), but I also learned that my parents weren’t torturing me back in high school when I had bronchitis and they didn’t take me to the doctor to get antibiotics. Apparently, antibiotics don’t work on acute bronchitis (so I didn’t contribute to the crisis of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics). The Body will reveal just how hard your physical self works to protect your well-being, and will encourage you to be kinder to your body.

Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day

Ashley (again!): As soon as I read the title of Felicia Day’s new book, Embrace Your Weird, I knew I had to read it. A few months ago, I lamented to my boyfriend how my weirdnesses kept me from connecting well with other people. He then insisted I’m not that weird (thanks?), and anyway, the problem wasn’t any weirdnesses I may (or may not??) have, but rather that I don’t accept those strange parts of myself. So I picked up Day’s book — a guide to living a more creative life by leaning into what makes you unique and slaying any demons of self-doubt that crop up along the artistic journey — and I cried.

This is a reckoning for anyone with creative hopes and dreams who’s too afraid to put their wacky and weird ideas out there. Geek girl Day provides a million and one creative exercises throughout the book to get your mind out of its paralyzing “that doesn’t sound realistic” mentality, and she writes like we’re best friends (best friends who are very into MMOs and She-Ra). I’ll admit, I didn’t actually stop and really do any of the exercises, but even thinking about each of them for a minute made me remember half-formed story ideas from years past. With its abounding practicality and sympathy, Embrace Your Weird may have just been the gentle, encouraging nudge that gets me writing again.

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