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The Best Books to Look Out for in October 2018

Posted on 5th October 2018 by Martha Greengrass

From the haunting presence of Melmoth to mouth-watering Nordic baking and maps of imaginary lands, we introduce October's reading highlights.

Fiction

Arriving just as the country shifts to shorter days and cooler hours, there can be no novel more fitting to the season than Sarah Perry’s atmospheric and quietly haunting triumph, Melmoth. Set in Prague and echoing Charles Maturin’s classic Gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, it is both a compelling - and truly chilling - ghost story and a deeply profound meditation on guilt and redemption.

As in her Waterstones Book of the Year-winning bestseller, The Essex Serpent, here Perry is an expert in peeling back the surface of things to consider what is sustaining and fundamental in the struggle not just to live, but to live well and with purpose. ‘At once hugely readable and profoundly important’, writes a euphoric Guardian, it is ‘one of the great literary achievements of our young century.’ Its praise that is only equalled by that levelled at Haruki Murakami’s daringly ambitious and superlative novel, Killing Commendatore. Like Perry, Murakami excels at seeing the bigger picture, and here he turns his gaze to where truth and fiction meet in a novel that is both a playful homage to The Great Gatsby and a slantwise story of art, artists and the value of both. ‘The novel will only burnish his reputation’, marvels the Telegraph, ‘barely rivalled since the days of Dickens, as the living novelist who best combines literary excellence and commercial popularity.’

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After the success of her tour-de-force novel, The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry returns with Melmoth, a profound, ambitiously realised novel which asks fundamental questions about guilt, forgiveness and moral reckoning and how we come to terms with our actions in a conflicted world.
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The epic new novel from Haruki Murakami, the internationally acclaimed and best-selling author of 1Q84. A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art - as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby - Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.
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October also brings the welcome - and long-awaited - return of a number of fiction’s heroes.  Australian writer Markus Zusak’s last novel, The Book Thief, made him a household name around the world, but readers have had to wait patiently for his next offering, a book more than 10 years in the making. An intergenerational epic, Bridge of Clay is a layered and sweeping story of family and masculinity, woven around one man’s Herculean ambition to build a bridge. Timely and full of heart, Zusak delivers a story that’s more than worth the wait.

Like The Book Thief, Mitch Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, has attained cult status in the 15 years since its publication. Now Albom returns to tell the other side of the story in The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, giving readers the chance to reunite with Eddie, as it is now his turn to guide a traveller to acceptance and redemption. Death also proves a catalyst in Graham Norton’s second novel, A Keeper, which explores the secrets held close by family and community as a prodigal daughter returns home for her mother’s funeral. Norton’s debut, Holding, earned real critical acclaim, proving him a deft, sensitive novelist. His second is better still. 

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Bridge of Clay is about a boy who is caught in the current – of destroying everything he has to become all he needs to be. He’s a boy in search of greatness, as a cure for memory and tragedy. He builds a bridge to save his family, but also to save himself. It’s an attempt to transcend humanness, to make a single, glorious moment: A miracle and nothing less.
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In this enchanting sequel to the number one bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie's heavenly reunion with Annie - the little girl he saved on earth - in an unforgettable novel of how our lives and losses intersect.
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From the bestselling author of Holding comes a masterly tale of secrets and ill-fated loves set on the coast of Ireland. This compelling new novel confirms Graham Norton's status as a fresh, literary voice, bringing his clear-eyed understanding of human nature and its darkest flaws.
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Barbara Kingsolver is a novelist whose work has long been rooted in contemporary concerns, asking key questions about the way our lives intersect with a world at risk from human neglect and acquisitive predation. Her latest offering, The Unsheltered, is no exception. Telling the stories of two families in crisis in 1871 and 2016, prepare to be enveloped by a novel that asks readers to see the world from a new perspective through the light cast by past generations. From voices of the past, to those of the present. We’re lucky to be living through an extraordinary flourishing of the short story genre and now author Philip Hensher follows up his excellent two-volume classic short story anthologies with a new contemporary collection. Expertly selected, authoritative and sumptuously designed, The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story has all the hallmarks of a future classic.

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A testament to both the resilience and persistent myopia of the human condition, Unsheltered, by international bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver, explores the foundations we build in life, spanning time and place to give us all a clearer look at those around us, and perhaps ourselves. It is a novel that speaks truly to our times.
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A spectacular treasury of the best British short stories published in the last twenty yearsWe are living in a particularly rich period for British short stories. Despite the relative lack of places in which they can be published, the challenge the medium represents has attracted a host of remarkable, subversive, entertaining and innovative write...
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Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Nestling somewhere in the cracks between comfortable genre pigeonholing has always been Stephen King’s masterstroke, and his new novella proves why the Guardian calls him ‘one of the great storytellers of our time.’ Set in the slightly skewed small-town America that King has made his own, Elevation is an unexpectedly sweet and upbeat story; a celebration of finding common ground amidst a sea of division.

For fantasy fans there are grand conclusions in the offing. Sarah J. Maas’s career launched with her blockbuster epic, Throne of Glass and now, in Kingdom of Ash, she finally brings the story of rebel assassin queen Aelin Galathynius to its thrilling conclusion.  Fans will be on tenterhooks as Maas unveils who will stand and who will fall in the final roll of the dice. Meanwhile Laini Taylor serves up the second part of the beautifully written duology begun with Strange the Dreamer, Muse of Nightmares. Taylor’s creative invention is second to none, her pleasure in the wonder of storytelling is infectious and in this sequence her imaginative powers are given full sway: the result is a joy.

There’s a real treat too for fans of Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterwork, Earthsea, which is given a lavish fresh lease of life in a new, fully illustrated edition, published to mark the 50th anniversary of The Wizard of Earthsea. Bringing together the full Earthsea chronicles - including early short fiction, never-before-printed stories and a previously unpublished essay by Le Guin - for the very first time, with newly commissioned images by artist Charles Vess, it is an unmissable, landmark collector’s item.

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From master storyteller Stephen King, our 'most precious renewable resource, like Shakespeare in the malleability of his work' (Guardian), comes this timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences. Compelling and eerie, Elevation is as gloriously joyful (with a twinge of deep sadness) as 'It's a Wonderful Life.'
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Aelin Galathynius's journey from slave to assassin to queen reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world... She has risked everything to save her people - but at a tremendous cost. Locked in an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will to endure the months of torture inflicted upon her.
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Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old. She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise. She was wrong.Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the Sunday Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
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Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the timeless and beloved A Wizard of Earthsea. Includes six novels, short stories and non-fiction, and with over fifty illustrations by Charles Vess
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Crime and Thrillers

Surely the year’s most highly-anticipated crime release, C.J. Sansom’s seventh novel in his phenomenally popular Shardlake series, Tombland, plunges readers into the heart of an England in turmoil, delivered as a richly-satisfying historical whodunit. Set in the aftermath of Henry VIII’s death, it sees Matthew Shardlake’s loyalties sorely tested as those around him choose sides in the bitter rivalry for succession.

Back in the present, two more detectives stalk back into view as Ian Rankin’s In a House of Life pulls Rebus from retirement to rattle the bones of his past, and Susan Hill’s Simon Serraillier finds his life and work irretrievably enmeshed as The Comforts of Home prove anything but. There’s thrilling tension too from Big Little LiesLiane Moriarty, whose Nine Perfect Strangers sets up a sinister scenario where a relaxing retreat turns into a dark experiment in social engineering. What emerges is a story that is nail-bitingly tense and a complete page-turner.

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C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake returns in an England gripped by intrigue and rebellion. The old king is dead and Shardlake, in the employ of his daughter Elizabeth, is bound for Norwich on the trail of the murder of her relative, Edith Boleyn. Soon, Shardlake finds his loyalties tested as the peasant rebellion exposes deep divisions across those he most trusts...
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In a house of lies, who can ever know the truth? John Rebus might be retired, but he's far from finished. In this brand new mystery from the peerless Ian Rankin, the ex-DI returns alongside series stalwart Detective Siobhan Clarke in a case that will dredge up the secrets of the past and disrupt an even murkier present.
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DC Simon Serrailler's last, devastating case was nearly the death of him and left him confronting a new reality Recovering on a remote Scottish island, his peace doesn't last long. In this gripping new Serrailler thriller from Susan Hill, Simon's personal and professional lives intertwine in more complex and demanding ways than ever before.
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One house. Nine strangers. Ten days that will change everything. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what's about to hit them. The eagerly-anticipated new novel from the worldwide Number One bestselling author behind Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning HBO series Big Little Lies.
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History, Politics & Philosophy

Revered as an icon and hero by some but decried by others, there’s no doubting that the titanic figure of Winston Churchill looms large over the canvas of twentieth century British history. Now acclaimed historian Andrew Roberts aims to unmask the real Churchill in an exhaustive new biography, Churchill: Walking with Destiny that looks behind the public façade, creating a more intimate and holistic portrait of Churchill, both as leader and flawed individual. The Sunday Times sums up the critical response, declaring that Roberts ‘has produced the best single volume life of Churchill ever written.'

Meanwhile, readers more allied to Alan Bennett’s much-quoted History Boys assessment that ‘history is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men… women following behind with the bucket’, might find themselves consoled by Cathy Newman’s Bloody Brilliant Women, which goes some way towards restorative justice. A Channel 4 journalist, Newman has a winning, likable style and her book is a brilliant read: informative, well-researched and never less than thoroughly engaging.

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There have been over a thousand previous biographies of Churchill. Andrew Roberts now draws on over forty new sources, including the private diaries of King George VI, used in no previous Churchill biography to depict him more intimately and persuasively than any of its predecessors.
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A fresh, opinionated history of all the brilliant women you should have learned about in school but didn't. A celebration of the women who paved the way from the 1918 Representation of the People Act, through to Margaret Thatcher's 1990 ousting from Downing Street, Bloody Brilliant Women is an engaging, chatty book that seeks to restore these pioneering women to their place in British history.
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Current Affairs

Already making history - and creating headlines - Scarlett Curtis's pioneering collection, Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other lies) brings together some of today's most influential women discussing what contemporary feminism means to them. Featuring voices including Saoirse Ronan, Jameela Jamil and Tanya Burr, the collection is published in coordination with the UN women's foundation, Girl Up, with 10% of the RRP going to support adolescent girls in developing countries.

From history’s makers, we move to the frightening undermining of its very foundations, a reality explored in Michael Lewis’s damning new book The Fifth Risk. An examination of the ways in which American government infrastructure is under threat from those meant to uphold and protect those services, it provides a fascinating corollary to the current glut of political exposes laying siege to Trump’s presidency. Lewis suggests that the damage done to the country’s fabric may have far-reaching and explosive implications for its future.  

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You need this book. Funny, powerful and personal writing by women, for women, about what the F word means to them. Every woman has a different story to tell. Reading them all in one book might just change your life. Published in partnership with Girl Up, the UN women's foundation. 10% of the RRP for each copy sold will be donated by the publisher to the Girl Up charity.
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The phenomenal new book from the international bestselling author of The Big Short. In The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis reveals the combustible cocktail of wilful ignorance and venality that is fuelling the destruction of a country's fabric. All of this, Lewis shows, exposes America and the world to the biggest risk of all. It is what you never learned that might have saved you.
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Popular Science

Also looking to the future is the last book from Professor Stephen Hawking, Brief Answers to the Big Questions. Based on questions asked by students, academics, politicians and world leaders, it is a book of real breadth and depth, providing a window into Hawking’s views not only on science, but on our wider world and its trajectory. Alongside comes Blueprint, a ground-breaking and controversial new examination of the nature/nurture debate from geneticist Robert Plomin, suggesting that we owe more to our genes than we previously imagined - more perhaps than makes us comfortable. As the Spectator concludes, this is ‘an important and challenging’ book, albeit one that doesn’t always make for easy reading, and in Plomin’s hands the material is never less than fascinating.

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The final book from Professor Stephen Hawking, arguably the most famous scientist of our age, Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a profound, accessible and timely reflection on the biggest questions in science. For both the scientific and the intellectually curious, this book celebrates the mind, humour, and achievements of one of the most inspiring figures in recent history.
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One of the world's top behavioural geneticists argues that we need a radical rethink about what makes us who we are A game-changing book by a leader in the field, Robert Plomin, Blueprint shows how the DNA present in the single cell with which we all begin our lives can impact our behaviour as adults.
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Art, Nature and Travel

Whether it is Pauline Baynes’ depictions of Narnia, meandering from Cair Paravel to the Eastern Sea, or David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, inspired by the circular ring of the Mappa Mundi, maps have a special place in the minds of writers and readers. It is a relationship that’s wonderfully explored in The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands, a book that brings together the thoughts of writers including Philip Pullman, Robert Macfarlane and Frances Hardinge on the literary maps that have shaped their imagination and storytelling. Elegantly constructed and packed with illustrations, it is a volume to lose yourself inside.

From imaginary lands, to the awe-inspiring perspectives of Dynasties. The BBC’s landmark new nature series, it explores the role of animal families in shaping the makeup of the world’s natural habitats, brilliantly illustrated in Stephen Moss’s visually arresting accompanying volume which is introduced by Sir David Attenborough. Meanwhile, going behind the camera, Sue PerkinsEast of Croydon offers a very funny and human chronicle of her experiences travelling around India and East Asia, making her documentary about the Mekong River. If you’ve ever been tempted by adventure travel, but been put off by feeling vastly unqualified/insufficiently practical/downright terrified, then this is the book for you - it might just make you think again.

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A team of distinguished and internationally acclaimed writers and illustrators share their personal insights into the maps they love, the maps they use and the maps that set them dreaming.
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Family isn't just important. It's everything. From lions hunting as a pride to penguins huddling together to keep from freezing in the bitter Antarctic winter, many animals are dependent on complex social relationships for their survival. With over 200 stunning photographs and insights from the crew of the BBC series, Dynasties reveals in astonishing detail the intricate social lives of our planet
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A few years ago Sue Perkins was asked if she would like to make a documentary on the Mekong River, travelling from the vast delta in Vietnam to the remote and snowy peaks of Tibet. Up until that point, the farthest East she had been was Torremolinos, in the Costa Del Sol. Despite her many reasons not to, she said yes and this is the story.
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Biography

From Croydon to Straight Outta Crawley, the memoir by comedian Romesh Ranganathan. Covering everything from his childhood and his circuitous route into comedy, to how to cope as a vegan stand-up, it is irreverent, frank and hilarious. There’s equal merriment on offer too in Eric Idle’s breezily readable autobiography, appropriately titled (what else?) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Packed full of anecdotes from a career spanning half a century - with walk-on parts for everyone from Mick Jagger to Queen Elizabeth - it is all brought together by Idle’s gift as a generous and genial raconteur.

When it comes to superstars, they seldom come bigger than Tina Turner and, as Turner marks 60 years in the music business, she finally tells all in Tina Turner: My Love Story. From her earliest years picking cotton in Tennessee through her tempestuous relationship with Ike Turner and beyond, it is a riveting story of one woman’s extraordinary life.    

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From the delights of Sri Lankan hospitality to his struggles as a child, teacher and now parent, to his adolescent flirtation with a rap career and his attempts to make it in comedy, Straight Outta Crawley is Romesh Ranganathan's hilarious and irreverent autobiography.
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From Eric Idle, the ingenious comic performer, founding member of Monty Python, and creator of Spamalot, comes an absurdly funny memoir of unparalleled wit and heartfelt candour. Always Look On the Bright Side of Life takes us on an unforgettable journey from Idle's childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theatre and film.
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The full, dramatic story of one of the most remarkable women in music history, celebrating Tina Turner's 60th year in the industry. Brimming with her trademark blend of strength, energy, heart and soul, My Love Story is a gripping, surprising memoir, as memorable and entertaining as any of her greatest hits.
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Lifestyle

From dress-making to crochet, knitting to pottery, Britain is a nation of amateur crafters. Now, a new book from authors Rosemary Davidson and Arzu Tahsin explains how the principles of Craftfulness can also be a unique way to order and calm your mind, leading to a happier and more fulfilled life. Drawing on first-hand accounts and combining mindfulness techniques with easy-to-follow, simple craft projects, it is a practical, innovative approach to joining creativity with positive mental health.

Meanwhile, if you’re in need of some comfort food as the weather draws in, we’ve got the perfect recipe recommendations.  Described by Nigella Lawson as the ‘instrumental force in leading [the English] beyond the land of spag bol, macaroni cheese and tinned ravioli’, Italian chef Anna Del Conte has been delivering the best in Italian cookery since the 1970’s. Her new book, Vegetables all'Italiana, is a collection of mainly unpublished recipes that put veg centre-stage and work with seasonal produce that’s ripe for the times. From the sunshine of Italy we move north to sample the deliciously tempting treats nestling The Nordic Baking Book. Compiled by acclaimed chef Magnus Nilsson and featuring 450 sweet and savoury bakes, it is a simply sumptuous selection of warming winter treats and seasonal dishes.

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An engaging, friendly and inspiring celebration of all things creativity and craft, while emphasising the huge mental benefits of making things with your hands.
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Organized in an A-Z format from asparago to zucchina, Anna Del Conte presents classic dishes alongside her own personalized recipes. This is a celebration of vegetables that praises the flavor and texture of each individual root, squash, herb, and pulse to teach a new generation of cooks how to enjoy fresh seasonal produce at any time of year. Includes dual measures.
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The acclaimed chef featured in the Emmy-Award winning US PBS series The Mind of a Chef and the Netflix docuseries Chef's Table explores the rich baking tradition of the Nordic region, with 450 tempting recipes for home bakers
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Test Yourself…

Lastly we’ve got three of this year’s most challenging puzzle books to pit your wits against. Last year’s hit bestseller, The GCHQ Puzzle Book, gave readers the chance to test themselves against real questions from the UK’s finest code-breakers. Now, in The GCHQ Puzzle Book II, there’s a second volume of mind-bogglingly difficult problems, this time coming alongside stories and photographs that illustrate the first 100 years of GCHQ’s history.

And if you don’t fancy yourself a budding cipher-solver, then how about trying out for the European Space Agency instead? Compiled by astronaut Tim Peake, The Astronaut Selection Test Book lets you do just that, offering up a range of real questions from the ESA’s selection test to let you see if you’ve got what it takes to leave Earth’s orbit. Not to be beaten, the Ordnance Survey are even getting in on the act with The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book, a selection of navigational tests, word games, code-crackers and anagrams to test your navigational skills to the limit.

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With their first bestselling book, The GCHQ Puzzle Book, the UK's intelligence and security experts tested us with puzzles, codes and real-life entrance tests from their archives. Now, they are back with a new collection of head-scratching, mind-boggling and brain-bending puzzles that will leave you pondering for hours.
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Have you got what it takes to be an astronaut? Including real questions for the European Space Agency's astronaut selection test, and drawing on British astronaut Tim Peake's own experiences, this accessible, fun-filled guide will challenge aspiring astronauts - whether young or old - like never before.
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Over 200 fiendish puzzles to find out who will be the ultimate map-master!
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