It happens once a year: While we typically have an overall top ten as part of our Best Books of the Month program, there is always a month so full of amazing reads that we can't help but extend it to twelve. October is that month, and half of these selections are available starting today. Among them are highly anticipated fall releases from Leif Enger, Ransom Riggs, Andre Dubus III, and Jodi Picoult, plus a scary book (not in the Halloween sense) about social media, and a moving memoir that gives an unusual perspective on a rags-to-riches tale.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Leif Enger’s latest could easily veer into saccharine territory. It’s an endearing yarn, set in a sleepy town near Lake Superior, inhabited by a quirky cast of characters (and even quirkier raccoon and sturgeon). But you quickly discover that all is not quiet on the Midwestern front: The town is in decline; the novel’s namesake has just been in a harrowing car crash; an enigmatic kite enthusiast arrives, searching for his missing son; and, unbeknownst to all, a heartbroken handyman has embarked on a sinister project…Not everyone’s story has a happy ending, but Virgil Wander reminds us that there is hope, that small acts of kindness aren’t small at all--and coupled with the contagious joy of flying a kite—they have the power to turn a flagging town’s frown upside down (something that reading Virgil Wander will do for you). —Erin Kodicek
The latest installment of Ransom Riggs’ popular series has exciting new twists in store, starting with Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children arriving in Florida and pulling off a daring rescue. While not billed as a prequel, A Map of Days takes readers on a journey to where it all began for Jacob Portman: his grandfather Abe’s secret life as a peculiar operative. Until now, readers have only had an enticing glimpse into Abe’s life in the peculiar world, and it turns out he wasn’t just involved on the other side of the time loop. Jacob and his friends uncover clues to a whole network in America that is, fittingly, kind of the wild west of peculiardom. Each new discovery leads to yet another piece of the puzzle, and of course there is plenty of danger and suspense. There is much to love about this new chapter in the bestselling series, including color photographs and an ending that leaves readers eager for more. —Seira Wilson
Were you looking for more reasons to worry about the future, or the present? LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media will fuel your nightmares. P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking’s treatise travels well beyond the disinformation and fake news we’re all now familiar with (right?), addressing the ways the internet and our social networks will be deployed in actual war: recruiting terrorists, inflicting sabotage remotely on a vast scale, and even Matrix-grade reality manipulation. Backed by over 100 pages of notes, LikeWar is sober, deeply researched, and still compulsively readable. Comparisons to On War and The Art of War are apt, while likely optimistic—given the accelerating pace of technology, any reasonable futurist can expect to see their predictions become obsolete in three to five years, or maybe two. But even if the specifics change, the principle holds: Disruption is coming, and we are not ready. It’s frightening, but as individuals, we are far from helpless. As Singer and Brooking conclude, “Social media is extraordinarily powerful…. Yet within this network, and in each of the battles on it, we all have the power of choice.” —Jon Foro
It’s been about a decade since Andre Dubus III has produced a novel. Few writers are able to enter their characters in such a profound way, and Gone So Long is a stunning example of empathy and emotional resonance—a book that was well worth the wait. Forty years ago, Daniel Ahearn committed a violent act that changed the lives of many, including members of his own family. Now sick, he is setting out to set things as right as he can. He is especially set on visiting his estranged daughter, whom he has not seen in decades. But she is focused on moving forward, and there are others in her life who will not welcome Ahearn back. This is a novel that runs deep, exploring a scarred family, and examining how one swift act of passion can vibrate for years through the substance of our lives. Is true forgiveness ever possible? Is redemption possible? --Chris Schluep
Casey Gerald left behind a troubled family in Dallas and headed East to play football for Yale, intern at Lehman Brothers, and then study for an MBA at Harvard. A grand career in politics beckoned, but Gerald’s soul, nurtured by the language of literature (from the Bible to The Boxcar Children to The Invisible Man), proved too big for such worldly goals, and he returned to Texas to find himself. There Will Be No Miracles Here isn’t one of those memoirs politicians write before announcing an electoral run – it is something more complicated and nuanced: a depiction of the causes and costs of “upward” mobility. It’s not a prescription so much as a diagnosis, and it will leave you considering what it means to be successful, which Gerald’s memoir, by any measure, is. – Sarah Harrison Smith
Jodi Picoult again tackles a controversial topic with remarkable dexterity in her latest novel, A Spark of Light. Working backwards in time from a shooting in an abortion clinic, Picoult uses multiple narratives to peel back the layers of events, circumstances, and emotions that led up to the tragic incident that kicked off the book. Both sides of the abortion debate are represented and perspectives shift — in both directions—once abortion is no longer a theoretical question. There are tough moments in the book; the characters face heartbreaking choices, self-doubt, and fear, but Picoult treats her subject and story with great care and respect. A Spark of Light is incredibly timely. Picoult’s latest is a thought provoking read that will inspire conversation and appeal to both the author’s existing fans and newcomers to her work. —Seira Wilson