November Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

November 3, 2021 | 15 books mentioned 2 9 min read

We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

Want to know about the books you might have missed? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

November

coverThe Sentence by Louise Erdrich:Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Erdrich’s new book follows Tookie, a formerly incarcerated Ojibwe woman who takes a job in a Minneapolis bookstore after serving an absurdly long sentence. When one of the bookstore’s best customers dies, her ghost returns to the store to haunt Tookie. The ghost’s appearance leads Tookie and a fellow bookseller to a shocking personal discovery of historical consequence. Taking place over the course of a year, from All Soul’s Day 2019 to All Soul’s Day 2020, Erdrich confronts a year of pandemic and protest. (Hannah)

coverLook for Me and I’ll be Gone by John Edgar Wideman: For more than half a century, two-time PEN Award-winning novelist and short story author Wideman has very much been a writer’s writer. His magisterial The Homewood Trilogy made the Black neighborhood of his Pittsburgh youth as mythic as William Faulkner‘s Yoknapatawpha County, and if there were any literary justice in the United States, Wideman would be as widely known as the Nobel laureate. Arguably the last of the great modernist writers, Wideman combines stream of consciousness and the American vernacular in a style that recalls Joyce and Baldwin, and is yet entirely his own. His sixth collection of short stories, Look for Me and I’ll be Gone, gathering previously published material from The New Yorker, among other literary journals and magazines, returns to Wideman’s familiar themes of race and identity, punishment and injustice, Pittsburgh and Blackness. As Wideman said in an interview from Callaloo in 1989, “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” (Ed)

coverThe Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies: Davies, author of The Fortunes and A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself, has joined an illustrious line of writers, from Charles Baxter to Edwidge Danticat, in penning an “art of” book, my favorite craft books series, published by Graywolf Press. Davies sheds light on an often invisible part of writing—rewriting—by showing drafts of his own work as well as early drafts of Carmen Maria Machado and Flannery O’Connor, among others. He also uses the topic of revision to consider how it is not only the work that changes, but the writer, too. (Edan)

coverThe Perishing by Natashia Deón: Critically acclaimed writer Deón returns with The Perishing, a speculative and historical novel recommended for readers who love Octavia Butler and N. K. Jemisin. Deón’s second novel focuses on Lou, who finds herself in Los Angeles in the 1930s without any recollection of how she arrived, becomes the first Black journalist at The Los Angeles Times, and experiences flashbacks of various time periods. As Lou starts to believe she’s immortal and that she has arrived with an important and specific purpose, threats to her safety arise. Publishers Weekly and Library Journal have highlighted The Perishing as a fall must-read. (Zoë)

coverWin Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu: As a biracial Chinese-American woman, Willa Chen has drifted through high school and college, struggling to come to some kind of peace with herself. But when she begins working as a nanny for the Adriens, a wealthy white New York City family, she is confronted with all of the things she never had. After moving in with the Adriens, Willa must come to terms with her complicated childhood and finally begin to define her adult life. As Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me says: “Win Me Something is an observant, contemplative story about the complex reality of growing up with a mixed identity in two starkly different mixed families. Kyle Lucia Wu deftly weaves back and forth between Willa’s teenaged years and her adult life to explore loneliness, uncertainty, and a singular, persistent question―where do I truly belong?” (Adam Price)

coverWhite on White by Ayşegül Savaş: “Beauty avoids our grasp because it’s made of the same, ephemeral texture as imagination,” the Paris-based Turkish writer Savaş writes in her essay, “On Invisible Beauty,” published in our very own pages. Beauty and art are subjects Savaş returns to in her second novel, White on White. When, by virtue of proximity, a student of Gothic nudes becomes a companion and repository of stories told by her artist landlord, she becomes a student not only of art but of life. Lauren Groff compares White on White’s elegance to “an opaque sheet of ice that belies the swift and turbulent waters beneath. (Anne K. Yoder)

coverNew York, My Village by Uwem Akpan: In Akpan’s debut novel (following Say You’re One of Them, his bestselling, critically-acclaimed collection), Nigerian editor Ekong Udousoro, who is working on a collection about the Biafran War, relocates to New York City after receiving a publishing fellowship—only to discover the dark side of an industry that smiles in his face while disparaging his home, race, and culture. Elif Batuman writes: “Unforgettable characters, deeply realistic and ‘relatable’ interpersonal conflicts, a contagious love of life, fresh insights into the crazy-making properties of racist ideology: New York, My Village has it all.” (Carolyn)

coverThe Four Humors by Mina Seçkin: As someone whose vade mecum is Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, I’m especially excited for Seçkin’s debut novel, in which a young woman analyzes her illness according to the four humors theory. (My problem: excess of phlegm.) Taking place over a summer in Istanbul, where the woman has travelled to care for her ailing grandmother, the novel balances the protagonist’s humor-gazing with stories of her family’s and Turkey’s history. The premise faintly echoes two other recent medico-literary works of quackery and experimental treatment: Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk. (Matt)

coverTaste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen: Nowadays many people write or produce videos about food and culture, but Mayukh Sen is arguably the first one who makes you feel the American kitchen sizzling with wonder. Taste Makers carefully selects seven extraordinarily courageous, brilliant, and loving immigrant women who dedicate their lives to what Americans take for granted in their diet today. James Beard Award-winning writer Sen’s impeccable research accurately restores the lives of these women; his lively prose style matches the vivacity of his heroines. More importantly, he both entertains and challenges our previous mental association of women and food. After reading this group biography, perhaps what we see on our mundane plate is no longer the same as before. (Jianan)

coverNoor by Nnedi Okorafor: Widely known—and loved, and awarded—for her genre-bending, Africanfuturist novels and stories (see: Who Fears Death, Lagoon), Okorafor is back with a vivid and unpredictable rush of a new novel. Anwuli Okwudili—or AO, for Artificial Organism—is a woman who relies on her many body augmentations to live. But when someone gets hurt, she’s forced to go on the run, heading into and across the deserts of Northern Nigeria with a Fulani herdsman, DNA, alongside her and the world watching the “saga of the wicked woman and the mad man” unfold in real time. (Kaulie)

coverThese Precious Days by Ann Patchett: A new collection of personal essays from the beloved Patchett, including a meditation on a surprising and beautiful bond formed with Tom Hanks’s assistant, a woman named Sooki, which is basically indescribable outside of the essay that describes it, but which you can read here at Harper’s. (Lydia)

coverBlue-Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu: Roxane Gay writes that Blue-Skinned Gods, the second novel from Sindu, is “consummate storytelling,” “heart breaking and exhilarating”; others have called it stunning, profound, a marvel. In Tamil Nadu, India, a young boy named Kalki is born with impossibly blue skin. He is believed to be—and is worshipped as—Vishnu reincarnated, but he begins to have his doubts. As his relationships with his community and family begin to crumble, Kalki lands in New York City, seeking refuge in the city’s underground rock scene as he works to discover exactly who—and what—he is. (Kaulie)

coverGod of Mercy by Okezie Nwọka: A debut novel set in an Igbo village where the forces of colonialism have not found root now finds itself at odds with its neighboring colonized villages, with dire consequences for its heroine Iljeoma, a girl who can fly. Maisy Card calls the novel “a profound exploration of religion, faith, and compassion from a gifted storyteller. Okezie Nwọka creates a richly imagined postcolonial landscape that is at once otherworldly, tragically human, and completely unforgettable.” (Lydia)

coverFive Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King: King follows five critically acclaimed novels, most recently Euphoria and Writers and Lovers, with her first collection of short stories. Ann Patchett raved that the new offering “moved me, inspired me, thrilled me. It filled up ever chamber of my heart. I loved this book.” (Lydia)

coverPity the Beast by Robin McLean: Following her debut collection Reptile House, this novel of the western U.S. jumps back and forth in time from prehistory to far in the future, focusing its eye on the time in between, during which a woman named Ginny has just cheated on her husband. A new feminist western about which J.M. Coetzee raved, “Not since Faulkner have I read American prose so bristling with life and particularity.” (Lydia)

coverOur Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart: In what may be the season’s first explicitly Covid-19 novel, funny-sad author Shteyngart chronicles eight friends, including a Russian-born novelist and his wife, their child obsessed with K-pop, a Korean American app developer, and various other artistes isolated upstate in March of 2020 for a Boccaccian idyll in which they are safe from a deadly virus but not from themselves, their hungers, and their pasts. Looking forward to the hyper-observant author’s take in what Salman Rushdie pegs it as “A powerful fable of our broken time.” (Marie)

coverThe Dawn of Everything by David Wengrow and David Graeber: Late anthropology professor Graeber and professor of comparative archaeology Wengrow explore (and refutes) the traditional narratives (and myths) about early civilization. The book questions the notion that societies have undergone a linear evolution from primitive to developed—and how this new historical vantage point sheds light on the true origins of farming, property, and democracy. Noam Chomsky calls the book “a fascinating inquiry, which leads us to rethink the nature of human capacities, as well as the proudest moments of our own history, and our interactions with and indebtedness to the cultures and forgotten intellectuals of indigenous societies.” (Carolyn)

coverNew Year by Juli Zeh: In Zeh’s newest novel, a man’s solitary bike ride on New Year’s Day turns into a terrifyingly, life-altering journey into his childhood psyche. As he climbs the paths steep hills, his repressed and traumatic memories threaten to swallow him (and his family) whole. In their starred review, Publishers Weekly calls the novel a  “wrenching psychological portrait” that “asks how a person can come to terms with a painful past that has been intentionally misremembered for the purpose of sustaining one’s mental health.” (Carolyn)

coverEternal Night at the Nature Museum by Tyler Barton: Whether it’s a group of residents escaping their assisted living facility, a delusional one-man neighborhood watch looking for criminals, or a museum worker who’s unsure if he’s fit for duty, Barton’s debut collection carefuly carves out moments in the lives of an eclectic cast of characters. Kevin Wilston writes: ““Eternal Night at the Nature Museum is a dizzying, brilliant collection, carried by Tyler Barton’s hypnotic ability to pull narratives into the strangest places, grounded by his genuine love and empathy for his characters, no matter how broken they might seem.” (Carolyn)

cover Tacky by Rax King: Jersey Shore. Guy Fieri. Cheesecake Factory. In her debut collection, James Beard Award-nominated writer King explores the intersection of her life, pop culture, and all things lowbrow in fourteen hilarious and heartfelt essays. “A monument to uplifting the parts of popular culture that might otherwise be shrugged off and/or dismissed by those who don’t have the imagination to celebrate what they might consider mundane,” says Hanif Abdurraqib. “This book made me feel more at home with my obsessions, both small and large.” (Carolyn)

coverO Beautiful by Jung Yun: In a follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut, Shelter, Yun’s newest novel centers around Elinor, a 40-year-old ex-model, returns to her North Dakotan hometown to write a magazine feature about the Bakken oil boom. As she navigates harrassment, feelings like an outsider, and memories of her estranged parents, Elinor finds herself digging deep into a story that hits even closer to home than she ever imagined. About the novel, Rumaan Alam says:  “With a shrewd eye and sharp sense of humor, Yun finds in the familiar tale of one woman’s return to her small town roots a story as big as the nation itself.” (Carolyn)

coverAdmit This to No One by Leslie Pietrzyk: In her newest collection of linked stories, Pietrzyk explores the personal and political in Washington, D.C. The stories, which are all centered around an unnamed Speaker of the House—whose extra-martial affairs torpeoded his career and marriages—and his daughters, ripple out from an incident that puts the Speaker and his 15-year-old daughter in grave danger. Kirkus‘ starred review says it’s “an exciting collection bristling with intelligence, political awareness, and psychological complexity.” (Carolyn)

coverAftermath by Preti Taneja: Award-winning writer and activist Taneja explores trauma, violence, and personal and collective grief in her experimental book-length essay. After his release from prison after an eight-year sentence, Taneja’s former creative writing student kills two people during a celebration for an offender rehabilitation program. As she tries to make sense of of the tragedy and its aftermath, she looks toward the past in an attempt to reclaim the future. A starred review from Publishers Weekly calls the book “stunning,” “poetic, urgent, and self-reflective.” (Carolyn)

coverChouette by Claire Oshetsky: Tiny, an accomplished cellist, knows in a deep, primal way that her pregnancy is not normal; the child she is carrying is not a baby but an “owl-baby”—though no one, including her husband, believes her. When Chouette is born with broken wings, Tiny’s sole focus becomes protecting her sometimes violent daughter from her husband—who is obsessed with fixing his daughter—and the world, which will no doubt try to change her. About the debut, Rachel Yoder writes, “Part love letter, part lament, Chouette astonishes as each perfected sentence burrows deep into the maternal shadows of love, possession, selfhood, and sanity.” (Carolyn)

cover People from my Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami (translated by Ted Goossen): Kawakami, author of the acclaimed novel Strange Weather in Tokyo, returns with a collection of of 36 interlinking fabulist stories set in a small Japanese town. Kirkus‘ starred review says the novel is “an engaging and winsome book that charms without diminishing the precise unease created by Kawakami’s spare prose.” (Carolyn)

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2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good list.
    Apologies, I’m just a little tired of putting in all this work and never getting any rep. So this is what you left out, couldn’t know about: (cheers!) “N***a in Paris, A Journey” Parts I to III / on Amazon….
    (cheeers, t)

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