The days are dark, but books bring brightness. Here are six promising new paperbacks to read as autumn settles in.
“Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic, $17). This novel, Anglo-Nigerian author Evaristo’s eighth work of fiction, shared the 2019 Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments.” You’ll have to wait a while for a paperback of the latter, but “Girl, Woman, Other” is out in softcover just this week. Set among a group of black women friends in contemporary England, it’s “a big, busy novel” full of interconnected stories, wrote a New York Times reviewer, drawing comparisons to the work of Ntozake Shange and Alison Bechdel. “Like Bechdel,” the review noted, “Evaristo has a gift for appraising the lives of her characters with sympathy and grace while gently skewering some of their pretensions.”
“Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood” by Karina Longworth (HarperCollins, $17.99, Nov. 12). Longworth, a film critic and creator of the podcast “You Must Remember This,” is a masterful storyteller of Old Hollywood; here, she places millionaire and movie mogul Howard Hughes at its center. A Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote that Longworth allows “the conflicting versions of Howard Hughes to stand side by side, revealing his desire for control, sex and fame, and in so doing she creates a vibrant history not just of Hughes but of Hollywood itself, its sins and glories, its darkness and light.”
“Bowlaway” by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco, $16.99). I fell hard for this charmer of a book when I read it early this year: McCracken, in her first novel in 17 years, creates an irresistible world in an early-20th-century New England town, following the fortunes of a multigenerational family and their connection to a local six-lane candlepin bowling alley. Everyone’s an oddball in Salford, Massachusetts, in the very best of ways; I loved the playfulness of the language, and the way McCracken’s narrator takes you by the hand, hurrying you into an inviting, curious world that you’ll be sorry to leave.
“Feast Days” by Ian MacKenzie (Little, Brown, $15.99). MacKenzie’s follow-up to his 2009 debut, “City of Strangers,” takes place in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where a wealthy American couple have moved; the wife, who narrates the book, is restless and unhappy. “This is an expansive book tangling big ideas on class and race, marriage and politics,” wrote a reviewer in The Guardian. Noting a “delight in words that is wonderful to read,” the review concluded, “’Feast Days’ is not a thriller, but reads a little like one, moving swiftly from one kind of experience to the next with brutal, dazzling effect.”
“The Man Who Came Uptown” by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown, $15.99). Pelecanos divides his time between detective fiction and TV writing (he’s an Emmy nominee for “Treme” and “The Wire”); his latest book, set in Washington, D.C., involves a private eye, a woman who runs a jail book-group program, and a recently incarcerated young man. The book is “a modern storytelling master’s paean to the power of books, literature, librarians, and booksellers,” wrote an NPR reviewer. “Pelecanos, who has spent time volunteering with prison literacy programs, understands how important the right story can be at the right time for a person, how it can provide the strength and determination to get past deprivation and ignorance and mistakes.”
“Everything’s Trash But It’s Okay” by Phoebe Robinson (Penguin, $16). In this essay collection, the actor, author and comedian (“2 Dope Queens”) “is telling on everybody,” wrote Seattle Times writer Crystal Paul, “including (and mostly really) herself.” In essays about “money, sex, interracial dating, loving our bodies and being an ally,” Robinson presents “a sometimes hilarious, sometimes dead serious, argument for radical honesty and radical self-love in an era when everything is trash. But, as she demonstrates with her own story, if we can be honest, kind to ourselves, and laugh a little, it’ll be OK.”