October is the scariest month, with skeletons decorating our neighborhoods and a critical election looming. Not to mention the pandemic. Maybe you want to counterprogram your reading with a rom-com or cozy mystery, something you know will have a happy ending. I recently enjoyed the audiobook of Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn (Kensington, Jan. 1), a romance that felt made just for me—its heroine is a calligrapher who looks for letters everywhere, more specifically within a few blocks of both my home and office—and I’m sure any book-loving romance fan will enjoy it, too.
But if you want to lean into October’s anxiety, now’s the time to catch up with Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer (Doubleday, 2018), which is also excellent on audiobook. Narrator Adepero Oduye captures the book’s dryly comic tone. Then, with your nerves stoked, move on to Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind (Ecco, Oct. 6), which follows two families uneasily sharing a Hamptons house as the world beyond their driveway seems to go haywire. “Alam’s story unfolds like a dystopian fever dream cloaked in the trappings of a dream vacation: Why do hundreds of deer show up in the house’s well-maintained backyard or a flock of bright-pink flamingos frolic in the family pool and then fly away?” our review asks. “Addressing race, risk, retreat, and the ripple effects of a national emergency, Alam’s novel is just in time for this moment.”
Then you could move on to Marie Ndiaye’s That Time of Year, translated by Jordan Stump (Two Lines, Sept. 8), a Kafkaesque fable about a Parisian man who never anticipated the havoc his family would cause by staying one day past the end of August in the village where they spend their summers. “Utterly compelling in tone, plot, and style, this slim, sleek story has a veneer of sly sophistication that belies the horror of malignancy within the village and Herman himself,” our review said. “Part ghost story, part satiric horror, this gorgeously eerie book will keep you holding your breath even past the end.”
Or, for something totally different, try Bad Island by Stanley Donwood (Norton, Oct. 27), a wordless graphic novel told entirely in bold black-and-white linocut images, exploring the horrors that befall a small island in the middle of a roiling ocean. They include monsters real, mythical, and human-made. “A picture book of the damned,” our review calls it. “Devoured quickly and savored for days.”
If our current predicament is too much for you, Stuart Turton’s The Devil and the Dark Water (Sourcebooks Landmark, Oct. 6) will whisk you back to 1634 and place you onboard the Saardam, a merchant vessel heading back to Amsterdam from the East Indies. There are murders, storms, and secrets, and among the crew and passengers, “fear spreads that an evil spirit is responsible.” Our review calls it “a devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies.”
V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (Tor, Oct. 6) is the perfect book if you want to dip into the supernatural without being scared to death. Three hundred years ago, Adeline made a deal with darkness: She would live as long as she wanted, giving over her soul when she was tired of life. The drawback: No one remembers her once she leaves their sight. Until Henry. “This spellbinding story unspools in multiple timelines as Addie moves through history, learning the rules of her curse and the whims of her captor,” our review says. “This is the kind of book you stay up all night reading—rich and satisfying and strange and impeccably crafted.” Just what we all need this month.
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.