10 best books of November: the Monitor's selections

The best titles to be released this month include a novel about Czarist Russia and a look at the politicians who came to power after the Founding Fathers.

1. Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar, by Olga Wojtas

In Olga Wojtas's novel, exquisitely educated Scottish librarian Shona McMonagle (“crème de la crème” alumna of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls) is catapulted on a mission back in time to Czarist Russia. Shona, now known as "Princess Tamsonova" and a mighty linguist, musician, and martial artist, outwits aristocrats and serfs in this hilarious caper of manners and mayhem. It's a tour de force debut novel.

2. All the Lives We Never Lived, by Anuradha Roy

The themes of freedom and revolution echo through the book as an older gentleman pieces together childhood memories of his artistic mother as he tries to understand why she abandoned him so many years ago. Set in the 1980s, his tale reaches back to India’s fomenting pre-revolutionary era that led up to World War II, and the insights and lessons ring just as true today.

3. The War Before the War, by Andrew Delbanco

"War" is a richly detailed, thought-provoking, and compelling chronicle of how fugitive slaves made the North and South grow further apart. Author Andrew Delbanco details how those who ran away from their masters brought the reality of what slavery was actually like to Northerners' doorsteps.

4. The End of the End of the Earth, by Jonathan Franzen

The new work from acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen is a collection of crystalline thought pieces and nonfiction stories. The subject matter is varied and includes his beloved birds and his rules for a novelist.

5. Heirs of the Founders, by H.W. Brands

Yes, there was Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Adams – but what about the generation of politicians that was born during the American Revolution and had to lead after the Founding Fathers? H.W. Brands's new book explores the political careers of figures including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun, political rockstars who inherited both the glories and flaws of the US Constitution.

6. Fryderyk Chopin, by Alan Walker

Alan Walker's thorough biography leaves Chopin's legacy as pure and poetic as his “Polonaise, Op. 53 in A Flat Major.” This work will probably be a top contender for literary biography prizes.

7. The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots, by Kate Williams

Most readers likely know (or think they know) the story of the 16th-century monarch. Author Kate Williams expertly and entertainingly tells the story of the queen's life and its end, brought about by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

8. The Tale of Cho Ung, translated by Sookja Cho

The fascinating story, which became popular in Choson Korea, is translated into English for the first time. Translator Sookja Cho manages to motivate scholars to build on the foundation she has created and inform English-speaking readers about the classic.

9. Churchill, by Andrew Roberts

New material, including transcripts from War Cabinet meetings and King George VI's diary, allows Roberts to give more insight into the legendary statesman.

10. We Begin in Gladness, by Craig Morgan Teicher

Author Craig Morgan Teicher explains how poets teach themselves to write their best in his latest book (the title is from William Wordsworth). Teicher’s best insights are ultimately about poetry’s connection to the sublime.

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