Reap autumn’s bounty with the 10 best books of October

It’s a great season for book lovers, with a novel from Oman, a biography of Brando, and a look at the women behind Disney’s memorable animated films. 

Courtesy of Hachette Book Group
“Your House Will Pay” by Steph Cha, Ecco, 320pp; and “The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History” by Nathalia Holt, Little, Brown, 352 pp.

When daylight hours grow shorter and shadows begin to lengthen, many people turn naturally to indoor pursuits – like reading a great book. Our selections this month run the gamut from incisive fiction to dynamic biography.

1. Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Steph Cha has written a gripping novel of two Los Angeles families caught up in racial tensions, murder, and injustice. With honesty and empathy she traces the downward spiral of generational violence and argues for love, grace, and forgiveness to counteract the landscape of hatred. 

2. Grand Union by Zadie Smith

In her first collection of short stories, novelist Zadie Smith explores the complexities of modern life. Writing from an array of perspectives, she directs her keen eye toward shifting social mores, as she examines gender roles, class, race, and relationships. The author’s talent shines through each story.  

3. The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes

Courtesy of Penguin Random House
“The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes, Pamela Dorman Books, 400 pp.

This compelling novel is inspired by the Depression-era rural traveling Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. It follows five remarkable women who band together to face adversities while bringing the wonder of books and literacy to their neighbors. It’s an epic feminist adventure that candidly paints a community’s soul-searching with great humor, heartache, honesty, and love.

4. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Jokha Alharthi offers insight into the lives of two families living in Oman during an era of economic and social change, from the early 20th century to present day. She reveals that things aren’t always how they appear, from the real nature of the grandfather’s business to the remarkable power women wield when the patriarchy dictates that they have none.

5. Metropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson

Christine Coulson’s sublime collection of short stories was inspired by her 25 years working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Shaped by her sparkling imagination, the stories bring to life both the artworks and the lives of characters that work and dream in the museum. 

6. Crusaders by Dan Jones

Dan Jones writes about history with relish and wonderment, as shown by his chronicle of the holy wars. “Crusaders” balances insights on religion, war, and politics with a trove of oddities and absurdities. His tale is steeped in scholarly research and lively writing. Were it not for the violence inherent to his subject matter, you might call it divine.

7. The Contender by William J. Mann 

Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers
“The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando” by William J. Mann, Harper, 718 pp.

Marlon Brando is known not only for his roles in award-winning films such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Godfather,” but also for his social protests. William J. Mann’s biography probes Brando’s enigmatic persona in an illuminating manner. Seen as one of the pioneers of method acting, Brando eschewed labels as quickly as he did compliments. Yet his social activism has become a model for many artists today.

8. Dominion by Tom Holland

An accomplished and gifted author details some of the events and people that made Christianity the most powerful force in the Western world. Even as church pews empty, Christian moral teachings and values – including respect for the dignity of every human being and compassion and love toward others – continue to spread. A welcome and optimistic book.   

9. Artificial Intelligence by Melanie Mitchell

Computer scientist Melanie Mitchell elegantly separates the truth from the hype in this lucid, cleareyed book. She offers a fascinating account of the history of the field while also assessing its current state and future promise.

10. The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt

Nathalia Holt tells in unprecedented detail the story of the women who’ve worked behind the scenes at the Walt Disney Studios over the decades. They fought against sexism and discrimination to make immortal animation classics such as “Fantasia.”

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