We're back with the top 10 books of November, just in time for the first of your holiday breaks. Take the opportunity to slow down and reflect with these excellent reads.
1. On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl
This remarkable debut novel takes an unflinching look at America in the 1950s through the friendship of a young newlywed and her brother-in-law. For those willing to look past some salty language, they’ll discover a poignant tale of two misfits who chafe against societal expectations.
2. All Blood Runs Red by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin
Eugene Bullard had a dramatic career, including stints as a boxer, performer, volunteer in the French Foreign Legion during World War I, first African American combat pilot in World War II, Paris nightclub owner, and spy. Like his life, this book takes surprising twists and turns to give an engaging portrait of a true free spirit.
3. My Penguin Year by Lindsay McCrae
Filmmaker Lindsay McCrae jumped at the opportunity to document the life cycle of the emperor penguin. The catch: He had to relocate to the harshest environment on earth for 11 months, miss the birth of his first child, and work in bitterly cold temperatures. His story reveals the brutal beauty of Antarctica and its most beloved creature.
4. The Mutual Admiration Society by Mo Moulton
Dorothy L. Sayers is loved for her Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels. She also wrote theological plays and translated Dante. Sayers and her Oxford friends used “old school ties” not in self-service but to democratize intellectual life. The book offers a window into arts, letters, and feminism in Britain, spanning two world wars.
5. The Ship of Dreams by Gareth Russell
Gareth Russell’s compelling and wonderfully written account looks at the broader social implications of the Titanic disaster. He follows just a dozen of the 2,435 passengers, tracing what the ship, the voyage, and the catastrophe meant in their lives.
6. Busted in New York and Other Essays by Darryl Pinckney
In his latest collection of essays, Darryl Pinckney examines American history as it pertains to the black experience. His thoughtful analysis of political movements and cultural moments range from the formation of the Black Panther Party to the social implications in the Barry Jenkins’ film “Moonlight.” Pinckney’s literary voice isn’t just strong – it’s more important than ever.
7. The Movie Musical! by Jeanine Basinger
This comprehensive but highly readable history of the durable genre ranges from “The Jazz Singer” in 1927 to “La La Land” in 2016 and includes just about everything in between. Reader beware: The book will have you rushing to Netflix to revisit an old favorite or discover a new treasure. Strike up the band!
8. Battling Bella by Leandra Ruth Zarnow
Leandra Ruth Zarnow’s book is every bit as vigorous and truth-telling as its subject, U.S. congresswoman and invaluable public gadfly Bella Abzug, who argued loudly and persuasively for gender equality, environmental common sense, gay rights, and a generally more compassionate public sector. It’s a first-rate political biography.
9. Good Things Out of Nazareth edited by Ben Alexander
In between writing her sometimes unsettling, always unique works of Southern fiction, including the novel “Wise Blood,” Flannery O’Connor found time to generate a mountain of correspondence. This book, the third gathering of her letters assembled since her death in 1964, shines light on her Roman Catholic faith, barbed wit, and vivid writing style. By including letters from literary peers, such as Caroline Gordon and Walker Percy, editor Ben Alexander efficiently evokes an entire literary epoch.
10. Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia
Historian Ted Gioia asserts that music history generally shares the whitewashed stories of the assimilators. The truth, he says, can be found with the disrupters, the musicians who innovated despite cultural upheaval or, sometimes, in response to it. Exhaustively researched, Gioia reaches back to the ancient Greeks and J.S. Bach, through to Elvis Presley and Jay-Z, to illustrate his points.