The year might be winding down, but the bevy of great books that are coming out in November is still very strong. There are a myriad of fascinating reads that are available soon. Looking for something with a little more heft? Jon Meacham’s latest on Abraham Lincoln fits the bill. Two very different Hollywood books also make the list: Quentin Tarantino’s cool Cinema Speculation, and Matthew Perry’s shocking memoir detailing his long history with drug abuse.
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir by Matthew Perry
One of the biggest celebrity memoirs of 2022, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry, a.k.a. Chandler Bing, is both a story of on-set antics and celebrity make-outs, as well as a tell-all of the insidious nature of addiction. There are juicy stories of fame and fortune (the raucous parties, the private jets), love and sex (guess which co-star he had a crush on and what A-list actress he dated and dumped), but what’s the most shocking is the severity of Perry’s addiction—he went through detox a whopping 65 times. Perry divulges what his benders were like, how it started, who helped him, and the lowest lows that he experienced (an anecdote about riffling through people’s medicine cabinets for pills is gutting)—much of which happened when he was starring in one of the hottest, and some could argue most iconic, shows on television. Could he be any more honest? I mean, maybe, but he’s alive and telling his story. So, for that, I think we have to be pretty grateful.
Desert Star by Michael Connelly
Back on the force, Renée Ballard is building her own cold case squad and makes Harry Bosch an offer he grudgingly accepts in Desert Star, their fifth outing together. Connelly is on top form here, as inventive as ever when it comes to employing his vast knowledge of investigative techniques—be they vintage or cutting edge—to underpin stellar plots with the kind of credible details that make the whole thing sing. The diptych plotlines—a grieving brother and a zealous cop, each equally consumed with their own “white whale,” the dead-ended cold cases so personal to both men—up the emotional ante for readers in one of Connelly’s best—a high bar, indeed.
Frankie and Zeke are teenagers—creative oddballs, if you will—who meet over the course of a summer and embark on an art project that takes on a life of its own, forever changing their lives, that of their families, and beyond. Like Wilson’s other novels, your heart will expand as you dive into the world that Frankie and Zeke create together. There’s so much to love about this book: the big questions it raises about art as social transformation and culpability (are you responsible for just what you make or the effect is has on people’s lives?) but the best part is reading about two kids who are having the time of their lives. Their sense of adventure, joyous obsessions, and life-altering friendship is infectious.
Radke whisks us though history, starting with how backsides enabled human evolution two million years ago, to the complicated story of Sarah Bartmann, the owner of the most infamous butt of all time (on display inside a Paris museum until recently), to, yes, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Buns of Steel, and Kim Kardashian. We learn about twerking’s religious roots and why pants never fit (blame the male scientists who dreamed up the “normal” female body in the 1940s). Radke keeps the narrative moving, whether she’s quoting existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir or RuPaul (both are cited in a single paragraph). Yes, butts can be “silly,” Radke explains, but they’re also “tremendously complex symbols, fraught with significance…laden with humor and sex, shame and history…used to create and reinforce racial hierarchies, as a barometer for the virtues of hard work…femininity and humanity.”
And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meacham
We live in a divided country, and so it makes sense to examine the man who was president when the nation suffered an actual schism. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Jon Meacham approaches Lincoln through his education and evolution as a thinker, setting those experiences in parallel with the practical work of politics, grounded by the reality that Lincoln, like all of us, was an imperfect human being. What emerges is a man who very early developed principles and a moral center that would guide him through the highs and lows of his political and personal journey. If one is to take away a message from this highly readable, deeply researched book, it’s that fallible people can achieve great things when they are guided by clear ideals. This book belongs in the upper echelon of Lincoln biographies.
Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur (The Stranger Diaries, The Postscript Murders), the gay, Sikh detective is back, only now she’s a Detective Inspector and newly relocated to London following her promotion. Her first major case involves an overdose at Manor Park—a posh school attended by the children of politicians and rocks stars. Since the victim in this case is Garfield Rice, a controversial member of Parliament, the case promises to be just as high profile as its victim. And it turns out that one of DI Harbinder’s team has a connection to Manor Park, and good reason to keep it hidden. Pair a great, nuanced character (Kaur) with a smart, tight police procedural, and you have an unputdownable winner.
We All Want Impossible Things is such a lovely, readable novel about the messy fullness of being human. The narrative centers around Edi, who is dying of cancer in hospice care, and her best friend, Ash. Their families come together in grief and hilarity, holding it together through the mundane moments of illness mixed with vivid, heart-bursting moments of love. Life is lived on planes like this, the achingly beautiful times that make you feel like everything is amazing, and everything is terrible. I’m not usually a crier, but this novel made me tear up. It also made me smile, and feel warm and fuzzy. The way Newman writes about grief is quirky, devastating—and often very funny. I wanted to befriend the characters, and move into Ash’s family. We’ve spent the past several years losing, changing, and finding joy as we figure out a post-pandemic world. This book embraces how life goes on even when it feels like it can’t. It’s a story as much about living as it is about dying.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir, Becoming, was one of the best-selling books of all time. Now, she’s following it up with The Light We Carry, a new book chock full of advice about staying balanced and hopeful in today’s turbulent world. “Self-knowledge builds confidence, which in turn breeds calmness and an ability to maintain perspective,” she writes in the introduction. “Which leads, finally, to being able to connect meaningfully with others—and this to me is the bedrock of all things.” Readers will learn about the practices that keep Obama grounded, from “going high” and “starting kind” to gathering a “kitchen table” of friends and mentors.
Gilded Mountain by Kate Manning
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Pelletiers, a French-Canadian family, move to Colorado, where a job at a marble quarry promises not just employment but housing. The work is grueling and before long, the father is once again trying to unionize his fellow workers—much to the chagrin of the company foreman. The novel is told by 17-year-old Sylvie Pelletier, a smart, feisty, and determined woman employed by a local newspaper that exposes the harsh working conditions of the workers while the quarry’s owners live in wealthy opulence. The catch? Sylvie falls for the owner’s son and before long she’s immersed in the robber baron world, caught between the man she loves, her family, and the workers struggling to make ends meet. Filled with pluck and the union beliefs of her father, Sylvie is a character you root for—one that believes justice is on her side and will fight to make it so. Gilded Mountain is utterly transporting, a novel that will sweep you off your feet with the promise of adventure, equality, freedom, and, yes, love.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
This weekend I watched the new Netflix Original movie adaptation of Soman Chainani’s fantastic fairytale fantasy, The School for Good and Evil. It’s always tough when you have a book you love—or in this case a series—that’s adapted for the screen. Will the filmmakers be true to the story? Do they capture the same feeling you got from reading the book, even if there’s some cinematic differences? In this case, I was pretty satisfied with the result. The author was involved in the film and was realistic about the limitations of translating the page to the screen. I felt like the movie was true to the gist of the story, and I really enjoyed the special effects and lavish costumes. It’s a mash-up of magic and fairytale, which fits in perfectly with some of the big box office hits of the last decade. If you liked the movie, you’re going to love the book!
Morrison’s new novel is a fascinating exploration of the ethics of prepper culture through the eyes of a teenage girl. Along with her young brother, Haley’s been abducted by their disaster-prepping father, who has funded a bunker with what should have gone to child support payments and is convinced they must stay with his motley crew of camo-clad fanatics for at least three years. Did the apocalypse happen? Or is their father completely delusional? Harrowing, humorous, and featuring a clever and resourceful heroine, How to Survive Everything is the perfect book to read down in your bunker ahem, living room.
Quentin Tarantino grew up going to movies in Hollywood. One might question the parenting decision to take a young child to see Bullitt (and many, many other films of the late ’60s and early ’70s), but it certainly contributed to the formation of his brilliant movie mind. Tarantino’s catalog is deep and wide, and he is here to share it with us. For that we should count ourselves lucky. As I was reading Cinema Speculation, I felt sometimes that I was reading a master class and other times that I was overhearing a conversation at a dinner party. A very cool dinner party. Each page is filled with deep understanding, but there is something else here, too—enjoyment. Tarantino loves movies, and he has a perspective on actors, directors, writers, producers, critics, and movie goers that kept me glued to every page (even when some of the references were flying over my head). This book is intimate, obsessive, and cool, and it is ultimately as enriching as anything I’ve read in a long time.
Foster by Claire Keegan
In Keegan’s latest novella, a girl is dropped off at a farm in rural Ireland to live indefinitely with relatives while her mother awaits the birth of her youngest child. There, young Ann experiences a level of love, care, and attention she didn’t know she was missing. And, in her blooming, her foster parents begin to come to terms with events in their past. Somehow, what Keegan doesn’t put on the page manages to convey as much as what she does. Between what’s written and what’s not breathes an exquisite, tender, and heart-expanding story, as Keegan creates more magic in 128 pages than others could do in 928 pages.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.