In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, I’ve been reflecting on all the things that I am grateful for! Of course, my loved ones are on that list, but after my family and friends, a good book easily places third. An immersive novel just makes my day, but I especially appreciate stories that make me reflect even further upon my life. Fortunately, this October’s new paperback selection is full of thoughtful messaging that discusses a wide variety of relevant themes and will make you truly ponder what is important for everyone!
THE LAST CHAIRLIFT tells Adam Brewster’s story from childhood to old age: how he grew up with a single mother and a nontraditional family of unique personalities, navigated the complicated sexual lives of various women he meets, worked on writing and editing books, and throughout it all been on the hunt to track down and finally meet his biological father. This character-driven novel will whisk you away on the wonderful, turbulent life of Adam, and will get you thinking about all the unexpected people you’ve met in your own time and how you would not nearly be the person you are today without each unique interaction.
John Irving’s fifteenth novel is “powerfully cinematic” (The Washington Post) and “eminently readable” (The Boston Globe). The Last Chairlift is part ghost story, part love story, spanning eight decades of sexual politics.
In Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. Little Ray, as she is called, finishes nowhere near the podium, but she manages to get pregnant. Back home, in New England, Little Ray becomes a ski instructor.
Her son, Adam, grows up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past. Years later, looking for answers, he will go to Aspen. In the Hotel Jerome, where he was conceived, Adam will meet some ghosts; in The Last Chairlift, they aren’t the first or last ghosts he sees.
John Irving has written some of the most acclaimed books of our time—among them, The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. A visionary voice on the subject of sexual tolerance, Irving is a bard of alternative families. In the “generously intertextual” (The New York Times) The Last Chairlift, readers will once more be in his thrall.
The snowbound mountains of 1900s Colorado is the perfect backdrop for Sylvie Pelletier’s coming-of-age story in which she must navigate the tough challenges life throws at her. Her home is a run-down shack, and her family is supported solely through her father’s dangerous mining job, so Sylvie wants to do anything she can do to help. However, when she finally lands work at the local newspaper, making money presents a unique conflict of interest: the paper wants to print an exposé about the exact mine that employs her father. GILDED MOUNTAIN may be a work of historical fiction but the themes of family, classism, and the power of speaking up are all relevant to today’s modern climate.
“Immersive…awe-inspiring.” —The New York Times “An epic story of love, hope, and perseverance.” — #1 New York Times bestselling author Christina Baker Kline
This “stellar read” (Los Angeles Times) is an exhilarating tale of an unforgettable young woman who bravely exposes the corruption that enriched her father’s employers in early 1900s Colorado.
In a voice infused with sly humor, Sylvie Pelletier recounts leaving her family’s snowbound mountain cabin to work in a manor house for the Padgetts, owners of the marble-mining company that employs her father and dominates the town. Sharp-eyed Sylvie is awed by the luxury around her; fascinated by her employer, the charming “Countess” Inge, and confused by the erratic affections of Jasper, the bookish heir to the family fortune. Her fairy-tale ideas take a dark turn when she realizes the Padgetts’ lofty philosophical talk is at odds with the unfair labor practices that have enriched them. Their servants, the Gradys, formerly enslaved people, have long known this to be true and are making plans to form a utopian community on the Colorado prairie.
Outside the manor walls, the town of Moonstone is roiling with discontent. A handsome union organizer, along with labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, is stirring up the quarry workers. The editor of the local newspaper—a bold woman who takes Sylvie on as an apprentice—is publishing unflattering accounts of the Padgett Company. Sylvie navigates vastly different worlds and struggles to find her way amid conflicting loyalties. When the harsh winter brings tragedy, Sylvie decides to act.
Drawn from true stories of Colorado history, Gilded Mountain is a tale of a bygone American West seized by robber barons and settled by immigrants, and is a story imbued with longing—for self-expression and equality, freedom and adventure.
Witches, curses, and ghosts, oh my! Dr. Alice Christopher is leading a group of researchers into the fabled Cursed Woods—the very woods that Captain Davies reported mythological creatures and mysterious disappearances in back in the year 1643. These women are confident in their safety, after all their scientific mindset leads them to believe that all these stories are simply just legends, but when eerie things start happening on the campsite and the archeology is strangely unexplainable, it becomes unclear if Dr. Christopher’s team will be able to live to actually report their findings. Both uneasy and thrilling, THE DARK BETWEEN THE TREES is a nail-biting journey that will have you rooting for the scientists while also pondering the realities of how to balance ambition and safety.
An unforgettable, surrealist gothic folk-thriller with commercial crossover appeal from a brilliant new voice.
1643: A small group of Parliamentarian soldiers are ambushed in an isolated part of Northern England. Their only hope for survival is to flee into the nearby Moresby Wood... unwise though that may seem. For Moresby Wood is known to be an unnatural place, the realm of witchcraft and shadows, where the devil is said to go walking by moonlight...
Seventeen men enter the wood. Only two are ever seen again, and the stories they tell of what happened make no sense. Stories of shifting landscapes, of trees that appear and disappear at will... and of something else. Something dark. Something hungry.
Today: five women are headed into Moresby Wood to discover, once and for all, what happened to that unfortunate group of soldiers. Led by Dr Alice Christopher, an historian who has devoted her entire academic career to uncovering the secrets of Moresby Wood. Armed with metal detectors, GPS units, mobile phones and the most recent map of the area (which is nearly 50 years old), Dr Christopher’s group enters the wood ready for anything.
Or so they think...
What brings a family together? Well, for the Pennington half-siblings, it is the whims of absentee father Cyril that finally unites the five of them. Cyril believes it important for his children, who were all born to different mothers, to meet once they have all reached sexually active age so that none of them unknowingly commit incest with one another. A decade later, middle daughter Dimple decides that it’s important for the five of them to have actual, real familial relationships with each other beyond just knowing about one another’s existence. Navigating such a change is quite difficult for these new adults, but the ensuing commentary on family dynamics is unmatched. PEOPLE PERSON depicts the fine line between avoiding the toxicity of family and embracing the sense of belonging it can bring, all while depicting the incredibly impactful role a father can have on a child’s life.
The author of the “brazenly hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is first novel” (Oprah Daily) Queenie returns with another witty and insightful “treat” (Jesse Armstrong, creator of Succession) of a novel about the power of family—even when they seem like strangers.
If you could choose your family...you wouldn’t choose the Penningtons.
Dimple Pennington knows of her half-siblings, but she doesn’t really know them. Five people who don’t have anything in common except for faint memories of being driven through Brixton in their dad’s gold jeep, and some pretty complex abandonment issues. Dimple has bigger things to think about.
She’s thirty, and her life isn’t really going anywhere. An aspiring lifestyle influencer with a wayward boyfriend, Dimple’s life has shrunk to the size of a phone screen. And despite a small but loyal following, she’s never felt more alone in her life. That is, until a dramatic event brings her half-siblings—Nikisha, Danny, Lizzie, and Prynce—crashing back into her life. And when they’re all forced to reconnect with Cyril Pennington, the absent father they never really knew, things get even more complicated.
Vibrant and charming, People Person is “a way-out combination of family drama, madcap plot, and political edge” (Kirkus Reviews).
Dungeons and Dragons may be a familiar staple of American culture, but it is completely foreign to North Korean boy Jun-su, whose life is changed when he discovers an abandoned copy of The Dungeon Master’s Guide. There is no better form of escapism for him than roleplaying as a hero in an unfamiliar yet welcoming world. However, the real magic comes from Jun-su’s ability to draw parallels between the colorfully fantastical world of magic and adventures to his own experiences with the harsh realities of the oppressive North Korean regime, in order to better understand the injustices he faces. This is a coming-of-age novel that blends imagination with historical fiction through a young boy who learns how to work through his complicated emotions about the world he is growing up in.
Written “with intelligence, compassion, and an occasional quiet lyricism” (Krys Lee, The Guardian), this mesmerizing novel is about a North Korean boy whose life is irrevocably changed when he stumbles across a mysterious Western book—a guide to Dungeons & Dragons—from the acclaimed author of the “sublime” (The New York Times) Far North.
Ten-year-old Jun-su is a bright and obedient boy whose only desire is to be a credit to his family, his nation, and most importantly, his Dear Leader. However, when he discovers a copy of The Dungeon Master’s Guide, left behind in a hotel room by a rare foreign visitor, a new and colorful world opens up to him.
With the help of an English-speaking teacher, Jun-su deciphers the rules of the famous role-playing game and his imaginary adventures sweep him away from the harsh reality of a famine-stricken North Korea. Over time, the game leads Jun-su on a spellbinding and unexpected journey through the hidden layers of his country, toward precocious success, glory, love, betrayal, prison, a spell at the pinnacle of the North Korean elite, and an extraordinary kind of redemption.
An “expert, engrossing” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and uplifting novel, The Sorcerer of Pyongyang is a love story and a tale of survival against the odds. Inspired by the testimony of North Korean refugees and drawing on the author’s personal experience of North Korea, it explores the power of empathy and imagination in a society where they are dangerous liabilities.
In this investigative analysis of a man’s murderous motives, Grayson Hale claims that he is innocent in intent, even if he did actually kill his college classmate, Liam Stewart. No, Grayson did not want Liam dead; it was the Devil that urged action and Grayson was merely just playing Devil’s Advocate. What comes to light when Grayson’s memoir manuscript is found after his own grisly suicide in prison turns the murder into a mystery: was the Devil actually the one to blame? Or had Grayson’s psyche deteriorated as a result of a troubled upbringing and past that he only believed he was doing the Devil’s bidding? This is a genius book with a unique atmosphere that encourages engaging thoughts over the role of fear—especially fear of the Devil—in our actions.
This “disorienting, creepy, paranoia-inducing reimagining of the devil-made-me-do-it tale” (Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World) follows the harrowing downfall of a tortured graduate student arrested for murder.
Grayson Hale, the most infamous murderer in Scotland, is better known by a different name: the Devil’s Advocate. The twenty-five-year-old American grad student rose to instant notoriety when he confessed to the slaughter of his classmate Liam Stewart, claiming the Devil made him do it.
When Hale is found hanged in his prison cell, officers uncover a handwritten manuscript that promises to answer the question that’s haunted the nation for years: was Hale a lunatic, or had he been telling the truth all along?
The first-person narrative reveals an acerbic young atheist, newly enrolled at the University of Edinburgh to carry on the legacy of his recently deceased father. In need of cash, he takes a job ghostwriting a mysterious book for a dark stranger—but he has misgivings when the project begins to reawaken his satanophobia, a rare condition that causes him to live in terror that the Devil is after him. As he struggles to disentangle fact from fear, Grayson’s world is turned upside-down after events force him to confront his growing suspicion that he’s working for the one he has feared all this time—and that the book is only the beginning of their partnership.
“A modern-day Gothic tale with claws” (Jennifer Fawcett, author of Beneath the Stairs), A History of Fear marries dread-inducing atmosphere with heart-palpitating storytelling.
No one had ever questioned the gift bestowed on the island of Lute, despite its dire requirements: in exchange for a beautiful, idyllic, free-of-war land where inhabitants enjoy good fortune, good health, and good weather all year around, seven residents must be sacrificed every seven years. When Nina Treadway comes into town, as the new bride of Lord Hugh Treadway, she believes that something should be done, especially as The Day is fast approaching. In fact, through the lens of an incoming outsider, Lute is not nearly as perfect and tranquil as it is supposed to be. It is instead eerie and off-putting in a way that can’t be pinpointed, and stuck in a different time. This is a tense folk horror dystopia story that will make you question the way you think about death, sacrifice, and cultural differences.
If you’re looking for a spooky mood-setting collection for this Halloween season, Audrey Niffenegger has curated the perfect selection of ghost stories, paired alongside artistically charming and unique illustrations. This is a great introduction into a wide variety of authors, with Edgar Allen Poe, Edith Wharton, and of course, Audrey Niffenegger herself, among the creatives featured here. Stories about eerie crimes, romances gone awry, creepy children’s sleepovers—any type of scary tale you can think, they are all here!
Selected and introduced by the bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry—including Audrey Niffenegger’s own stunning illustrations for each piece—this is a “spine-tingling” (Chicago Tribune) collection of some of the best ghost stories of all time.
From Edgar Allen Poe to Kelly Link, MR James to Neil Gaiman, HH Munro to Audrey Niffenegger herself, Ghostly spans the whole history of the ghost story genre from gothic horror to the modern era. Each story is introduced by Audrey Niffenegger, with short original commentary and background on why she chose to include it. Also included is Niffenegger’s own story, “A Secret Life with Cats.”
Perfect for the classic and contemporary ghost story aficionado, this haunting volume showcases the best of the best in the field—including Edgar Allan Poe, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Ray Bradbury, and so many more. “Audrey Niffenegger is a master of the supernatural…She knows a good horror story when she sees one. Ghostly is her collection of the best of the genre” (Bustle).
It’s like a feel-good sitcom and a tribute to the realities of sisterhood wrapped in one: THE FREDERICK SISTERS ARE LIVING THE DREAM tells the story of three sisters who are trying to navigate through the challenges of life. Maggie has finally left her awful husband and is figuring out the whole single-motherhood thing when she gets a concerning call that her older sister Ginny needs help; Ginny, with her developmental disabilities and difficulties taking care of herself, has an even harder time living life as a diabetic after she overdoses on Jell-O; and Betsy, the eldest sister, is missing in action as she spends her days surfing the sea away from her problems. A discussion about familial burdens, responsibilities, and obligations as well as the bonds of love, duty, the novel concerns, above all else, sisterhood.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine meets Early Morning Riser with a dash of Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this “funny and insightful” (Real Simple) novel about one woman whose life is turned upside down when she becomes caregiver to her sister with special needs.
Every family has its fault lines, and when Maggie gets a call from the ER in Maryland where her older sister lives, the cracks start to appear. Ginny, her sugar-loving and diabetic older sister with intellectual disabilities, has overdosed on strawberry Jell-O.
Maggie knows Ginny really can’t live on her own, so she brings her sister and her occasionally vicious dog to live near her in upstate New York. Their other sister, Betsy, is against the idea but as a professional surfer, she is conveniently thousands of miles away.
Thus, Maggie’s life as a caretaker begins. It will take all of her dark humor and patience, already spread thin after a separation, raising two boys, freelancing, an ex who just won’t go away, and starting a dating life, to deal with Ginny’s diapers, sugar addiction, porn habit, and refusal to cooperate. “The Frederick sisters will have you laughing out loud—often through tears—in this roller coaster ride of a novel that explores what it means to be family” (Tracey Lange, New York Times bestselling author).
In this second installment of the Wolf Den Trilogy, Amara is adjusting to her new life after being freed from the brothel she was forced to work in. She may not be enslaved anymore but she still belongs to her patron, Rufus, someone who eerily reminds her of her previous owner—a horrible man named Felix—and who prevents her from seeing the sisterhood of girls she used to work with. There are many challenges to being a concubine in 75 AD Pompeii, especially as Amara begins to fall for a man that isn’t her owner, but she is determined to find a balance between survival and protecting the people she loves even if it seems impossible to do so.
Photo credit: iStock / Richard Villalon