Benson and Mike are at a turning point in their relationship when family arrives and changes everything for them. Living together in Houston, the couple—though still passionately attracted to one another—is on the verge of breaking up when Mike’s mother arrives from Japan for a visit. Mike, whose divorced Japanese parents both moved back overseas, discovers his father is extremely ill and decides to visit him. Benson is stuck playing host to Mike’s mom, Mitsuko, while Mike begins to learn about his family’s past as he plays caretaker of his father, Eiju. How will these family interactions change the couple?
Chicago, to Cal Hooper, is where he spent 25 years as a cop, where his wife left him, where his grown-up daughter doesn’t need him anymore. When he left, he was looking for a place as unlike Chicago as possible, and he was pretty sure he found it in the small Irish village he chose as his new home. But you know what they say—wherever you go, there you are. Trey, a boy whose brother has gone missing, finds out that Cal is a former cop and badgers him into helping him. Will Cal find the brother? Or himself?
The Lost Love Song
Arie and Diana have spent seven years becoming intertwined in one another’s lives when the melody of their relationship is cut short by tragedy. Diana dies in a plane crash on her way back to Australia from her latest tour, leaving Arie bereft and grieving. Before she died, Diana had managed to finally finish a love song she’d been composing, and she played it for an audience to try it out. A member of that audience brings the song back to London and his daughter, and from there, the melody begins to make its way back to Arie.
Matthew McConaughey (yes, the Academy Award-winning actor you’re thinking of) kept journals for most of his life. Recently, his wife allegedly “gave [him] a kick in the backside to say, ‘You’ve been talking about sitting down with those for 36 years and seeing what it is for a while. Now’s the time. Get out of here.'” So, he did. For 52 days, McConaughey pored over the journals in an electricity-less dwelling in a desert and realized he had the makings of a book on his hands. His candid memoir is a guidebook too, for catching the green lights on life’s road.
Love Your Life
Ava is tired of meeting men on dating apps, especially after her recent breakup. Deciding to make a move based on her own ambitions rather than keep pursuing men for a while, she decides to go to a writer’s retreat in Italy. The retreat is quirky—no real names are allowed—and soon gets invaded by some martial artists who were at a neighboring retreat that gets canceled. It’s then that Ava (going by Aria) meets Matt (pseudonym: Dutch), and a steamy affair ensues. But can Aria and Dutch make the transition into Ava and Matt and still like (love?) each other?
The wars the U.S. instigated after September 11, 2001 have left their scars on millions—but what happens when people leave those wars for other conflicts? In his debut novel, Phil Klay takes readers into the complex realities of one of those “wars right now where we’re not losing.” That’s where Lisette, a journalist, asked to go, tired of covering a forever-war, but Colombia, where she’s sent, is not so simple. Lisette, Mason (an American liaison with the Colombian military), Juan Pablo (a Colombian military officer) and Abel (a militia foot soldier) will all meet eventually—but to what end?
The Purpose of Power
By the time Alicia Garza co-founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network and the Black Futures Lab, she was already a seasoned activist and had learned some hard lessons about the work she was doing. Much like in other spheres, activist networks could be stratified, often led by men, exclusionary to some; that wasn’t the kind of movement Garza wanted to build. As a queer Black woman, she knew all too well how easily the woke can talk the talk without walking the walk. In this book, she shares what she’s learned and how about building leader-full and inclusive activist spaces.
The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop
In a fit of true Southern hospitality, Fannie Flagg invites readers back to the beloved world of Whistle Stop, the setting of her now-classic 1987 novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Bud Threadgoode, raised by his mother Ruth and her lover Idgie, is an old man himself by now, a widower living in Atlanta, far from the ruins of his hometown, Whistle Stop. In need of some good nostalgia, Bud decides to go see the boarded up ghost town once more, and sets a series of events in motion that will teach him new things about Whistle Stop, its community, and himself.
Riva Lehrer is a woman, an artist, a teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Medical Humanities Departments of Northwestern University. She also inhabits a body that her parents and doctors refused to celebrate, determined instead to try to fix it, teaching Lehrer early on that she was broken. Lehrer grew up to find community and vitality, the complexities of pleasure and the challenges of an artist’s career, and redefined disability as a social problem rather than one inherent to a person’s body. She lays out her art, work, and life in this stirring memoir.
This Just Speaks to Me
In difficult times, hope isn’t always easy to find or access, and it’s easy to fall into cynicism and fear. While valid, fear tends to keep us stuck, whereas hope helps us move forward. Journalist, author, and NBC News’s Today anchor Hoda Kotb offers in her newest book a full year—365 days—of her favorite quotes, aphorisms, and life lessons. Using her own experiences as well as the inspirational acts of kindness she’s witnessed even amidst challenges and difficulties. Using her words as a daily meditation or inspiration is sure to give readers hope and strength to keep going.
A Time for Mercy
The year is 1990, the place is Clanton, Mississippi, and the client is Drew Gamble. He may only be 16, but he’s seen his mom get beat up by Stuart Kofer one too many times. Accused of murdering Kofer, Drew is being threatened with the death penalty, despite his age, and lawyer Jake Brigance needs to figure out the truth behind what really happened and defend Drew properly. Perhaps the worst wrinkle in the whole case? Stuart Kofer was a police officer—a violent man, yes, but a cop nonetheless. Jake has his work cut out for him in Grisham’s latest.
Ties That Tether
Azere Izoduwa emigrated to Canada with her parents from Nigeria when she was young, and at 12, she made a promise to her dying father: that she would marry an Edo Nigerian man one day, so as to keep the family’s culture alive, even in Toronto. Now an adult, Azere is a creative director at an ad agency and unhappily single. Her mother has been trying to matchmake her with the pool of eligible men her father would have approved of, but to no avail. When Azere meets Rafael, sparks fly—but he’s not Nigerian. Can Azere break her promise?
Sylvia Plath is often oversimplified in popular memory: she’s the queen of sad girls, or a witchy death-goddess, or an abused woman, or that crazy poet who stuck her head in the oven. But Plath and her artistic body of work remain in popular memory for reasons that go beyond those flattening descriptors, and in this definitive biography, longtime Plath scholar Heather Clarke brings the young poet to full, vivid, nuanced life. Accessing more of her unpublished writings than other biographers, Clarke shows how Plath was a complex figure in a time when her ambitions were often brushed aside.
Daughter of Black Lake
Cathy Marie Buchanan
Set in the first century AD—not that they would have called it that—Daughter of Black Lake brings to life a pre-Christian Britannia, when survival depended on the blessings of the earth, hard work, and community care. Devout, who has lived on the misty bog her whole life, is trying to raise her daughter, Hobble, in an ever-changing world. Their land is being encroached upon by the Roman armies of Emperor Claudius, and if the invaders weren’t enough, famine has reshaped everything long held dear. Hobble’s visions foretell a Roman attack, even as another stranger, a druid, arrives in the settlement.
Crazy Stupid Bromance
Lyssa Kay Adams
Alexis Carlisle is feeling like her life is back on track after the rocky period when she and several other women came forward to reveal the serial sexual harassment they endured from a celebrity chef. She has her cat cafe, ToeBeans, a best friend she adores, and she still holds space for other women who’ve gone through similar things. When a woman named Candi comes to the cafe to talk to her, Alexis is sure it’s about a shared experience of assault—but instead, it’s about a shared father, a man Alexis has never known, but who needs her now.
Nothing Much Happens
Kathryn Nicolai has already helped put tons of people to sleep—which is precisely her goal with her podcast, Nothing Much Happens. In this book, complete with illustrations, recipes, and meditations, she shares some of the classic bedtime stories beloved by listeners everywhere, along with 16 new stories that are just as soothing and calming. With a focus on warm and cozy sensory details, Nicolai’s stories can help readers tap into a mindfully calm place that helps them return to their bodies and imagine away their worries until they can fall asleep or simply ease the tension of the day.
Three Little Truths
Edie Rice has been one of the newest arrivals in her suburban Irish neighborhood for a bit too long, and she’s overjoyed when a new family moves in down the road. She’s especially glad when she meets one of them, Martha Rigby, and gets to share with the other neighborhood gossips that the family moved away from their previous home due to some kind of tragic event. Robin Dwyer, a single mom who’s needed to move herself and her four-year-old son back in with her parents, begins theorizing about Martha while Edie plays amateur sleuth. Secrets, lies, and drama ensue in this novel described as “Big Little Lies in Ireland.”
If Read It Forward’s weekly and monthly book recommendations aren’t enough for you, or even if they are but you’re looking to rediscover older books, there are few people more qualified than Michiko Kakutani—Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic formerly of the New York Times—to give you reading recommendations. Kakutani expresses her love of over 130 books through brief yet illuminating essays dedicated to each of the reads, which span all genres, from fiction and nonfiction to poetry, from memoir and biography to political and environment analyses, from children’s books to young adult and more. Old favorites and surprising picks abound.
I'll Be Seeing You
Bestselling novelist Elizabeth Berg certainly doesn’t feel like an old woman, regardless of her technically septuagenarian status—but then again, she also didn’t truly feel her parents were old until her father’s Alzheimer’s required that they move out of their comfortable and familiar home in Minnesota and into an assisted living facility. In this memoir, she celebrates her parents’ long and loving relationship while also reckoning with the complexity of rediscovering one’s parents through changing circumstances. As her father changed through his illness, so did her mother through resentment of it, while Berg tried to be there and love them despite it all.
October is one of the best months of the year, usually full of changing leaves, crisp cool nights, planning costumes, trick or treating, and other autumnal and/or spooky activities. While we may need to enjoy some of these in a modified version this year, we certainly don’t want to modify a thing about our monthly list! We invite you to get away from upcoming election stress for a bit and check out the best new books of October 2020: we’ve got romances galore, touching and astute memoirs, historical fiction to transport you elsewhere, and contemporary novels full of gorgeous prose. Enjoy these wonderful books all month long!