Top Reads for October

There are plenty of buzzy books to keep you company indoors as the days get shorter and the air gets crisper. Grab a pumpkin spice latte, eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup you intended to give out for Halloween, and start hibernating with these top picks, including: The newest Haruki Murakami novel, Hank Green’s debut, and an LGBT YA novel for LGBT History Month.

Killing Commendatore (coming October 9)

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Alex: The giant of Japanese fiction is back with a new behemoth of a novel. Killing Commendatore hits all the classic Murakami touchstones: a mild-mannered protagonist; a mysterious stranger; odd, supernatural phenomena; lingering tensions from WWII; and those hypnotic descriptions of quotidian life in Japan that alter your mood and mindset, even after you close the book. The novel tells the story of a talented but directionless portrait painter who, following his divorce, moves into the former home of a famous painter. There he becomes entangled with Mr. Menshiki, an eccentric millionaire who lives across the valley, and his obsession with the young girl who may or may not be his daughter. (There are, as you might’ve gathered, several nods to The Great Gatsby.) From there the story progresses into the surreal, including an inexplicable ringing bell, the physical manifestation of an idea, and the demands of a painting on its maker and its viewers. Murakami’s unfortunate tendency to sexualize young girls is present here, as well, which is distracting and discomfiting (especially in the present climate). Still, it’s an engaging and entertaining read, and Murakami’s fans — among whom I count myself — will be well-satisfied with it.

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

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Marissa: Dear America describes both the often misunderstood complexities of undocumented immigration and Jose Antonio Vargas’ experience as one of the most prominent undocumented immigrants. Though insightful and illuminating, these examinations of public discourse are far less compelling than his portrait of the immigrant experience, made only more emotionally complicated by his undocumented status. His story of leaving the Philippines at 12-years-old and struggling to reconcile familial expectation with his newfound sense of individualism in America is a story that would resonate with many first-generation Americans. But after finding out he is undocumented at 16, Vargas grapples with resentment, guilt, and fear of discovery. The book explores the impact of living under that cloud of complicated emotion, and the profound effect it has on his sense of belonging and his sense of worth.

At times, his emotional examination is heart-wrenching, such as his description of feeling unworthy of taking advantage of free experiences like museums, or winning a Pulitzer and only worrying that it put him at more risk. In its best moments, Dear America is a poignant story of finding a place to belong, and how you can define your own sense of self without a home to anchor to.

You can watch our upcoming #ScribdChat with Jose Antonio Vargas on October 18, 2018, at 6:00pm PT on Facebook.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

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Stephanie: April May never wanted to be Internet famous. But, walking home early one morning after pulling an all-nighter at her startup job, she runs into something strange: a 10-foot-tall Transformer-like robot, decked out in samurai armor smack in the middle of the Flatiron District in New York City. Frustrated by the fast-paced, nothing-is-that-impressive culture of the city, she calls her best friend, a videographer named Andy, out of bed to document the moment. Is it an art sculpture? A political statement? Neither are quite sure, but April and Andy record a playful, faux interview with the robot to find out, and upload it to YouTube later that day. The video quickly goes viral and what unfolds is a wild and unexpected adventure that evolves from a local mystery into an international phenomenon.

Hank Green — whose videos have collectively garnered more than 2 billion views on YouTube — draws from his own experience as a beloved internet icon to carefully comment on fame and the current political climate. The result is a multi-layered, highly entertaining, and thought-provoking debut novel.

Watch our #ScribdChat with Hank Green on Facebook.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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Ashley: The Miseducation of Cameron Post may be one of the most talked about books this LGBT History Month, thanks to the recent release of a critically acclaimed movie adaptation. Emily M. Danforth’s debut meanders its way into your heart, less a gut punch and more a pressure that builds and builds upon many quiet moments. The titular Cameron Post walks you through many years of her life: From the first time she kissed another girl at age 12, to the relief she felt when she finds out both her parents have died and will never know she’s a lesbian, to her many other secret (and unfortunately not-so-secret) girl-on-girl crushes she pursues in her small town in Montana, to her life at God’s Promise, a religious gay conversion camp. There’s a great tragedy to all this time lapsing: The book takes place in the early ’90s and captures the particular intolerances of those years in heartbreaking detail, yet only in 2018 have states started to get serious about banning gay conversion therapy. An important novel about one young woman staying steadfastly who she is against the evils of ignorance.

Waiting for Eden

Alex (again!): Elliot Ackerman’s slim new novel is like a punch in the gut. Sharp, surprising, and at times devastating, Waiting for Eden deals with the broadest themes imaginable — life and death, love and grief — while remaining tightly focused on one injured soldier’s most intimate relationships. A terrific and innovative novel about the ways that war can tear apart a family, and a soldier, long before it tears apart the body.

The Sisters Brothers

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Katie: I love this title. And the book is as wonderfully weird, subtly funny, and smartly written as its title. A quirky, stylized genre-bending Western filled with dark humor and a bit of gore, it channels old-timey pulp and Cormac McCarthy alike. In the gold-crazed Wild West of 1851, two infamous hitmen brothers, Charlie and Eli Sisters, travel from Oregon City to San Francisco and California’s famed gold fields on a murder-for-hire gig. Along the way they encounter a frontier witch, a one-eyed horse, a bear with apple-red fur, a gang of murderous fur trappers, and a boy whose head shape inspires everyone he meets to hit him. The more thoughtful brother, Eli, wants to be a better person, and his deadpan narration is both strangely funny and moving. It’ll have you rooting for the hitman. Read the novel first before you go see it on the big screen. John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the movie adaptation out now.

Also available as an audiobook.


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