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10 of the Best New Books in November 2015

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From Rainn Wilson’s highly anticipated memoir to Sally Andrew’s mystery series set in South Africa, this month’s new releases are an eclectic group of captivating tales. We’ve rounded up the 10 books we were the most excited to read, including five novels, four nonfiction titles and a collection of fairy tales for adult readers.

Check out our picks below, then leave a comment describing the books you want to read.

1. Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

Release Date: November 3rd from Simon & Schuster
Why You’ll Love It: “No good novel is a mess; many so-called real lives are messy,” Juan Diego says in Avenue of Mysteries. This dream-infused story follows heartsick novelist Juan Diego, a man who appears to have written several books similar to Irving’s own. Irving makes the fascinating decision in the story to dissect his own work, attempting to explain how a novelist’s imagination works—and how a novelist’s work draws on experiences without simply transcribing them. As in all of his novels, Irving doesn’t so much pour his life into Avenue of Mysteries as pour out what he knows and believes with a wrestler’s intensity and focus. As has become increasingly evident over the course of his long and satisfying career, what Irving knows is well worth telling. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: Juan Diego—a 14-year-old boy, who was born and grew up in Mexico—has a 13-year-old sister. Her name is Lupe, and she thinks she sees what’s coming—specifically, her own future and her brother’s. Lupe is a mind reader; without your telling her, she knows all the worst things that have happened to you. But consider what a terrible burden it is, if you believe you know the future—especially your own future, or, even worse, the future of someone you love. What might a girl be driven to do?

As an older man, Juan Diego takes a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories. Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past collides with his future.

2. It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright

Release Date: November 3rd from Henry Holt and Co.
Why You’ll Love It: “It’s not YOU…it’s history.” Jennifer Wright’s new book offers an entertaining and comforting collection of evidence that, in the throes of heartbreak, there are people who’ve acted far more inappropriately than you. It Ended Badly is Wright’s hybrid of scholarly documentarian crossed with a delightfully droll advice columnist, taking a reader (ideally one with a freshly cleaved relationship) on a lithe journey through 2,000 years of well-known figures—think Kings, Queens, Caesars and philosophers—showing you that there’s just no smooth, subtle or even sane way for humans to sail past the experience of being dumped. —Jeff Milo
Description: From ancient Rome to medieval England to 1950s Hollywood, It Ended Badly guides you through the worst of the worst in historically bad breakups. Emperor Nero had just about everyone he ever loved—from his old tutor to most of his friends—put to death. Oscar Wilde’s lover, whom Wilde went to jail for, abandoned him when faced with being cut off from his wealthy family and wrote several self-serving books denying the entire affair. And poor volatile Caroline Lamb sent Lord Byron one hell of a torch letter and enclosed a bloody lock of her own pubic hair. Your obsessive social media stalking of your ex isn’t looking so bad now, is it? With a wry wit and considerable empathy, Wright digs deep into the archives to bring these 13 terrible breakups to life.

3. Made to Kill by Adam Christopher

Release Date: November 3rd from Tor Books
Why You’ll Love It: The celebrated author of Empire State is finally back with a speculative noir novel. In Made to Kill, we follow “Hollywood’s best hit man” Raymond Electomatic—who just so happens to be the last robot in the world. Ray’s investigation into a missing movie star takes him to the dangerous heart of Tinseltown , revealing a thrilling story that you won’t be able to put down. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Raymond Electromatic is good at his job, as good as he ever was at being a true Private Investigator, the lone employee of the Electromatic Detective Agency—except for Ada, office gal and super-computer, the constant voice in Ray’s inner ear. Ray might have taken up a new line of work, but money is money, after all, and he was programmed to make a profit. Besides, with his 24-hour memory-tape limits, he sure can keep a secret.

When a familiar-looking woman arrives at the agency wanting to hire Ray to find a missing movie star, he’s inclined to tell her to take a hike. But she has the cold hard cash, a demand for total anonymity and tendency to vanish on her own. Plunged into a glittering world of fame, fortune and secrecy, Ray uncovers a sinister plot that goes much deeper than the silver screen—and this robot is at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

4. Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

Release Date: November 3rd from Ecco
Why You’ll Love It: Sure, Sherlock Holmes can solve mind-bending mystery before breakfast, but can he cook the perfect buttermilk chocolate cake? Meet Tannie (“Auntie”) Maria, a 50-something South African advice columnist with a talent for sleuthing and a penchant for cooking glorious Afrikaans specialties. Possessing more than a little moxie, she stars in this charming new mystery series from debut novelist Sally Andrew. Fans of Alexander McCall Smith are sure to adore Tannie Maria’s adventures for years to come. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Tannie Maria is a widow who likes to cook—and eat. She shares her culinary love as a recipe columnist for the local paper—until The Gazette decides its readers are hungrier for advice on matters of the heart rather than ideas for lunch and dinner. Tannie Maria doesn’t like the change, but soon discovers she has a knack—and a passion—for helping people. Assisting other people with their problems, she’s eventually forced to face her own issues, especially when the troubles of those she helps touch on the pain of her past, like a woman desperate to escape her abusive husband.

When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously entwined in the investigation, despite the best efforts of one striking detective determined to keep her safe. Suddenly, this practical, down-to-earth woman is involved in something much more sinister than perfecting recipes.

5. The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson

Release Date: November 10th from Dutton
Why You’ll Love It: Remember when being a nerd was pitiable? If so, open this book. You don’t have to be a devoted fan of The Office, nor do you need to know about Rainn Wilson’s rise to fame as the show’s eccentric character Dwight Schrute. This is not the “how-I-became-famous” memoir that most celebrities write, but instead, this is Wilson’s unglamorous, geeky story about what it is like to become famous. —Jeff Milo
Description: Viewers fell in love with Dwight Schrute on The Office, and they grew to love the actor who played him even more. Now, Rainn Wilson’s ready to tell his own story and explain how he came up with his incredibly unique sense of humor and perspective on life. The Bassoon King chronicles Wilson’s journey from nerd to drama geek (“the highest rung on the vast, pimply ladder of high school losers”), his years of mild debauchery and struggles as a young actor in New York, his many adventures and insights about The Office and finally, his achievement of success and satisfaction, both in his career and spiritually, reconnecting with the artistic and creative values of the Bahá’í faith he grew up in.

6. Hotels of North America by Rick Moody

Release Date: November 10th from Little, Brown and Company
Why You’ll Love It: Rick Moody is keyed into the zeitgeist. A novelist, critic and short story writer, his analysis of contemporary life and culture has drawn appreciation from some circles—and the occasional bit of frustration from others. His latest novel, Hotels of North America, is a life story told almost exclusively through one man’s Internet reviews of hotels. The book’s central conceit proves intriguing on its own, but the way Moody illustrates the depth of his narrator marks the book as one of the year’s most interesting reads. —Mack Hayden
Description: Reginald Edward Morse is one of the top reviewers on RateYourLodging.com, where his many reviews reveal more than just details of hotels around the globe—they tell his life story. The puzzle of Reginald’s life comes together through reviews that comment upon his motivational speaking career, the dissolution of his marriage, the separation from his beloved daughter and his devotion to an amour known only as “K.” But when Reginald disappears, we are left with the fragments of a life—or at least the life he has carefully constructed.

7. A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham

Release Date: November 10th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Why You’ll Love It: In his new book, Michael Cunningham delivers a deliciously refreshing spin on 11 fairy tales. The stories are a little more “adult,” a little more contemporary and far more creative. Subverting old stories has developed into something of a trend in recent years, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours confidently guides the tales into new territory while remaining reverential of the source material. —Mack Hayden
Description: Here are the moments that our fairy tales forgot or deliberately concealed: the years after a spell is broken, the rapturous instant of a miracle unexpectedly realized or the fate of a prince only half cured of a curse. The Beast stands ahead of you in line at the convenience store, buying smokes and a Slim Jim, his devouring smile aimed at the cashier. A malformed little man with a knack for minor acts of wizardry goes to disastrous lengths to procure a child. A loutish and lazy Jack prefers living in his mother’s basement to getting a job, until the day he trades a cow for a handful of magic beans. Reimagined by one of the most gifted storytellers of his generation, and exquisitely illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, rarely have our bedtime stories been this dark, this perverse or this true.

8. Woman With a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine

Release Date: November 10th from Seventh Street Books
Why You’ll Love It: Woman With a Blue Pencil invokes one of the tragic and unforgivable chapters in American history—the vilification and internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent during World War II—with a subtly rendered narrative of manipulation, acceptance, compromise and self-betrayal. But it also presents a balancing sliver of resistance, as well as a cheeky and subversive twist on the relationships of writers and editors. Hard-boiled fiction fans could use more books like Woman With a Blue Pencil: novels that work on multiple levels and take the genre to fascinating places. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: On the eve of Pearl Harbor, Sam Sumida, a Japanese-American academic, has been thrust into the role of amateur P.I. for investigating his wife’s murder. Grief stricken by her loss and disoriented by his ill-prepared change of occupation, Sam realizes the worst is yet to come. He discovers that, inexplicably, he has become not only unrecognizable to his former acquaintances but that all signs of his existence (including even the murder he’s investigating) have been erased. Unaware that he is a discarded character in a novel, he resumes his investigation in a world now characterized by wartime fear.

Behind it all is the ambitious, 20-year-old Nisei author who has made changes to his novel, despite his relocation to a Japanese internment camp. Looming above is his book editor in New York, who serves as both muse and manipulator to the young author—the woman with the blue pencil, a new kind of femme fatale.

9. The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic by Ginger Strand

Release Date: November 17th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Why You’ll Love It: The benefits of The Brothers Vonnegut begin with Ginger Strand’s insights into the professional and domestic lives of brothers Kurt and Bernard Vonnegut. Strand also draws attention to the vital support the two received from their wives: Jane Marie Cox and Lois Bowler, respectively. More than that, though, these women substantially enter into the narrative’s insightful spotlight, rather than exist as supportive backdrops for the brothers. And as for you who would exclusively read this for your fandom of brother Kurt? Well, if Cat’s Cradle was always your favorite, then you’ll be more than be rewarded. —Jeff Milo
Description: In the mid-1950s, Kurt Vonnegut takes a job in the PR department at General Electric in Schenectady, where his older brother, Bernard, is a leading scientist in its research lab?or “House of Magic.” Kurt has ambitions as a novelist, and Bernard is working on a series of cutting-edge weather-control experiments meant to make deserts bloom and farmers flourish. As the Cold War looms, Bernard’s struggle for integrity plays out in Kurt’s evolving writing style. The Brothers Vonnegut reveals how science’s ability to influence the natural world also influenced one of our most inventive novelists.

10. Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt

Release Date: November 24th from Plume
Why You’ll Love It: With Star Wars anticipation at a fever pitch, it’s fair to expect that Internet geek analysis will hit an all-time-high. Instead of engaging in tired “Who shot first?” arguments, it’s a fitting time to arm yourself with nerdy analysis that doesn’t leave an option for a meme-only response, which happens to be the aim of Ryan Britt’s new essay collection, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths. Imagine if Chuck Klosterman was more concerned about Doctor Who than The Real World, and you’ll get the idea. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: Pop culture and sci-fi guru Ryan Britt has never met a monster, alien, wizard or superhero that didn’t need further analysis. Essayist Ryan Britt got a sex education from dirty pictures of dinosaurs, made out with Jar-Jar Binks at midnight and figured out how to kick depression with a Doctor Who Netflix-binge. Alternating between personal anecdote, hilarious insight and smart analysis, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read contends that Barbarella is good for you, that monster movies are just romantic comedies with commitment issues, that Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are total hipsters and, most shockingly, that virtually everyone in the Star Wars universe is functionally illiterate.

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