October reads

Spoiled for choice again, I've picked 13 brilliant new books out this month. You'll see a few familiar names in there - a cracking Dan Brown page-turner, short stories from Tom Hanks (yes, THAT Tom Hanks). Award-winners Jennifer Egan and Andrew Michael Hurley return with new novels. And a new book from the unique voice of Joanne Harris is always cause for celebration. Happy reading.

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever”. The evening’s host is his friend and former student, Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old tech magnate whose dazzling inventions and audacious predictions have made him a controversial figure around the world. This evening is to be no exception: he claims he will reveal an astonishing scientific breakthrough to challenge the fundamentals of human existence.

The Temptation to Be Happy
By Lorenzo Marone

Cesare is a seventy-seven-year-old widower and cynical troublemaker. He has lived his whole life by his own rules and has no intention of changing now. Aside from an intermittent fling with a nurse called Rossana, he spends his days avoiding the old cat lady next door and screening calls from his children. But when the enigmatic Emma moves in next door with her strange and sinister husband, Cesare suspects there is more to their relationship than meets the eye. 

Manhattan Beach
By Jennifer Egan

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men.

Sugar Money
By Jane Harris

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission. They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal. 

The Ninth Hour
By Alice McDermott

On a gloomy February afternoon, Jim sends his wife Annie out to do the shopping before dark falls. He seals their meagre apartment, unhooks the gas tube inside the oven, and inhales. Sister St. Saviour, a Little Nursing Sister of the Sick Poor, catches the scent of fire doused with water and hurries to the scene: a gathered crowd, firemen, and the distraught young widow. 

Fools and Mortals
By Bernard Cornwell

Fools and Mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother, William. As the growth of theatre blooms, their rivalry – and that of the playhouses, playwrights and actors vying for acclaim and glory – propels a high-stakes story of conflict and betrayal.

Prisoner Z, held at a black site in the Negev desert for a dozen years has only his guard for company. How does a nice American Jewish boy from Long Island wind up an Israeli spy working for Mossad, and later, a traitor to his adopted country? What does it mean to be loyal, what does it mean to be a traitor, when the ideals you cherish are betrayed by the country you love?

Euridice is young, bright and ambitious. A talented musician, she dreams only of fame and fortune. But this is Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s, and the one thing society expects of its women: to be loving wives and mothers. So when her rebellious sister Guida elopes, breaking her parents’ hearts, Euridice sacrifices her own aspirations to marry conventional Antenor, spending her days ironing his shirts and removing the lumps of onion from his food.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the farm where he grew up to help gather the sheep down from the moors for the winter. Very little changes in the Endlands, but this year, his grandfather - the Gaffer - has died and John's new wife, Katherine, is accompanying him for the first time. Each year, the Gaffer would redraw the boundary lines of the village, with pen and paper, but also through the remembrance of tales and timeless communal rituals, which keep the sheep safe from the Devil.

A collection of stories that dissects, with great affection, humour, and insight, the human condition and all its foibles. The stories are linked by one thing: in each of them, a typewriter plays a part, sometimes minor, sometimes central. To many, typewriters represent a level of craftsmanship, beauty and individuality that is harder and harder to find in the modern world. In his stories, Mr Hanks gracefully reaches that typewriter-worthy level.

Fly Me
By Daniel Riley

The year is 1972, and the beaches of Los Angeles are the center of the world. Dropping into the embers of the drug and surf scene is Suzy Whitman, who has tossed her newly minted Vassar degree aside to follow her older sister into open skies and the borderless adventures of stewardessing for Grand Pacific Airlines.

A Pocketful of Crows
By Joanne M Harris

A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl. Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.

Sam MissinghamNew, New book