18 New Books to Watch For in October

It’s another big month for books.

Ronan Farrow’s book — coming on the heels of “She Said,” by the Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey — exposes systems of power that enable predators. Other titles speak to our disjointed times, in one way or another: The MSNBC host Rachel Maddow investigates the corrosive effects of the gas and oil industry; the cultural critic Thomas Chatterton Williams offers an insightful new consideration of race in America; Jeanette Winterson explores Brexit, virtual reality and more in her contemporary riff on “Frankenstein.” Elizabeth Strout brings back her beloved character Olive Kitteridge, and Zadie Smith releases her debut collection of short stories. Here’s a look at the titles we’re watching for most closely.

‘Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth,’ by Rachel Maddow (Crown, Oct. 1)

Maddow, the MSNBC host, trains her eye on the lucrative oil and gas industry, exposing the corruption and havoc it has spread across the world — polluting the environment, weakening democracies and keeping autocrats in power. She also makes the case that Russia’s interference in the 2016 United States election was tied to the country’s oil business.

‘Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,’ by Ronan Farrow (Little, Brown, Oct. 15)

Farrow, who, in reporting for The New Yorker, shared a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service last year with The Times for investigations into sexual harassment in the workplace. The book details the extraordinary lengths some of the world’s most powerful people, including Harvey Weinstein, go to protect themselves: silencing their accusers, intimidating journalists and more.

‘Deep State: Trump, the F.B.I., and the Rule of Law,’ by James B. Stewart (Penguin Press, Oct. 8)

Stewart, a Times columnist, looks at two simultaneous F.B.I. investigations in the lead-up to the 2016 election: one inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and another into Donald Trump’s financial and political entanglement with Russians. Looking at these investigations together shows how closely linked they were, and the book examines the lasting ramifications for the Department of Justice, the executive branch and the public’s trust in government.

‘Edison,’ by Edmund Morris (Random House, Oct. 22)

Thomas Edison remains one of the most prodigious talents in American history, and this landmark new biography of the scientist and inventor goes far beyond his most famous creation, the lightbulb. Morris, known for his studies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ludwig van Beethoven and Ronald Reagan, keeps the book afloat with his talent for spinning a narrative.

‘The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture,’ by Orlando Figes (Metropolitan, Oct. 8)

Figes zeros in on 19th-century Europe, a time of technological innovation and globalization that he believes helped the Continent coalesce around shared values, art and sensibilities. His story is anchored by Louis Viardot, a critic and activist; his wife, the opera singer Pauline Viardot; and the Russian author Ivan Turgenev, with whom Pauline had an affair intermittently over several decades. With the future of Brexit and the European Union still uncertain, the book, which makes the case that a common European culture once existed and thrived, is doubly relevant today.

‘The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last,’ by Raza Azra (Basic Books, Oct. 15)

A leading oncologist at Columbia University makes a case for how we can better fight cancer. She’s uniquely poised to write this book: In addition to having command of the latest medical research, she was also her husband’s doctor as he battled — and lost the fight to — an aggressive form of leukemia.

‘Frankissstein: A Love Story,’ by Jeanette Winterson (Grove Press, Oct. 1)

For those of you waiting for a novel that brings together Brexit, sex dolls and Mary Shelley, you’re in luck. This novel is much more than a revivification of “Frankenstein,” however; it’s alive with new and contemporary ideas about whom we love and where humanity is headed.

‘Grand Union: Stories,’ by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, Oct. 8)

Smith, who cultivated a following with her earlier books like “White Teeth,” “Swing Time” and “On Beauty,” returns with her first story collection — some new, others previously published. If there’s a throughline connecting these stories, it’s one of disillusionment and alienation.

‘How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir,’ by Saeed Jones (Simon & Schuster, Oct. 8)

From a young age growing up in the South, Jones believed that “being a black gay boy is a death wish.” In his memoir, which begins in the late 1990s, he unknots his complicated relationship with his mother and the lingering wounds of his childhood. But the book is also a sexual coming-of-age story, giving an cleareyed look at his relationships and romantic encounters.

‘Imaginary Friend,’ by Stephen Chbosky (Grand Central, Oct. 1)

It’s been 20 years since his debut novel, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” defined a generation. Now Chbosky has finally written a follow-up — and this time, he dabbles in horror. Seven-year-old Christopher and his mother, on the run, settle in a sleepy Pennsylvania town. But then Christopher disappears for days, returning with a mission — dictated by a voice in his head — that could have cascading effects.

‘Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the C.I.A.,’ by Amaryllis Fox (Knopf, Oct. 15)

Fox spent a decade with the spy agency after being recruited at age 21, and recounts her years living undercover, chasing terrorists and infiltrating their networks. Her story is extraordinary, and it makes for satisfying and engrossing reading.

‘The Man Who Saw Everything,’ by Deborah Levy (Bloomsbury, Oct. 15)

It’s 1988 and Saul Adler, recovering from a car accident and a recent, abrupt breakup, heads to East Berlin, where he falls in love. Decades later, he is hit by the same car — but the repeating events and characters don’t end there. The novel, longlisted for the Booker, raises questions about memory, clairvoyance and history.

‘No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History,’ by Gail Collins (Little, Brown, Oct. 15)

The Times columnist sets out to tell the “story of women and age in America” by diving into the long tradition of older women’s political involvement. This is a deeply reported book, and Collins turns up some fascinating details: On Plymouth Rock, for example, women were considered marriageable so long as they were under 50. The book is an eye-opening guide to our shifting attitudes about aging, particularly when it came to women.

‘Olive, Again,’ by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, Oct. 15)

The beloved grouch Olive returns in this follow-up to Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Olive Kitteridge.” The story unfolds in the working-class fictional town of Crosby, Me., and finds Olive kindling a new romance. Olive’s trademark “empathy without sentimentality,” as our reviewer put it, is still there, as she tries to make sense of her own path and the lives of the people around her.

‘Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race,’ by Thomas Chatterton Williams (Norton, Oct. 15)

The author, the American son of a black father and white mother, grew up striving to learn and perform his race, “like a teacher’s pet in an advanced placement course on black masculinity.” After moving to France and becoming a father to children who could pass for white, he is forced to radically rethink his conception of race.

‘Still Here: The Madcap, Nervy, Singular Life of Elaine Stritch,’ by Alexandra Jacobs (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Oct. 22)

Alexandra Jacobs, an editor at The Times, chronicles the brash, boozy career of the legendary Broadway star in this biography, diving into her relationships, her breakout fame in Hollywood and her notable collaborations, including those with Tennessee Williams and Stephen Sondheim.

‘The Topeka School,’ by Ben Lerner (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Oct. 1)

This fiercely intelligent Midwestern drama follows Adam (a character from Lerner’s first two novels) as well as his parents, who are psychologists grappling with the best way to raise their son while struggling with their own issues.

‘Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,’ by Susan Rice (Simon & Schuster, Oct. 8)

Rice, a former U.N. ambassador who was President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, reflects on her decades in government, her upbringing and her family life (she is the descendant of slaves and Jamaican immigrants). She also writes about the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which became a career-defining episode.

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