The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This October

Including Jonathan Franzen's latest and a look inside "Apocalypse Now"

October 5, 2021 6:31 am
October books of the month
This month sees the release of some very compelling books.
Prestel Books/Penguin Random House/Twelve

What are you reading as the nights grow longer? For those with art or history on their minds, this month’s new books offer plenty to savor — including rigorous looks at everything from the music industry to George Orwell. And if fiction’s more your speed, this month has a lot to offer as well, including new novels from some of the most acclaimed writers working today. Here are some recommendations, whether you’re looking to be illuminated or transported.

"Major Labels"
Kelefa Sanneh’s “Major Labels”
Penguin Random House

You’ve probably encountered Kelefa Sanneh’s writing in The New Yorker or The New York Times. He’s one of the most astute chroniclers of popular culture writing today, and Major Labels is his take on the evolution of music over the last half-century. Looking for insights few others could deliver? You’re likely to find those here.

"I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness" cover
Claire Vaye Watkins’s “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness”
Penguin Random House

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins (Oct. 5)

Claire Vaye Watkins’s previous novel Gold Fame Citrus offered readers a phantasmagorical look at a near-future California that seems more prescient by the day. With her followup, Watkins revisits the western United States but opts for an intimate voyage into the past, telling the story of a writer tracing her own history and that of her family.

"Art in California" cover
Jenni Sorkin’s “Art in California”
Thames & Hudson

Art in California by Jenni Sorkin (Oct. 5)

Can one state change the nature of contemporary art? You might be convinced of that once you’ve finished Jenni Sorkin’s new book. Art in California explores the sociopolitical history of the Golden State in the 20th century and beyond, and connects that to a host of artistic movements, making a convincing case about the relationship between the two.

"Concepcion" cover
Albert Samaha’s “Concepcion”
Penguin Random House

Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes by Albert Samaha (Oct. 12)

You might know Albert Samaha from his acclaimed 2019 book Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City. Here, he turns his lens on his own family’s history, exploring his mother’s decision to move from the Philippines to the United States in the mid-1960s, the family’s history before and after the move and the larger social concerns that factored into that fateful decision.

"Crossroads" cover
Jonathan Franzen’s “Crossroads”

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen (Oct. 5)

Widely read, sometimes polarizing and never boring, Jonathan Franzen’s work has sparked debate for decades. As such, the publication of a new novel by Franzen is never less than an event, and Crossroads — the first book in a planned trilogy — is a bigger deal than most. With his new book, Franzen journeys back in time to the early 1970s to focus on the life of a Chicago family; so far, the advance reviews have been encouraging.

"Hip-Hop (and Other Things)" cover
Shea Serrano and Arturo Torres’s “Hip-Hop (and Other Things)”

Hip-Hop (And Other Things) by Shea Serrano and Arturo Torres (Oct. 26)

Between this and Major Labels, October 2021 might be the month for deep dives into your musical genre of choice. (Well, unless you’re a hardcore zydeco fan; if that’s the case, you could be disappointed.) The latest installment of Shea Serrano’s (And Other Things) series offers an exploration of a style of music near and dear to its author’s heart — and some unexpected facts sure to impress.

"Orwell's Roses" cover
Rebecca Solnit’s “Orwell’s Roses”
Penguin Random House

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit (Oct. 19)

Whether she’s writing about art or activism, Rebecca Solnit offers readers thought-provoking questions and observations about the state of the world and the history that got us here. For her latest book, she explores the gardening habits of a certain influential writer, and what that reveals about his larger views of the world and the conflicts brewing below its surface.

"Black Paper" cover
Teju Cole’s “Black Paper”
University of Chicago Press

Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time by Teju Cole (Oct. 27)

Teju Cole is both a prodigiously talented storyteller and a meticulously careful critic, stunningly aware of the cultural histories he chronicles and distills. His new book Black Paper contains a series of essays touching on a host of interrelated subjects — including activism, photography and the uses of color in art. If you’re looking to expand your worldview, Cole’s work offers a host of new perspectives.

Apocalypse Now: The Lost Photo Archive
“Apocalypse Now: The Lost Photo Archive”
Prestel Now

Apocalypse Now: The Lost Photo Archive by Chas Gerretsen (Oct. 5)

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is one of the most indelible war films ever made — and one of the most memorable film shoots ever documented. Photographer Chas Gerretsen was on hand to document the creation of Apocalypse Now, and this newly-released volume offers an inside look at one of the most acclaimed films of all time.

"Shoutin' in the Fire" cover
Danté Stewart’s “Shoutin’ in the Fire”
Penguin Random House

Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle by Danté Stewart (Oct. 12)

For many, religion and politics are intertwined in American life. In Danté Stewart’s new memoir, those connections are explored and revisited in unexpected ways. And during a time when racism and questions of power and belief are hotly debated, Stewart’s book provides a singular and thought-provoking perspective.

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