Leah Angstman
Oct 8 · 10 min read

The Coil dishes the best new books to read this month. Fiction, memoir, history, crime, politics, & poetry for our tough times.


Image: Okay Donkey.

Ghosts of You
Cathy Ulrich
A collection of stories examining the tropes of mystery / crime storytelling in which each narrative begins with a murdered woman and seeks to find the person behind the sensationalism.


Image: Turner Publishing Company.

The Escape of Light
Fred Venturini

Venturini’s latest novel is about a teenaged burn survivor ashamed of his disfigurement and driven to pursue a tissue-expander operation to rid himself of his scars in search of an identity.


Image: Polis Books.

Famous in Cedarville
Erica Wright

A diabolical mystery wrapped in Hollywood tinsel finds a reclusive silver-screen actor dead in her bed, and an outsider widower with a spotty past suspecting a crime.


Image: Graydon House.

One Night Gone
Tara Laskowski

Thirty years after someone vanishes in a beach house, a woman gets pulled into the mystery of the disappearance when she housesits in the same house and wealthy town of dark secrets.


Image: 8th House Publishing.

Nude Male with Echo
Darren C. Demaree

Poems that examine and challenge male vanity, power, and expectation, and provide a new artistic landscape for modern questions of masculinity.


Image: FSG Originals.

False Bingo: Stories
Jac Jemc

From breath-stealing ghosts to dementia-addled shopping addictions to coping with mistakes through taxidermy, this collections tackles the suspenseful and surreal in the everyday.


Image: Ecco.

Your House Will Pay
Steph Cha

Two families grapple with racial tensions and the effects of a decades-old Los Angeles crime as new violence surfaces in this suspenseful page-turner.


Image: William Morrow Paperbacks.

Ribbons of Scarlet
Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, Sophie Perinot, Heather Webb, & E. Knight

In this novel of the French Revolution, six powerhouse historical-fiction authors write an epic novel about seven very different women whose paths cross during one of the most radical and tumultuous times in history.


Image: Sarabande Books.

Space Struck
Paige Lewis

Poems of the wonders and cruelties of science, nature, and animals that weave the very human story of the extinction of the wilds.


Image: Homebound Publications.

Relief by Execution: A Visit to Mauthausen
Gint Aras

Bringing with him the complexities of a childhood shaped by his family of Lithuanian WWII refugees, the author visits a Holocaust site and meditates on the consequences of collective trauma.


Image: Red Hen Press.

Pigs
Johanna Stoberock

Four children who live on an island that serves as a dumpsite for the world’s trash must decide if a newcomer is more trash to be fed to the pigs, or something that can reveal a hint of humanity in a filthy world.


Image: Rose Metal Press.

Evidence of V
Sheila O’Connor

A hybrid blend of fragments, facts, fictions, family secrets, documents, and case files, O’Connor tells the story of V, a 1930s teenaged American singer who gets incarcerated for “immorality” in a reform prison that alters her life.


Image: Write Bloody.

A Choir of Honest Killers
Buddy Wakefield

An episodic lyrical novel documenting the underbelly of shame, queerness, fear, and tragedy addiction, as the author climbs from the depths of despair into a new light ahead.


Image: Haymarket Books.

Can I Kick It?
Idris Goodwin

The award-winning poet and playwright remixes pop culture to make sense of the stories we tell ourselves about survival, the past, and uncertain futures.


Image: Grove Hardcover.

Frankissstein
Jeanette Winterson

A love story that explores transhumanism, artificial intelligence, queer love, and the bodies we live in, through the interweaving of disparate stories ranging from Mary Shelley in 1816, to young doctors in Brexit Britain.


Image: Rowman & Littlefield.

Jefferson’s White House: Monticello on the Potomac
James B. Conroy

A look inside the President’s House when it was occupied by third U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, and the architecture, villages, infrastructure, and politics surrounding it.


Image: Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock
Hillary Leftwich

Somewhere between poetry and story, Leftwich’s cross-genre collection examines grief, violence, heartbreak, body, and identity.


Image: Tin House Books.

Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl
Jeannie Vanasco

A memoir of rape, keeping quiet, coming clean, and all the intricacies in between when we ask the deeper questions, dismantle long-held myths about victimhood, and discover the gray spaces that make us all human.


Image: Simon & Schuster.

How We Fight for Our Lives
Saeed Jones

A coming-of-age memoir that is both haunted and haunting, telling the story of a young, black, gay, Southern man as he struggles to find himself.


Image: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

The Topeka School
Ben Lerner

An expansive family drama of the American Midwest at the turn of the new millennium and the rise of the alt right and aggressive masculinity leading up to our toxic present.


Image: Penguin Press.

Grand Union: Stories
Zadie Smith

Smith moves through genres and perspectives, from the historic to the dystopian, in this debut story collection about time, place, identity, and rebirth.


Image: Riverhead Books.

Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World
David Owen

A book about connections, the surprising science of hearing, and the research and technologies that can help us hear better as we age.


Image: Seal Press.

Burn It Down: Women Writing about Anger
Lilly Dancyger, ed.

Tearing down women’s stereotypes and building them into something new and ferocious, 22 women writers talk about how anger has shaped their lives and their writing.


Image: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
Megan Phelps-Roper

Surely an uncomfortable read, former Westboro member (and granddaughter of founder Fred Phelps) talks about the dangers of black-and-white thinking and the awakening that caused her departure from the notorious cult.


Image: Titan Books.

Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery
Christopher Golden & Rachel Autumn Deering, eds.

Eighteen tales of witchcraft, wickedness, evil, cunning, humor, and subversion by the mistresses of magic who write this stuff best.


Image: Ecco.

Nothing to See Here
Kevin Wilson

A tenderhearted and witty novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable, disturbing abilities.


Image: Tor.

Sisters of the Vast Black
Lina Rather

Missionaries aboard a living ship challenge imperialism and the dangerous void when their ship takes on a mind of its own.


Image: Ace.

The Library of the Unwritten
A. J. Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten is full of books in Hell that authors have never finished, and the librarian must track down wayward characters that emerge from their untold and unfinished stories.


Image: Random House.

Olive, Again
Elizabeth Strout

Return to the world of prickly, wry, strange, and wonderful Olive Kitteridge in this sequel to the Pulitzer-Prize winner that captured the imagination of millions and gave grace and humor to aging, loss, and love.


Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

All This Could Be Yours
Jami Attenberg

A novel of family secrets in the heat of a New Orleans summer, Attenberg’s latest book tackles the generations of repercussions stemming from one man’s abuse of power.


Image: Custom House.

Country
Michael Hughes

A suspenseful and brutal (yet somehow still fun) reimagining of Homer’s The Iliad, set in Northern Ireland in 1996.


Image: Random House.

Horror Stories
Liz Phair

This memoir-in-essays bends genres just like Phair’s music, and any kid of the nineties will want to trace this rock icon’s life and career in all its horror and humor.


Image: Random House.

Edison
Edmund Morris

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of one of the best biographies of all time, the late Morris came back again, with his wit, candor, and unveiling pen aimed at the controversial and troubled inventor.


Image: Little, Brown, and Co.

No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in America
Gail Collins

A witty, fascinating look at women and aging in America and how age is an arbitrary concept that has swung back and forth over the centuries.


Image: Little, Brown, and Co.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
Ronan Farrow

In a dramatic account of true-crime violence and espionage, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter reveals the tactics and intimidation deployed by the wealthy to threaten journalists and to silence victims.


Image: Dey Street Books.

Face It
Debbie Harry

In this month of rock-icon releases, the Blondie frontwoman’s autobiography is at the top of the list, with never-before-seen photographs and the bravery and badassery that can only be mastered by a woman ahead of her time.


Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Best American Short Stories 2019
Anthony Doerr, ed.

The Pulitzer Prize-winner selects and collects this year’s best American short stories in the latest installment of a series that has become a priceless archive.


Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Dad’s Maybe Book
Tim O’Brien

A tender book of wisdom from a life in letters, lessons learned in wartime, the rewards of raising two sons, and the variety of human experiences a legendary author brings to life, love, and fatherhood.


Image: Atria.

The Science of Rick and Morty
Matt Brady

A guide to the real science behind the brilliant and hilarious show, how close Rick’s experiments may be to reality, and what his experiments can teach us about ourselves.


Image: Dutton Caliber.

The Greatest Fury: The Battle of New Orleans and the Rebirth of America
William C. Davis

One of our most important battles in American history is also one of our most forgotten (and most mythologized), but master historian Davis gives us the definitive story of the fight that set the course of our fledgling republic.


Image: Penguin Press.

Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character
Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.)

From a distinguished retired admiral comes this meditation on leadership, character, and the lives of 10 of the most studied naval commanders in history, from Themistocles to Drake to Nelson to Hopper.


Image: Crown.

Blowout
Rachel Maddow

The queen of liberal late night takes down Big Oil, corrupted democracy, and the subsidizing of the richest industry on Earth.


Image: W. W. Norton.

Thomas Jefferson’s Education
Alan Taylor

A very deep dive into the history and origins of Thomas Jefferson’s education of both himself and others with his controversial, hypocritical university for elite whites in a time of tragic and ugly slavery.


Image: Sourcebooks.

The First Lady and the Rebel
Susan Higginbotham

A historical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln and her reluctant Confederate sister in the South, both women fighting to shape Lincoln’s war and America’s future from opposite sides.

LEAH ANGSTMAN serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current Press and The Coil magazine, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and a former proofreader for Pacific Standard. Her work has appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, Electric Literature, Slice Magazine, Pacific Standard, and elsewhere. Find her at her website.

Leah Angstman curates the Most Anticipated Books lists monthly based on The Coil staff recommendations and forthcoming booklists. To be considered for the November list, tweet your links to Leah on Twitter by the end of October.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Leah Angstman

Written by

Transplanted Midwesterner; EIC of Alternating Current Press; reviewer at Publishers Wkly; CNF & fiction writer and poet. Find her at http://leahangstman.com.

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

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