A new Franzen novel, a Sebald biography, and more books to read in October – The A.V. Club

Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.
2 / 8
“Search History” as a title for a book published during the internet age feels inevitable. But there ends the predictability of Eugene Lim’s inventive new novel. Even the front matter excites, including this mouthful of a full title page: “Search History Concerning The Adventures, Quests, And Setbacks Of Frank Exit, His Friends, & Other Strangers Of Far Flung And Nearby Origin Caught In The Winds Of La Huida Hacia Adelante Or The Unfolding Or The Flux.” Cyberdogs, virtual reality, and fiction written by AIs (one of them named after the Argentine author César Aira) all make appearances in this multifarious, wayfaring story. Lim was widely praised for his 2017 novel, Dear Cyborgs, as a writer with big ideas, and Search History solidifies his work as wry, playful, and deserving of more attention.
3 / 8
Twenty years after W.G. Sebald’s death at the age of 57, biographer Carole Angier takes readers on a walking tour of the life and writing of the peripatetic writer. Speak, Silence begins with Sebald’s birth shortly after World War II, traces his emigration from Germany to England at 21, then details the publication of the melancholic, ruminative works, like The Rings Of Saturn and Austerlitz, for which he would become known. The Sebald estate didn’t authorize this biography, meaning that access to personal effects like letters wasn’t granted, but Angier, whose previous literary subjects include Primo Levi and Jean Rhys, performed exhaustive research—speaking to hundreds of people who knew Sebald—and an in-depth analysis of his work. Speak, Silence is definitely for super fans, but what fan of Sebald isn’t “super”?
4 / 8
The literary world’s most notorious bird watcher is back with a new novel, and this one’s a doozy. At nearly 600 pages, Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads edges out Freedom in terms of sheer length. But we also have it on good authority that his latest story of a Midwestern family in moral crisis sees the author at his best, shedding his weaker tendencies (e.g., there are no more “shrill” women) while playing up his strengths (his knack for interiority remains intact). The action begins with the Hildebrandt family convening in their home in New Prospect, Illinois, a few days before Christmas 1971. It sounds idyllic, but Crossroads, the first installment of a planned trilogy, features all the dysfunction, infidelity, and drug use that faithful Franzen readers have come to expect.
5 / 8
There’s something satisfying in a piece of writing that uses a very small, very specific thing as a way to talk about, well, larger, more general things. In the case of this new work of nonfiction from Warren Ellis—violinist for Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds and Dirty Three—the small, specific thing is a piece of gum: a piece of gum chewed by Nina Simone before her final London performance, in 1999, placed on a towel on top of a piano, and taken by Ellis after the show and kept for over two decades. The larger, more general thing that Nina Simone’s Gum explores is creativity, friendship, and the outsized emotional value we often place on physical objects. As Ellis told The Guardian, “I love the perversity of it, that it has become something almost sacred and spiritual, but, at the end of the day, it’s just this piece of chewing gum.”
6 / 8
It’s been a while since we’ve read a synopsis quite as wild as this: “A young Latinx poet grappling with loneliness and heartache decides one day to bring Tejano pop star Selena Quintanilla back to life. The séance kicks off an uncanny trip narrated by a Greek chorus of gossiping spirits as she journeys through a dead celebrity prom, encounters her shadow self, and performs karaoke in hell.” In case “karaoke in hell” or a resurrected Selena doesn’t get you in the door of Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s debut novel, Dreaming Of You, maybe knowing that the Greek chorus is a cadre of gossiping old women called Las Chismosas will. This madcap and morbid novel-in-verse explores fame and femininity through the eyes of a young woman trying to get her life together.
7 / 8
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (October 5, Henry Holt); The Storyteller: Tales Of Life And Music by Dave Grohl (October 5, Harper Collins); I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins (October 5, Riverhead); The Swank Hotel by Lucy Corin (October 5, Graywolf); Fight Night by Miriam Toews (October 5, Bloomsbury); A Time Outside This Time by Amitava Kumar (October 5, Knopf); Night Train by A.L. Snijders (October 5, New Directions); Major Labels: A History Of Popular Music In Seven Genres by Kelefa Sanneh (October 5, Penguin); Underneath by Lily Hoang (October 11, Red Hen); One Friday In April: A Story Of Suicide And Survival by Donald Antrim (October 12, W.W. Norton); On Animals by Susan Orlean (October 12, Avid Reader); Life Sciences by Joy Sorman (October 12, Restless); How High? That High by Diane Williams (October 12, Soho); The Boys: A Memoir Of Hollywood And Family by Ron and Clint Howard (October 12, William Morrow); Silverview by John le Carré (October 12, Viking); The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang (October 12, Crown); The Child by Kjersti A. Skomsvold (October 12, Open Letter); LaserWriter II by Tamara Shopsin (October 19, MCD x FSG); People Want To Live by Farah Ali (October 26, McSweeney’s); Lemon by Yeo-sun Kwon (October 26, Other Press)
8 / 8