On the Shelf
11 Books to Look Out for in November
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While the frenzy of hot books fall has begun to subside, there are still a great many books to look forward to in November, the true start of cozy season.
Most anticipated publications this coming month include an iconic Chinese artist’s political memoir; provocative thoughts on feminism from an art historian and a famous model; meditations on race from a novelist and a polarizing scholar; and a comic novelist’s Chekhovian pandemic satire. Grab a mask and scarf and head to your local indie bookstore to pick up copies — one for yourself and one as a holiday gift.
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Our Country Friends
By Gary Shteyngart
Penguin Random House: 336 pages, $28
Praised by Kirkus as “the Great American Pandemic Novel only Shteyngart could write,” the accomplished satirist’s new work centers on a group of friends who wait out the pandemic in an upstate New York country house. Over six months of internal exile, new romances and friendships emerge while old grudges take on dangerous new life.
By Natashia Deón
Counterpoint: 320 pages, $26
In 1930s Los Angeles, amid Prohibition and the construction of Route 66, a young Black woman wakes up in an alley with no recollection of her former life. While recovering the memory of her past, she becomes the L.A. Times’ first Black reporter and discovers she may be immortal.
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By James Hannaham
Soft Skull: 208 pages, $28
Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa and the history of air disasters make up the raw material for this unclassifiable construction of prose, verse and photo collages — semi-fictional meditations on identity, slavery, consciousness and the horrors of flying from the acclaimed author of “Delicious Foods.”
White on White
By Aysegül Savas
Riverhead Books: 192 pages, $26
The Istanbul-born author explores the thin line between chaos and contentment, creativity and madness through Agnes, a painter who rents her apartment to a student researching Gothic nudes. Savas’ chilling novel has been praised by both Lauren Groff and performance artist Marina Abramovic.
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1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows
By Ai Weiwei, translated by Allan H. Barr
Crown: 400 pages, $32
Artist and activist Ai Weiwei recounts his childhood in internal exile, his difficult decision to leave his family for America to study art, and the persecution of both his father, a leading poet, and himself — detained for months as a dissident — by the Chinese state.
The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth
By Sam Quinones
Bloomsbury: 432 pages, $28
Quinones, a former Times reporter, continues the story he began in 2015’s “Dreamland,” which exposed the opioid epidemic and its enablers and won a National Book Critics Circle prize. Here, he chronicles how meth-ravaged communities have broken the cycle of drug abuse, violence and despair.
A Salad Only the Devil Would Eat: The Joys of Ugly Nature
By Charles Hood
Heyday Books: 224 pages, $16
You might remember Hood from his book “Wild LA,” a collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Here, the poet, photographer and wildlife guide finds wonder in the undervalued and often-ignored parts of nature — from Hollywood’s palm trees to Palmdale’s parking lots.
By Emily Ratajkowski
Metropolitan Books: 256 pages, $26
A debut essay collection by the model and actress offers an honest perspective on feminism, sexuality and internalized misogyny that is elevated by her own industry experience. Publishers Weekly called it “an astute and rewarding mix of the personal and the political.”
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story
Edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones and the New York Times Magazine
One World: 624 pages, $38
The ambitious project that got Americans rethinking our racial history — and sparked inevitable backlash — even before the reckoning that followed George Floyd’s murder, is expanded into a book incorporating essays from pretty much everyone you want to hear from about the country’s great topic and great shame.
Women in the Picture: What Culture Does with Female Bodies
By Catherine McCormack
W. W. Norton & Co.: 240 pages, $23
Ranging through Western art and images in advertising, social media and fashion photography, the British art historian challenges the idea of women as “mothers, monsters and maidens” and introduces the work of women artists countering those depictions.
These Precious Days
By Ann Patchett
Harper: 336 pages, $27
The acclaimed novelist meditates on “what I needed, whom I loved, what I could let go,” in essays on shedding lifelong possessions, nursing a friend with cancer and the wisdom of Snoopy. Patchett has a gift for grasping what really matters.
Mary Ann Gwinn contributed to this report.
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Dorany Pineda writes about books, publishing and the local literary scene for the Los Angeles Times.
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