Teju Cole, Tim O’Brien, Jesmyn Ward, & More: Literary Fiction, Oct. 2023, Pt. 3 | Prepub Alert

Books you've been waiting for by award-winning authors.  

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Adegoke, Yomi. The List. Morrow. Oct. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780063274877. $30. CD. LITERARY

A top journalist at Womxxxn magazine, Ola Olajide always calls out the men who appear on the List, an anonymous social media posting critiquing inappropriate behavior. Then one morning she wakes up to find her fiancé on the list. Fiction debuter Adegoke is a columnist for the Guardian and British Vogue who wrote Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible and was named one of Forbes 30 under 30. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

Campbell, Bonnie Jo. The Waters. Norton. Oct. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780393248432. $30. LITERARY

On an island in Michigan’s Great Massasauga Swamp, herbalist Hermine “Herself” Zook tends to 11-year-old granddaughter Dorothy, nicknamed Donkey, who was abandoned by a mother as intimated as the residents of nearby Whiteheart by Herself. Donkey longs for her mother’s return, not realizing that family secrets are about to explode in her face. From National Book Award finalist Campbell (American Salvage).

Cole, Teju. Tremor. Random. Oct. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9780812997118. $28. LITERARY

A West African man who teaches photography at a prestigious school in New England, Tunde loves ferreting out stories yet finds everything he encounters rimmed with pain. A simple walk might summon up colonial atrocities or casual racism, and even a happy marriage has its tensions. From the PEN/Hemingway and Windham-Campbell acknowledged Cole, his first novel since 2011’s Open City after numerous nonfiction titles.

Garner, Helen. The Children’s Bach. Pantheon. Oct. 2023. 176p. ISBN 9780553387414. $25. CD. LITERARY

Pompous Dexter and quietly efficient Athena Fox lead a staid life in the environs of early 1980s Melbourne, attending to two sons, one with disabilities. Then an old friend of Dexter resurfaces and introduces them to the city’s bohemian underground, and Athena in particular is drawn to the possibilities of a free and passionate new life. From a top Australian author and one of the publisher’s lead titles of the year.

Labatut, Benjamín. The MANIAC. Penguin Press. Oct. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9780593654477. $28. LITERARY

A pioneer in everything from game theory to AI and cellular automata, Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann is here given fictional life through the varied perspectives of family, friends, colleagues, and rivals. Labatut has done this sort of thing before; When We Cease To Understand the World, a New York Times Best Book that was also International Booker National Book Award shortlisted, explored a group of real-life scientists and thinkers in the early 20th century.

Lethem, Jonathan. Brooklyn Crime Novel. Ecco. Oct. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780062938824. $30. CD. LITERARY

Author of the National Book Critics Circle Award–winning Motherless Brooklyn, Lethem circles back to the iconic borough in a story that opens in the 1970s and spans a half-century. Along the way, we meet parents, children, police, landlords, and gentrifiers, as money moves, power shifts, and lives are forever altered. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

Mathis, Ayana. The Unsettled. Knopf. Oct. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780525519935. $29. lrg. prnt. LITERARY

Stuck with son Toussaint in a crumbling family shelter in 1985 Philadelphia, Ava wants to be the loving mother her own mother, Dutchess, never was and finds herself completely reenchanted by Toussaint’s firebrand father when he drops back into her life. Meanwhile, Dutchess struggles mightily to maintain their Alabama hometown, a place of Black self-determination that has dwindled to a handful of residents. From the author of the New York Times best-selling The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.

NDiaye, Marie. Vengeance Is Mine. Knopf. Oct. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9780593534243. $28. LITERARY

A Bordeaux lawyer known simply as Maître Susane is puzzled when asked by powerful Gilles Principaux to defend his wife, accused of a terrible crime. Why would he approach a small-town lawyer like her, and why does she feel she knows him from some incident her past she can’t quite reconstruct? From the Prix Goncourt–winning author of Three Strong Women.

Newman, Sandra. Julia. Mariner: HarperCollins. Oct. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780063265332. $30. CD. LITERARY

Newman’s retelling of Orwell’s 1984 focuses on Winston Smith’s lover, the glibly apolitical Julia, who works as a mechanic in the Fiction Department at the Ministry of Truth. But one day she surprises herself by slipping Winston a note and starts rethinking her world. From the author of The Heavens, The Country of Ice Cream Star, and the recent, controversy-stirring Men.

O’Brien, Tim. America Fantastica. Mariner: HarperCollins. Oct. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780063318502. $32. CD. LITERARY

In August 2019, discredited journalist Boyd Halverson walks into the Community National Bank in Northern California and steals $81,000 at gunpoint, then brings teller Angie Bing along on an extended ride that reveals the country’s flattened morals and morale. Along the way, they’re chased by hitmen, angry lovers, an heiress, a billionaire, and assorted others as Boyd seeks vengeance for the wrongs one man did him. The masterly O’Brien’s first novel in two decades.

Thirlwell, Adam. The Future Future. Farrar. Oct. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9780374607616. $28. LITERARY

In 1775 France, innocent 18-year-old Celine is subject to scandalous allegations that, however false, the public wholeheartedly believes. She and her friends then band together and (it seems) march through history to crusade for truth and against a male-dominated world’s tendency toward genocide, colonial expansion, and violence against women. Twisty history from Thirlwell, twice selected as a Granta Best of Young British Novelists.

Toutonghi, Pauls. The Refugee Ocean. S. & S. Oct. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781668007433. $27.99. CD. LITERARY

In late 1940s Lebanon, Marguerite Toutoungi is prevented by family from studying at the Conservatoire de Paris and instead travels to Cuba with a man she’s met at a formal dance and ends up facing revolution. Over a half-century later, former Syrian piano prodigy Naïm Rahil arrives in the United States, his hand damaged by war, and aims for a simple life. Their stories are linked by the immigration experience, the vagaries of history, and a single song. The Pushcart Prize–winning Toutonghi (Red Weather) is the son of immigrants.

Ward, Jesmyn. Let Us Descend. Scribner. Oct. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781982104498. $28. CD. LITERARY

As she is marched south to her new owner in Louisiana, having been sold by the white enslaver who fathered her, Annis is solaced by memories of her mother, the stories of her African warrior grandmother, and her sense of connection to the spirits of the earth. Another big book from MacArthur Fellow and two-time National Book Award winner Ward.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; winner of ALA's Louis Shores Award for reviewing; and past president, awards chair, and treasurer of the National Book Critics Circle, which awarded her its inaugural Service Award in 2023.

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