15 new books to read in November 2023
Enjoy these books during your travels for the holidays.
Zibby Owens is the author of "Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature," and the forthcoming debut novel "Blank." Owner of Zibby's Bookshop in Santa Monica, California, Zibby runs Zibby Media and hosts the daily award-winning podcast "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books," which has been in the top 200 of the Apple Arts charts for five straight years.
Last year on Thanksgiving I could not stop reading "A Place Called Home" by David Ambroz. After many hours of incessant page-turning on the couch, I was confronted: my family thought I was intentionally being rude. But I just couldn't put it down!
This November, there are a number of titles that I also enjoyed, especially "Class" by Stephanie Land. I hope your families won't find you rude, but that you do lose yourself in one of these fabulous memoirs and novels.
Here's to being immensely grateful for the power of books to transport and connect -- sometimes even when you should be doing something else.
"The Vulnerables: A Novel" by Sigrid Nunez
National Book Award-winning author Sigrid Nunez, whose novel "The Friend," took the Fiction prize, writes with her sparse, elegant style about the first spring of the pandemic. The power of connection -- mixed with the urgency of humor -- takes center stage in this story about three unexpected characters -- including a parrot named Eureka. What starts with a reflection on reading itself ("Only when I was young did I believe that it was important to remember what happened in every novel I read. Now I know the truth: What matters is what you experience while reading the states of feeling that the story evokes, the questions that rise to your mind, rather than the fictional events described") proceeds with many reading and writing thoughts that show helping others truly helps the helper.
"The Messy Truth: How I Sold My Business for Millions But Almost Lost Myself" by Alli Webb
Co-founder of Drybar Alli Webb shares her secrets in a confessional account of her own rise and fall. As she writes, "I am a living, breathing example of just how high one can climb, and how fast one can fall. But no one wants to celebrate that, do they?" She shares the idea she came up with while hanging out with her friend Paige (going to busy moms' homes for $40 blow-outs) and how it ballooned into a multi-million dollar business. Along the way, she got a divorce, lost her mother and dealt with a serious issue with one of her sons. She is not perfect but the essential "messy truth" underpinning her story is one we should all heed. The many worksheets in the book will make it part therapy for the reader, too.
The Messy Truth: How I Sold My Business for Millions But Almost Lost Myself by by Alli Webb
"Above the Salt: A Novel" by Katherine Vaz
Set in the Civil War-era and based on a true story, Katherine Vaz's sweeping novel centers on John Alves, raised in poverty on the Portuguese island Madeira, and his paramour Mary Freitas. Their families soon flee but reconnect years later in the American Midwest, where Mary is engaged to someone else. A big love story with conflicting loyalties, countries, and families all mixing together, "Above the Salt" will draw you in and propel you through war, hunger, music, religion, motherhood and more with gorgeous, literary sentences like, "Snowfall came hard and fanged to Illinois, cracking its molars on buildings."
"Call You When I Land: A Memoir" by Nikki Vargas
A coming-of-age memoir about a Colombian woman in her 20s traveling the world to discover herself, "Call You When I Land" is an inspiring and raw capture of a 10-year period of Vargas' growth, transformation and love interests. Vargas fears her upcoming nuptials and dives deep into her travel blog, The Pin the Map, starting in Argentina. Taking us through her early career training from PR assistant under @dknycareergirl (Aliza Licht), cocktail waitress, and media buyer, to blogger and magazine founder, we get a backpack's view of Colombia, Panama, Cabo, Indonesia, Paris, Vietnam, India, Guatemala and Kenya. You can't help rooting for Vargas.
"The Good Part: A Novel" by Sophie Cousens
Twenty-something Lucy Young is fed up with dating life and her stalling TV career when she discovers a wishing machine at a small shop and asks to skip to the good parts of her life. Fast-forward to age 40-something. Lucy wakes up looking much older than she wants (a shocking cesarean section scar, crow's feet), married to a gorgeous stranger with two kids who she swears in front of and can't believe are hers, and with a fabulous job. Set in London -- which even looks different now -- "The Good Part" asks fundamental life questions along with references to cultural icons like Carrie Bradshaw and Elizabeth Gilbert. And really, aren't we all surprised at times to wake up to our lives and realize we're actually… here?
"The Mystery Guest: A Maid Novel" by Nita Prose
Nita Prose's massive bestseller "The Maid" is now followed by this stand-alone work, which picks up the thread of several characters from the first book (Mr. Preston, Juan Manuel, Molly, Gran) after an author shockingly dies at the hotel. The story of a wrongly accused hotel maid who was fired thinking she'd stolen a silver spoon, only to find posthumous redemption when a mummified rat is exhumed with the said spoon, kicks off the tale, raising questions of truth and accusations. Molly, who learned how to be "Head Maid" from her grandmother, takes us back to her childhood because as she says, "Do you ever wonder what it would be like to go back to places from your childhood, to see them again through adult eyes?" Yes. And watch out: twist at the end!
"The Last Love Note: A Novel" by Emma Grey
Emma Grey, a popular YA novelist in her native Australia, writes from the heart in this highly anticipated big book, a "romantic trauma-dy" about a mother named Kate who is "a bit of mess." Kate's beloved young husband has recently died of early onset Alzheimer's, her son has found what might be a real grenade, her best friend is over and gets them caught eyeing the hot new neighbor moving in next door, and Kate's boss is stopping by just as the bomb squad shows up. It's just another day for Kate, who is always getting into messes like this. When Kate and her boss get stuck in a beachtown in Australia, the question comes up: Can you ever really love again when you've lost the one you truly love? Grey's own husband died recently, too. What resulted from her grief-stricken writing, kicked off at the New York Public Library, is a page-turning, laugh-and-cry novel that even genre-maven Katherine Center said was a "gorgeous, charming, funny, heart-rending, longing-filled triumph of a read." It's like "Bridget Jones's Diary" meets "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes.
Editor's Note: "The Last Love Note" is published by Zibby Owen's imprint, Zibby Books.
"A Very Inconvenient Scandal: A Novel" by Jacquelyn Mitchard
No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard takes us to Cape Cod in this family drama that raises all sorts of questions. Frankie Attleboro gets uncharacteristically summoned home by her dad only a year after her mother died suddenly. She's excited to share that she has met "the one" and is pregnant. The news that got her home? Her dad is getting re-married and has his own baby on the way -- with her best friend, Ariel. When Ariel's mother Carlotta unexpectedly hits the scene with many unresolved mysteries, Frankie has to figure things out to protect the ones she loves. The perfect book to remind you over Thanksgiving that all families have issues.
The "GMA" Book Club Pick: "Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education" by Stephanie Land
Sixty-seven million people watched the Netflix award-winning series "Maid" (including me -- so good!) based on Stephanie Land's previous book. Now, she has penned the next eagerly-awaited installment of her life (!) in which she finishes college and pursues her writing career. Land's daughter starts kindergarten as Land starts her senior year of college. The events that unfold will make readers want to hug and cheer for her as she pursues her dreams and finds even more love.
"Obvious in Hindsight: A Novel" by Bradley Tusk
Bookstore owner of P&T Knitwear, co-founder of the Gotham Book Prize, former deputy governor of Illinois, longtime political consultant and start-up adviser Bradley Tusk now has another descriptor to add to his bio: debut novelist. In "Obvious in Hindsight," he takes us through "a behind-the-scenes romp" of a political campaign to legalize flying cars in select cities. An examination of "how capitalism, politics and tech intersect," "Obvious in Hindsight" is a timely depiction of how decisions are made by those in power -- and is fittingly blurbed by power players like former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Told in the present tense from multiple perspectives, this fast-paced novel reads like a TV show you can't stop watching.
"Day: A Novel" by Michael Cunningham
If anyone else read and loved "The Hours" like I did, you'll be equally excited about Michael Cunningham's new novel, "Day." "Day" portrays several members of a family before, during and after the pandemic. But summarizing the plot misleads the reader. This story is really about the deep emotions, entanglements, moods, thoughts and feelings that make people who they are. It's about the craft of perfect sentences and how structure -- like his short chapters -- moves and carries the reader along, almost helplessly, until the end. What starts in a Brooklyn townhouse in 2019 ends in April 2021. The cast of characters include an unhappy husband and wife, Dan and Isabel, who both seem to prefer Isabel's younger brother Robbie. When the pandemic begins, Robbie gets stuck in Iceland where he cultivates his online personality. Dan and Isabel's kids Violet and Nathan are also central characters in this sensitive, nuanced depiction of a family in a quiet crisis.
"The Helsinki Affair: A Novel" by Anna Pitoniak
Anna Pitoniak, a Yale graduate and New York City-transplant from British Columbia, has written yet another propulsive, captivating spy novel. Following up "Our American Friend," "The Helsinki Affair" asks what would happen if your greatest adversary in intelligence was… your father. Amanda Cole is a CIA agent whose father was also a spy. When she takes the threat of a senator's assassination seriously when others don't -- and turns out, she's right -- it unleashes a flood of blackmail, manipulation and corruption. Working with an experienced female mentor, Amanda travels from Rome and London to St. Petersburg and Helsinki until she uncovers her dad's potential involvement. What would you do?!
"The Little Liar: A Novel" by Mitch Albom
The narrator of New York Times bestselling author Mitch Albom's latest novel is Truth itself. Truth plays a complicated role in the Holocaust, the period of time Mitch writes about in "The Little Liar." The central character is Nico, a boy who is unable to lie and is then asked to reassure all his Jewish community members in Greece that it is OK to board the trains, that they are going to someplace nicer, and definitely not anywhere dangerous. By duping the crowds with one of their own, the SS officer who "brilliantly" thought of this plan is linked forever with the boy and the boy's family, especially his older brother Sebastian, who ends up in a concentration camp, and their shared crush Fanny, who gets thrown out the window of the train and survives by hiding and more. Nico becomes a pathological liar, unable to accept the role he unwittingly played as a boy -- and ends up in Hollywood. A story with many twists and turns, horrors and joys, "The Little Liar" is a potent reminder that Jews have long been targets of mass extinction efforts, similar to the recent brutal massacre of Israelis by Hamas fighters.
"End of the Hour: A Therapist's Memoir" by Meghan Riordan Jarvis
TEDx speaker and grief and trauma counselor Meghan Riordan Jarvis was used to sending her patients to an inpatient facility. She just didn't think she'd ever be checking herself into one. But when her mother dies while Jarvis and her children are visiting her on Cape Cod -- only shortly after the loss of Jarvis' father -- Jarvis spirals. Suffering from PTSD, she finds functioning difficult and knows it's time to experience things like equine therapy and group boat-making that she knew would help her own patients. Told with a mix of memory, legacy, intense knowledge of grief and its effects on the brain, "End of the Hour" is a perfect read for anyone wrestling with the loss of a loved one or anyone curious about today's most effective treatments.
Editor's Note: "End of the Hour" is published by Zibby Owen's imprint, Zibby Books.
"I Would Meet You Anywhere: A Memoir" by Susan Kiyo Ito
Adopted as a child, Susan Kiyo Ito only knew her birth mother was Japanese and that her father was white. When she met her birth mother decades later, it unlocked a series of even more questions. Ito has to grapple with her own thoughts on fertility and the choices women make -- and even the country's incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II. Her quest to fill in the blanks and understand who she really is propels Ito throughout this heartfelt narrative of identity and longing for home.