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.
The Collected Stories Of Diane Williams (October 2, Soho Press)
“How unlifelike to understand perfectly,” Diane Williams told the now-defunct Numéro Cinq magazine in 2015. One of few true originals writing today, the author revels in confusions left unexplained, tensions unresolved—all the better to place readers in a state of excited imbalance. Like many of the authors she publishes in avant-garde literary annual NOON, Williams favors brevity, unexpected language, the uncanny, and extreme attention to sentence-level writing. In this collection, Soho Press has assembled more than 300 of her new and previously published very-short short stories (the average is around a page and a half) from across nearly three decades of her career. The result is a heady immersion into Williams’ wit and the often unsettling situations she throws her characters into, tracing the preoccupations, from sex to selfhood to death, of one of American literature’s most unique voices.
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami (October 9, Knopf)
The international-bestselling author returns with another labyrinthine epic, his first since the widely praised novels Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage (2014) and 1Q84 (2011). Killing Commendatore follows an unnamed portrait painter in Tokyo who discovers his wife is having an affair and sets out on the road. This being Murakami, it’s not long before the surrealism kicks in and the first trip leads to another, altogether stranger journey, this time leading into a magical pit, near the house of a fellow painter, in which ideas and metaphors take bodily form. Early reviews call Commendatore “demanding” and “consistently rewarding,” and possibly more pleasing to extant Murakami fans than novices.
My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper (October 9, Scribner)
Ellie Kemper joins the celebrity memoir rounds with My Squirrel Days, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fans, especially, will be glad she has. Kemper’s biggest fictional persona aligns with her literary personality more than one might expect: There are loads of references to famous people, discussions of specific food items and outfits, and a multitude of exclamation points. Like Kimmy, Kemper is a joy to follow, as she discusses everything from the pope’s visit to her childhood church to her time as a Leo Burnett intern working with the guy who ran the Tampax account (“I asked him what had that been like for him, a grown man who doesn’t get a period?”). Kemper’s chapter titles indicate her various roles—daughter, boss, hysteric. She’s always poking fun at herself, but bravely open enough to let us all in on the joke.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon (October 16, Scribner)
Kiese Laymon’s intense, layered Heavy is a provocatively personal look at racism and oppression in America. The novelist and essayist interweaves the story of his upbringing in Jackson, Mississippi with his personal experiences with racism, trauma, and toxic masculinity, while looking outward to the systems in the United States that foster abuses of its people. Like his collection of essays, How To Slowly Kill Yourself And Others In America, Heavy is unsparingly honest in the pain it depicts. But the book, despite its title, isn’t without some levity. Laymon’s prose positively sings, helped by the humanity and humor he brings to this astonishing memoir.
The Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz (October 30, Spiegel & Grau)
The most recent Beastie Boys record came out in 2011; it became the final Beastie Boys record a year later, when founding member Adam Yauch died. And so it’s up to Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz to tell the trio’s sprawling 30-year story, here in a massive, messy ode to their friendship and the genre-mashing alchemy it created. They got some help, though: Literary luminaries like Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Lethem lend chapters, and friends like Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson stop by to provide perspective. It’s a full-color document of the birth of hip-hop and the alternative nation told by some of its catalysts, but, as always with the Beasties, the aim is to keep things low-brow, scrappy, and, most of all, fun.