19 Best Novels and Books to Feel the Autumn Joy of November
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We’re always looking for our next great read – so what are the best books to read that will make us feel like November? We’ve shared a list of the best new book releases coming in November 2022. For additional ideas, here’s our take on the perfect books to read that capture the mood and the autumn feels of the month of November. These are our top picks of not just what to read this November – they’re perfect to read any November.
recommended reads for the month of November
So many books, so little time! Reading can be one of life’s sweetest luxuries. But how to quickly find the next great volume to dive into?
To lend a hand, every month we share our Dandelion Chandelier Recommended Reads: books that we’ve personally read and loved – some brand new, and some published long ago. Selected to suit the season, we think they deserve a place on your nightstand. Or your e-reader. In your backpack. Or your carry-on bag. You get the idea.
We’ve shared the most-anticipated new book releases for November 2022. To further lend a hand, we’re also sharing our picks for the perfect books to read in the month of November. The books on this list are a mix of old and new. Together, they capture the quintessential mood and vibe of the month, and they’re our top picks for what to read (or re-read) whenever you want to feel like November.
what is the essential spirit of November?
In America, November is a month where we’re meant to tally up the things we’re grateful for. It’s a time for a big family meal – or perhaps a lovely feast with your best friends. A perfect opportunity to reflect on rituals, recipes, trust, traditions and emotional ties with the people closest to you.
It’s also the month of elections in America. Lest anyone forget that the stakes are extremely high when determining who should be elected to lead, November is also the month of remembering those lost in war. Armistice Day, the Day of Remembrance, or Veteran’s Day – the commemorations have different names in different countries, but in many places around the world, November is a time to reflect on the sacrifices, terrors and lasting scars of violent conflict.
And of course November is also the start of the holiday season: a time for buying gifts, decorating and bringing out the chunky sweaters and the chic boots. It’s a complex month: a beginning and an ending – a celebration and a commemoration. Loss and hope. Hunger and nourishment. Longing and fulfillment.
what makes for the ideal November reading list?
We think your reading list this month should be a cornucopia: overflowing with ideas, laughter, stories, tears, provocations and surprises. Feeling like almost too much, and then turning out to be just enough.
Leaving you feeling grateful. Generous. And neighborly.
What follows is a list of books (in no particular order) that we’ve read and loved – either very recently or long ago – that strike precisely the right November note.
We think any of these would be a perfect match for curling up with after Thanksgiving dinner; for lazing on the sofa in front of the fire on a rainy afternoon; or tucking under your arm to read in line while you wait to vote. For recovering from your most recent holiday shopping trip; or maybe just for reading on your way home, whatever home means to you.
the best books to read to feel the month of November
1. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi.
Ghana Must Go is a poignant tale of immigration, family and the irresistible lure of home. Perfect topics for this pre-Thanksgiving time period! In this debut novel, renowned surgeon Kweku Sai and his family have moved from Africa to Boston to accommodate his job. When he suddenly disappears, leaving the family stranded, it falls to his wife Fola to raise their four children and come to terms with this profound abandonment. The story moves between Accra, Lagos, London, Boston and New York City as we learn what becomes of each of the family members. The lush prose and deeply-felt characterizations make for a truly lovely read about loss, forgiveness and redemption.
BUY NOW: $12.72 (paperback)
2. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson.
We’ll confess up front that we don’t read all that much nonfiction. But we made an exception for The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. Why? Well, for starters, since it seems many days as if the world has turned upside down, it seemed like an opportune moment for immersion in another time of global crisis – at a far more urgent pitch – that people managed to rally through and survive. Add to that our Anglophilia and our curiosity about the life of Winston Churchill, and we were all in.
And what a marvelous book this is! Larson takes us into the bosom of the Churchill family, seen largely through the eyes of his daughter Mary. She’s on the cusp of adulthood and torn between her idyllic social weekends in the countryside and the growing terror and destruction of The Blitz in London. We also see this chapter in global history from the birds-eye view of a Luftwaffe fighter pilot. And from the Nazi’s lead propagandist. And from the emissaries from America, who have to decide whether or not to recommend that FDR throw his full support behind the British in their hour of need.
We all know how it turns out – but it’s fascinating to learn how they got it to turn out that way. There are some stories that seem too fantastical to be true – and yet they are (looking right at you, Rudolf Hess). You’ll come away wanting to know more about all of these players – especially Mary Churchill, who sounds like our kind of woman.
The quote from a wartime diary that gives this book its name is haunting. As is the memory of the suffering and valor of the Allies in the face of moral peril and the dread of the unknown. For Veteran’s Day – or really any day – this is a much-needed dose of courage for the road ahead.
BUY NOW: $15.25.
3. Atonement by Ian McEwan.
Atonement by Ian McEwan. Published in 2002, this novel is utterly timeless and as relevant today as it was when it was published. Set in England during three different time periods – 1935; the Second World War; and the present day – it explores themes of desire, war, betrayal – and of course, atonement.
The scenes set at the Battle of Dunkirk will remind you of the importance of Armistice Day – Veterans Day – and the need to remember the horrors of violent conflict and the souls lost in battle through the centuries. The scenes on the home front will lead you to think deeply about family, honor and truth. The prose is cerebral and crisp, so when the stunning moments come, they cut straight to the heart. Insider tip: have tissues close to hand.
BUY NOW: $10.29 (paperback)
4. Fight Night by Miriam Toews.
Sometimes the book you need arrives at just the right moment. When the student is ready, the teacher arrives, as they say. For us, one of those books is Fight Night. Written by the author of Women Talking and All My Puny Sorrows, this is a novel about three generations of women: a feisty and funny Grandma; a sensitive and volatile pregnant actress, and her preternaturally smart and observant daughter, Swiv.
Set in Toronto, we learn the stories of their lives through letters written but never sent: from Swiv to her absent father. From Grandma and Mom to the unborn child, Gord. All three have been through unspeakable pain, heartbreak and disappointment. But led by the matriarch, their spirits are indomitable. If you need inspiration to keep up the fight, this is your novel. Sometimes it feels like every night is fight night – and it’s important to know that you’re not fighting alone.
BUY NOW: $18.91.
5. Mister Monkey by Francine Prose.
Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. This fictional account of Mister Monkey, a screwball children’s musical about an orphan monkey adopted by a family, and a ragtag troupe of players performing it in a theater in Manhattan, is a great deal more serious and thought-provoking than its cover implies (proving, for the umpteenth time, that we should never judge a book by its cover).
The make-shift family in the musical reflects the family ties – or lack thereof – amongst the actors. It’s an inventive way to explore themes of disappointment, growing up, growing old, and holding on.
BUY NOW: $8.59 (paperback)
6. The Mothers by Brit Bennett.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett. On its surface, this brilliant debut appears to be about a surreptitious teenage love affair. It’s narrated by a Greek chorus of church ladies who gossip disapprovingly about the behavior of the young ones. But actually, mothers – their absence and presence – are the preoccupation of this affecting novel.
Two black teenaged girls in Southern California are united by their shared loss – neither has a mother (one is lost to suicide, and the other to abandonment). What these two will make of their own lives – whether they will become mothers themselves, whether their friendship can fill the holes left by a lost parent, and whether trust and forgiveness are really possible after a shocking betrayal – these are urgent timeless questions, beautifully explored.
BUY NOW: $8.31 (paperback)
7. The Past by Tessa Hadley.
Before sitting down with your own family for a holiday meal, read The Past , an evocative novel about a quartet of siblings – three sisters and a brother – who arrive at their grandparents’ ancient and crumbling estate in the British countryside for one last summer sojourn.
The house (with its prohibitively expensive upkeep) must be sold. And when it goes, it will take secrets and memories with it. There are kids, a new wife and the son of an ex-boyfriend in tow, and the emotional currents run high during three hot weeks in August. The redemptive love of siblings is a powerful force – and that’s probably a good thing to remember right about now.
BUY NOW: $15.10
8. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. Sibling relationships are also the locus of this debut novel set in New York City. The four Plumb siblings – two sisters and two brothers – gather to discuss their joint inheritance – “the Nest” – which is in jeopardy thanks to the reckless actions of the oldest brother.
The value of the funds has soared, thanks to the stock market, and has become a sum that each sibling is counting on to solve a pressing financial problem. How they navigate their obligations and learn how to live with their choices is a bittersweet tale, revealing which family bonds are truly unbreakable.
BUY NOW: $10.89 (paperback)
9. Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well by Sam Sifton.
Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well by Sam Sifton. We love reading Sam Sifton’s columns for the New York Times, and eagerly look forward to his thrice-weekly Cooking newsletter (if you haven’t subscribed to it, you totally should).
This book is a compilation of his thoughts about Thanksgiving, with recipes and advice for how to prepare a wonderful meal without making yourself crazy in the process. Written in his voice – knowledgeable, friendly, reassuring and encouraging – it’s the perfect read whether you’re cooking your first Thanksgiving dinner or your 35th. And if you’re going to be a guest at someone else’s table, reading this beforehand will help you appreciate just how thankful you should be for your host’s labors.
BUY NOW: $13.99
10. The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty.
In this 2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, culinary historian Twitty shares the story of his family. The clan has members who are both black and white, and we trace their stories through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.
The narrative opens into a meditation on America, and what it means to be American. As the publisher notes, “Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who ‘owns’ it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race.” One family’s story illuminates the ongoing conversation about Southern cuisine and food culture, and how what we cook and eat can define who we are as a nation.
BUY NOW: $12.50 (paperback)
11. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom.
Named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and a National Book Award Winner, The Yellow House is a memoir of one black family that begins in a “shotgun house” in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East.
BUY NOW: $20.35.
12. Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong.
At a time when many of us are striving for empathy and understanding of our fellow citizens, there’s no better moment to pick up Minor Feelings: An Asian-American Reckoning. We think it’s one of the best books to read in November – the month of elections and reckonings of all kinds in the public sphere.
BUY NOW: $13.70 (paperback)
13. The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine.
In the debut novel The Margot Affair, we spend a year in the lives of a single mother and her teenage daughter in the swanky precincts of the Left Bank of Paris. Near the Luxembourg Gardens, Margot and her mother (a famous actress in the mold of Catherine Deneuve) spot the wife of Margot’s father – a politician on the rise with a spouse and children known to the public. They are his second, secret family – living in an apartment paid for by Margot’s father that they could never otherwise afford. That day, something in Margot snaps as she contemplates what life would be like if her father would only publicly claim her as his own.
As she and her best friend study for the Baccalaureate exams that will determine their futures, Margot is seduced by a journalist and her husband into sharing the secrets of her family life. When the story goes public, a string of events that no one could have expected unfolds. And it becomes essential to understand exactly what family, parenthood, loyalty and devotion really mean.
It’s frank and funny and ultimately deeply moving, and in many ways is a perfect companion read with The Mothers. Who stays, and who goes, when life gets really, truly hard? This brilliant novel will leave you thankful for those rare people in your life who will literally do anything for you. Sometimes that person is your mother.
BUY NOW: $13.29
14. No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood.
The debut novel No One is Talking About This was a finalist for the Booker Prize, and having read it, its not hard to see why. Lockwood penned a widely-praised memoir, Priestdaddy, and one could naturally question whether her non-fiction skills would translate well into fiction. They do.
This is the story of a successful social media influencer whose daily existence blurs the lines between “the portal” (her word for the Internet) and real life. She’s wildly successful in the former sphere, and aimlessly adrift in the latter. Flying and scrolling her way across Europe on a speaking tour, we see the escape offered by endless scrolling – and also the price of the ticket.
The vagabond life up in the sky seems like an endless loop. That is, until her beloved sister gives birth to a child with severe developmental issues. The emotional weight of her return to earth to care for her new niece is believable and touching. And despite the darkness of alienation and loss, there are many moments of laugh-out-loud observations to provide rays of light. The universal gravitational pull of siblings and hometowns has rarely been illuminated so well.
BUY NOW: $17.89.
15. Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber.
In Secrets of Happiness, a splendid novel from the author of another of our favorite novels, Improvement, we’re introduced to a Manhattan lawyer who learns that his father has long had another, secret, family—a wife and two kids— living across the East River from him in Queens. It turns out that the protagonist’s family’s favorite restaurant is run by the “other” mother and her sons. They have been crossing paths for years, unbeknownst to all except the father and the woman who is not his wife.
The novel is divided into 7 chapters in which six members of this extended “family” share their thoughts and memories about the late patriarch and their current lives. They come from three continents and several different generations. Yet all of them ponder the idea of what it will take for them to be happy. Some actually achieve it, at least for a time, and describe this elusive state of being in marvelous prose. This novel is another understated and subtle take from Silber on the invisible ties that bind us to others, and how fate can take a hand in leading us home.
BUY NOW: $14.45.
16. Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen.
Bread and Butter is a novel about three brothers in the restaurant business, set in a struggling fictional Pennsylvania town. The tone is wry, knowing and authentic. We were fascinated by the peek inside the back of the house in two very different restaurants, and the challenges of creating a restaurant menu and hiring a pastry chef. But what kept us hooked was the realistic portrayal of the rivalries between the brothers, and of the emotional difficulties of starting anew as an adult in your hometown at any and every age.
BUY NOW: $11.96.
17. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.
Gyasi is best known for her bestselling debut novel, Homegoing. In this sophomore novel, she brings the same precision and lyricism to a different kind of family and a different definition of home. Gifty is . . . well, gifted. A young black woman working in a graduate student lab at Stanford, Gifty has become consumed with research into the nature of addiction. That’s the direct result of the tragic death of her adored older brother (and only sibling) from a drug overdose after he becomes addicted to opioids after a sports injury. In the aftermath, her stern mother struggles with debilitating depression, despite being deeply devoted to her evangelical local church. They are an immigrant family, originally from Ghana, transplanted to a small city in Alabama and battered by the race and class barriers that await them in America.
This deeply moving novel addresses the hard questions of life: why do some people become depressed or addicted? Why do some run away from their problems, leaving others behind to fend for themselves? How do we maintain our faith in the light of suffering from deep emotional wounds? Is science any better at explaining the mysteries of human behavior than religion? Can anything actually explain it?
The author grew up in Alabama in the same town in which this novel is set. So perhaps it is “auto-fiction” – autobiography disguised as fiction. It matters not. This is a remarkable and earnest exploration of childhood faith and the cold harsh realities of adulthood. In wrestling with suffering and fighting quite hard to hold onto hope, in Gifty we have a heroine who embodies what it means to want to believe in a world that seems determined to extinguish the small flame of hope lit inside her as a child. And her triumph becomes ours.
BUY NOW: $12.70
18. Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar.
What relationship is more fraught than the ones between mothers and daughters? Just in time for family holidays, we recommend this excellent novel about the ways in which our mothers influence us – and how we in turn often find ourselves deploying the same strategies with our own daughters.
Katya’s mother is a mathematician, and her entire childhood is centered around the idea that math is the answer to everything. Yet as she turns 40, she’s heartbroken and in crisis – and equations don’t seem to hold out much hope. Her lover won’t leave his wife, but her husband is leaving her. And her formidable mother is slowly dying. Tracing her journey from a childhood in Russia to young adulthood in Queens, New York and into middle age – where it all starts to seriously unravel – the essential question that we all must answer (sometimes around the Thanksgiving table, even) is this: when are you going to grow up?
BUY NOW: $17.36.
19. Brood by Jackie Polzin.
We close our list of the best novels and non-fiction books to read to feel the month of November with this elegiac debut work that captures both the comfort and the heartbreak that being a member of a family can bring.
Brood is set in a barren stretch of Minnesota, and opens with a young woman who is . . . brooding. Over another miscarriage. Over whether or not she should stay with her husband. And over whether her eccentric mother is capable of living alone. In the midst of doubt, she remains certain about one thing: she is the caregiver of a brood of 4 chickens and she has to keep them alive as the winter winds begin to blow.
You might think you have no interest in a story about keeping chickens – although it has become extremely trendy. However, this turns out to be fascinating and difficult work – sort of like being human.
BUY NOW: $13.79
the best books – novels and non-fiction – to read in November
That’s our take on the best books, both novels and non-fiction, to read to feel the quintessential vibe and the mood of the month of November. What’s on your list this month, dear reader?