Slay In Your Lane essays, Alicia Garza, Grace Dent’s memoir and more unmissable reads
October is always brimming with wonderful new reads as bookshops start the Christmas lists early… Big names this year include Nigella Lawson, Claudia Winkleman and Hilary Mantel who are all releasing beautifully bound and covetable reads. But that’s not all – Alicia Garza’s massively anticipated The Purpose Of Power is out, Slay In Your Lane’s Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené are back with a selection of essays entitled Loud Black Girls, Grace Dent’s delightful memoir Hungry is out at the end of the month alongside Jamie Windust’s wise and wonderful In Their Shoes while there is joyful fiction from Dolly Alderton and a brilliant debut from Tammye Huf.
So nab a cosy spot on your sofa, turn off your phone and hide from the world with some brilliant reads.
A call to arms
In July 2013, #BlackLivesMatter appeared on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. Inspired by the decentralised, grassroots organisation set up by its founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, in 2020 Black Lives Matter has become a defining rallying cry for change. Arriving at a critical juncture, Garza’s book is a call to arms for people to connect, to set up their own activism and have the self-belief that they too can change the world by working with others. Part-memoir, part-activist’s handbook, The Purpose Of Power is incisive, uplifting and exactly what the world needs right now.
The winter folk tales you’ll love
Just in time for a long dark winter comes this brilliant selection of revised folk tales from British and Irish writers including (deep breath) Eimear McBride, Daisy Johnson, Irenosen Okojie, Kirsty Logan, Mahsuda Snaith and Imogen Hermes Gowar. Hag (out 8 October) features pixies, animals, violent love and loss are all given a 21st century spin in a book that’ll delight and unnerve in equal measures. It’s the perfect present for a reading pal.
The nostalgic memoir
Transplant yourself to the heady days of 80s Carlisle and 90s London with Grace Dent’s love-filled ode to family, food and Asda superstores. Hungry for everything (her dad’s spaghetti, Heather Shimmer Rimmel lipstick, questionable teen boys drenched in Insignia), Dent turns her unerring eye over the truths and sadnesses of her family while simultaneously celebrating the safety and love that only they can bring. Like a soft chippie sarnie drenched in vinegar and salt, this is British comfort food in book form.
The timely books of essays
Loud Black Girls comes with a rousing foreward from Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo who writes, “The fact is that plurality, polyvocality, multiplicity – however we describe it – functions to counterbalance invisibility and reductionist stereotyping, and this anthology spills over with a thrilling range of voices.” And it is thrilling with essays from Candice Brathwaite, Kuchenga, Sophia Thakur and more tackling everything from Black Panther to activism.
The perfect novel to curl up with
The perfect no-holds-barred modern day rom-com, Alderton’s novel Ghosts is about 32-year-old Nina George who finds that life seems to be falling away in unexpected chunks (her dad has dementia, her best friends are moving to suburbia, her mum is rebranding). Thrilled to meet the sexy and funny Max, real life intrudes and what turns out to be the romantic solution is just a whole new world of confusion. Full of smart and resonating reflections on modern life, this is exactly what we’re in the mood to read right now.
A tribute to food and life
The perfect companion to Grace Dent’s memoir, In The Kitchen (out 8 October) is another moving and beautiful tribute to food and taste and how these essential things wrap themselves round the colour of our lives. Ruby Tandoh explores Filipino food and the bittersweet remembrance of a love affair that didn’t last (but a friendship that did) while Nina Mingya Powles beautifully captures the complex business of creating cheung fun in lockdown in an essay that will quite possibly reduce you to tears. Comfort food and writing in one beautiful book.
The women’s side of things
Following up from her transcendent novel A Thousand Ships, Haynes now puts the women of Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk in an exploration of their stories, motivations and myths. Written in Haynes’ immediately gripping and readable style, we get the stories of Medea – a seriously powerful girl – who ends up betrayed by Jason as well as deep dive into the stories of The Amazons, Penelope and Phaedra to name a few. Both fascinating and incredibly researched if you want to catch up on your Greek myths, this is the place to start.
A tale to remember
Inspired by the true-life tale of her great-great grandparents, Huf’s epic story tells the tale of Irish immigrant Henry who leaves his home country for 1840s US only to walk into a country full of prejudice and a rich South built on slavery. There he meets the incredible Sarah who’s been sold into slavery and the pair find themselves falling in love. Ambitious, sweeping, unafraid of acknowledging the complexity of the times and guaranteed to leave you welling up, this is storytelling at its finest.
Read a revolutionary woman
Ana Quin (born 1936) was a working class writer from Brighton who was at the forefront of British experimentalism in the 60s; And Other Stories (which publishes this new version of 1966’s Three on 6 October) is all about amplifying innovative voices so together they make the perfect bedfellows. And Three is a fascinating read, exploring obsession and the claustrophobia of marriage and middle class existence in the Sixties while consistently playing with different forms and styles. It’s quick but intense read.
The non-binary must-read
Jamie Windust is a non-binary writer and journalist and In Their Shoes (out 21 October) is a frank, funny and incisive exploration of self-acceptance and self-celebration. Celebrating both love and understanding alongside piercing and painful anecdotes (from going on a date with a man who clearly decided they were solely there for sex to the manager of their after-school job laughing at the thought of Windust working on the beauty counter), what comes from the book is a calm wisdom that no one has to give up themselves to other people’s expectations or demands; it’s a lesson we all need to learn.
Images: Unsplash/Courtesy of publishers
Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown