Dream-quests, mysteries, and magic: the most addictive new reads of October

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Sarah Shaffi
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October is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to books, so picking just 10 has been a tough task.

The month contains one of my favourite books of the year, Colson Whitehead's wonderful The Underground Railroad, following Cora as she escapes her life of slavery on a plantation for her dream of being free. People pursuing dreams of a different or better life are also central to Julia Leigh's Avalanche, about her quest to have a child using IVF, and Anuk Arudpragasam's The Story of a Brief Marriage, about a young couple during the Sri Lankan civil war.

As the winter nights draw closer, there are few things better than snuggling up with a mystery. For that, you have Graham Norton's debut novel Holding and Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders.

There's also some SFF in Naomi Alderman's The Power and Robert Dickinson's The Tourist, drama of the royal sort in Daisy Goodwin's Victoria and the Shakespearean sort in Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed, and something for beauty addicts with Sali Hughes' Pretty Iconic.

Click through to see Stylist's pick of the best books for October 2016...

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehad

    Fleet, £14.99

    Picked by Oprah for her book club, The Underground Railroad is hands down one of the best, if not the best, book I've read this year. The novel has a simple but ingenious concept - that instead of being a network of secret routes and safe houses for people looking to escape slavery and make their way to northern American cities, The Underground Railroad was an actual underground railway. Whitehead never exploits his subject matter, and in fact it's the sparseness of the novel that makes it such a punch in the gut.

    Get it here.

  • Holding by Graham Norton

    Hodder & Stoughton, £20

    TV host Norton turns his hand to fiction in his first novel, Holding. Our unlikely hero is an overweight, loner police officer in an Irish village, Duneen, who suddenly finds himself having to solve a decades old crime after bones are found at a nearby development. It's a murder mystery, but the true heart of Norton's novel is when he's exploring the lives of Duneen's residents, whether it's the neighbourhood gossip, the alcoholic mother-of-two or the detective brought in from the 'big city' to help PJ Collins get to the bottom of the crime. Heartwarming and observant, Holding is the definition of cosy crime.

    Get it here.

  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

    Hogarth, £16.99

    How can you take on one of the greatest writers of all time? If you're Margaret Atwood, quite easily. The latest in a project asking contemporary writers to reimagine Shakespeare's plays see Atwood tackle The Tempest with style and verve. Her version features a disgruntled, ornery theatre director seeking revenge on those who have wronged him by putting on a version of The Tempest at a local prison. Funny and dark, Hag-Seed is as clever and full of layers as Shakespeare's original. The Bard would be proud.

    Get it here.

  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

    Orion, £18.99

    You get two mysteries for the price of one in Magpie Murders. The first is in the novel of the title - a 1950s-set murder mystery in a sleepy English village featuring a Poirot-style detective. The second mystery takes place in the present day, with the editor of Magpie Murders trying to use the manuscript she's read to unlock a real life crime. An homage to Agatha Christie, Magpie Murders will keep you guessing to the end.

    Get it here.

  • The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

    Granta Books, £12.99

    Set during the final days of the Sri Lankan civil war, this unassuming novel is about Dinesh and Ganga, thrown together in a war zone, trying to figure out what it means to be human and to have a connection with someone else. It is also about so much more than that - about how war is all consuming and changes people completely, and about the struggle to remember who you were before the fighting started, and who you could be again. Not for the faint hearted or squeamish, this is the type of novel that has you taking a deep breath after turning the final page.

    Get it here.

  • Avalanche by Julia Leigh

    Faber & Faber, £12.99

    This is an unflinching memoir about what it's like to go through IVF treatment. Leigh first began IVF while with her husband, but after a break up and his decision not to let her use his sperm, Leigh decided to continue on her own. Avalanche is part scientific chronicle (the types of injections, the amounts of medicines she's taking, the process of testing) and part diary of Leigh's emotional state as she copes with the toll treatment takes. Subtitled A Love Story, Avalanche above all is a heartbreaking and courageous account of a woman who does everything she can to make her biggest dream come true.

    Get it here.

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman

    Viking, £12.99

    What if women had the power to inflict pain just by using their hands? That's the central conceit of Alderman's The Power, which follows four people in a world where girls suddenly gain the ability to cause pain, and even death, using their hands. Subversive and darkly funny at times. Oh, and make sure you take off the dust jacket -there's a gorgeous hardback hiding underneath.

    Get it here.

  • Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

    Headline Review, £7.99

    Whether or not you've been caught up in ITV's production of Victoria, the standalone novel of the series, written by the show's screenwriter Daisy Goodwin, will sweep you away. It sumptuously brings to life the tale of Victoria's ascension to the throne, her battles with her mother and her relationship with her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. I loved the detail in this novel, and tore through it - a case of a book being just as seductive as its companion TV programme.

    Get it here.

  • Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes

    Fourth Estate, £26

    I'm a big fan of Hughes, and in her latest book she shares the beauty products she's a big fan of. From baby lotion to blusher, Hughes selects the classic and new beauty products that we should all own. Plus, this book comes in such a gorgeous package that it earns its place  next must-have in your beauty haul.

    Get it here.

  • The Tourist by Robert Dickinson

    Orbit, £12.99

    A conspiracy thriller with a time travel twist that is being brought out by Orbit. When a tourist goes missing on a trip from the 23rd century to the 21st century, the tour guide has to reevaluate everything he knows about the future. A rollercoaster ride.

    Get it here.


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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.