It’s not quite reading-on-a-beach weather yet, but why wait? October is a bumper month for new books. Stock up ahead of summer with some of these.
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (Penguin, $32.99)
For the many, many fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, this is the big one. Set 10 years before Northern Lights (filmed as The Golden Compass), it has 11-year-old Malcolm and his daemon Asta becoming entangled in the affairs of young Lyra Belacqua (the hero of the earlier books). Set across multiple words, populated with vivid and packed with profound ideas, this series is perfect for children (and adults) who have outgrown Harry Potter.
Logical Family by Armistead Maupin (Doubleday, $35.00)
With impeccable timing, this moving memoir from the Tales of the City author arrives as Australia votes for marriage wquality. For those on the outside of the LGBTI community, it should prove as instructive as it is entertaining. Born into a conservative old Southern family, the young Armistead mistakes his sexuality for mental illness before finding his true family in the wilds of San Francisco.
The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst (Macmillan, $32.99)
On a similar theme, this generations-straddling epic from Booker Prize-winning British author Alan Hollinghurst circles but never quite connects with the enigmatic David Sparsholt. A war hero and (apparently) happily married man, his secret homosexuality makes him a source of fascination and controversy for all around him. Taking strides from the 1940s to the present, through the prism of several exquisitely drawn characters, the novel tracks the changing lives of gay men in the West.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper (Macmillan, $32.99)
Melbourne journo Jane Harper’s debut The Dry scooped all manner of awards and had its film rights snapped up by Reese Witherspoon. Her follow-up might lack the stifling heat of a country Victorian summer, but finds a new kind of claustrophobic tension in the wintery wilds of a mountain range. A woman has gone missing during a corporate weekend in the bush. Sent to investigate, Federal Police agent Aaron Falk again finds his personal and professional lives blurring. Compelling crime fiction with a literary bent.
Depending on your bent, there are three big new thrillers to choose from this month. If prose and probability aren’t major priorities, Origin by Dan Brown (Bantam, $39.99) will be of interest. Featuring Robert Langdon of The Da Vinci Code, it involves the heroic professor chasing clues to uncover a world-shaking truth. Again.
A little closer to reality is Munich, by Robert Harris (Penguin, $32.99), which is set on the eve of World War II as two old friends are reunited in a rapidly changing world. Best of the three is A Legacy of Spies, by John Le Carre (Viking, $32.99), in which the author returns (for the first time in decades) to the Cold War setting and characters of his best-loved works.
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The Last Hours by Minette Walters (Allen & Unwin, $32.99)
It’s been 10 years since crime writer Minette Walters last published a novel. Her new work is a change of direction, set as the Black Death enters England in 1340. Wise Lady Anne withdraws her people behind castle walls, refusing entry to anyone who might be infected – including her husband. As supplies dwindle and her people rebel, Lady Anne’s ingenuity is tested to its limits.
Sanctuary by Judy Nunn (William Heinemann Australia, $32.99)
The political gets personal in this powerful new novel from the prolific Aussie writer. A boat containing nine refugees is grounded on a deserted island off the coast of Western Australia. Escaping dark pasts and horrors, the group starts to imagine new lives for themselves. But just up the coast is fishing town Shoalhaven, where strangers (even the homegrown kind) are less than welcome. The result is a book as compassionate as it is confronting. Nunn writes with a cool eye, but there’s no doubting her warm heart.
Broadcast by Liam Brown (Bantam, $29.99)
One for fans of all-too-real sci-fi series Black Mirror. This is a bleak and funny book in which a YouTube star is offered the prize part in a bold new online show. His every thought, feeling and memory is live-streamed, 24 hours a day. But does he own anything about himself any more – and is it too late to change his mind?
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (Bloomsbury, $24.99)
If you’re after a classic Gothic ghost story this Halloween, you won’t find better than this tense historical thriller. Having lost her husband, pregnant Elsie takes refuge in his decaying country estate. As usual in these cases, the locals aren’t friendly. The servants are sniffy and the villagers scornful. But she finds other, less earthly companions – namely, the painted wooden figure lurking in locked room. A wooden figure that looks a whole lot like Elsie. Launching Bloomsbury’s horror imprint Raven, this is a literary spookfest that masterfully borrows from the greats without losing a modern, vibrant edge.
Strange but true
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein (Text, $32.99)
Far from your typical cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst deals with the most challenging of clean-ups: murder scenes, meth labs, industrial accidents and hoarder squalor. Also on her CV? Husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker and trophy wife. In the hands of Melbourne writer Sarah Krasnostein, this remarkable life becomes a moving character portrait.
A Thoroughly Unhelpful History of Australian Sport by Titus O’Reily (Penguin, $34.99)
There’s no doubting the role sport has played in shaping our national identity. This irreverent guide to our sporting history doesn’t take in every single improbable triumph or glorious defeat, but it covers an impressive amount of turf. Along the way it tackles all the big issues, like whether soccer is a greater evil than communism and whether you can dislike sport and still call yourself an Aussie.
For the kids
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Hachette, $16.99)
Pitched as a blend of Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland, this new adventure series from debut Aussie author Jessica Townsend looks set to prove a new favourite for the primary school crowd. Morrigan Crow escapes a terrible fate when the mysterious Jupiter North recruits her for a magical society. The only problem is that Morrigan doesn’t seem to have any magical skills. Inventive, fun and, yes, thoroughly magical.