7 Best-Reviewed Books in October 2019

  • November 5, 2019

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony this past month.

7 Best-Reviewed Books in October 2019

Imaginary Friend: A Novel by Stephen Chbosky (Grand Central Publishing). Reviewed by Robert Allen Papinchak. “With Imaginary Friend, Stephen Chbosky has written another classic, setting a new high watermark for fantasy horror. It is the greatest story ever told of love and salvation in which a little child shall save them. It is as spine-tinglingly sinister as any Stephen King tome, as ghastly as any ghost story by Peter Straub, as gothic as any Neil Gaiman title. It should become a horror perennial, taken out at Halloween and Christmas or any other time a reader wants a proper fright. It is the scariest novel of the year, a menacing book for all seasons.”

Suicide Woods: Stories by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press). Reviewed by Anjili Babbar. “A bear mauling humans and squeezing into their clothes to do the shopping. People willingly buried alive to alleviate suicidal tendencies. Time-traveling, murderous telephone calls. A corpse on a train. Embodied memories that haunt, taunt, and refuse to be ignored. Benjamin Percy’s new collection, Suicide Woods, is a total nightmare — in the best way possible.”

Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays by Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown and Company). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “I am pleased to report that the title does not reflect the content, though I’m left to wonder who argued for it and won (my money’s on Marketing). If it were up to me, the title would have been Longing, Looking, Dwelling — the headings of the book’s three sections, and far more reflective of Jamison’s use of language and more evocative of the themes she explores.”

The Man Who Saw Everything: A Novel by Deborah Levy (Bloomsbury Publishing). Reviewed by Patricia Schultheis. “What Levy has knocked askew are conventional notions of reality. Sexuality, parenthood, politics, nationhood, space, and time all come into question. Halfway through The Man Who Saw Everything, Levy begins her novel anew, starting at chapter one. Now 56, Saul again crosses Abbey Road and again is hit by a Jaguar driven by the mysterious Wolfgang, only this time, Saul’s hospitalized. Infected with sepsis, he relives the second half of his life. That is not to say he recalls nor re-experiences that life. No: Saul Adler lives his life as though he never had lived it before.”

The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer and Care by Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Rose Rankin. “The Undying is a cathartic read for breast cancer patients and survivors, and anyone caught in the relentless machine of treatment, suffering, and withstanding the ordeal. But it’s equally valuable for allowing the uninitiated to peer behind the pink ribbon and the tropes and, instead, see what so many parts of our society can’t or won’t countenance about this disease.”

When the Plums Are Ripe: A Novel by Patrice Nganang; translated by Amy B. Reid (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. “Nganang’s entire novel can be viewed as a song of mourning for the thousands of African soldiers who were reduced to cannon fodder in the global conflict of World War II. The author’s narrative is self-conscious about its role in telling a story that has not been adequately told; the narrator often lapses into meta-reflection about giving voice to the colonized — as opposed to versions of history written by the victors. And he is aware of the silencing of the soldiers’ voices and of his own limitations as storyteller.”

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey (Penguin Press). Reviewed by Kitty Kelley. “Following Baquet’s lead, Kantor and Twohey low-key everything, even the most lurid details of their investigation. They write with restraint about Weinstein’s young female assistant tasked with procuring and organizing his ‘personal supply of an erectile dysfunction drug called Caverject, administered through injection into the penis…[She] had to keep a supply of those shots at her desk, hand them off to him in brown paper bags, and sometimes run the drugs to hotels and elsewhere, just before his meetings with women.’”

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