This book list is here to offer eight recent releases that cut through the noise — stories that you can spend a few blissful hours with curled up on the couch, getting swept up in a K-pop training camp or visiting Osaka or imagining a world with a modern-day U.S. monarchy (but, you know, a fun one!).
There’s something for all on this list. It just depends on what you’re in the mood for.
…enjoy reading the book before the movie: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
This excellent tale just dropped this past week, but is already in the works as a Netflix film starring Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts. Read the story, and it’s easy to see why the latest from Alam has struck such a chord.
When a family rents a vacation house upstate, things deteriorate fast once the owners return and want to stay with them because they say a blackout has swept the city. Creeping dread mounts as a series of unexplained events suggest the world might be ending around them. A story about how things just keep getting worse and worse? Can anyone relate to that right now?
…are in the mood for something dark about Hollywood: The Comeback by Ella Berman
Grace Turner was the star of a teen movie franchise, so no one can figure out why at the height of her career, she disappeared from Hollywood. Now, a year later, she wants to begin again — but first she must deal with the dark secret she’s holding about an acclaimed director.
In this compulsively readable story, Berman smartly picks apart the idea of a perfect victim, and shows the complicated process of reconciling people we thought we liked with their horrible actions, as well as the long-reaching effects of sexual trauma, all in the #MeToo era. It’s a tale as old as time, told compassionately through a fresh new lens.
…can’t get enough of BTS: K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee
If you’re the one lecturing your family about how K-pop isn’t a specific band, this hopeful, dishy story of Candace Park is for you. An American teen gets the chance of a lifetime to go to South Korea and compete to become part of a new K-pop girl group. Lee does a great job of imagining the all-consuming training process, as well as thoughtfully exploring the cultural differences in this fish-out-of-water fantasy. Perfect for the teen — or adult who just loves Blackpink — in your life. (Disclosure: I worked with Stephan Lee at a previous job.)
…love royals shit: Majesty by Katharine McGee
Majesty is a sequel to last year’s American Royals, and it’s the rare sequel that just may be better than the (quite delightful) first. The books imagine a modern-day American royal family, and all the trials, tribulations, and forbidden loves they have to deal with. Royals stuff can be trope-y — which is fine! I devour it all! — but it was a nice surprise that this sweet story had a few real twists among all the pining and scheming, helped along by various narrators that give the story some additional depth. I desperately hope this becomes a TV show.
…find yourself gravitating toward stories of generational trauma: Memorial by Bryan Washington (out Oct. 27)
This intimate story is about the families we are born into and the families we choose for ourselves — and how and when they can fall apart. Benson and Mike are a couple growing apart. When family disaster hits, Mike must go to Osaka, Japan to visit his dying father, and undergo big life changes in the process. The two must figure out what being together means, and if it’s possible to grow together. Taking place in both Houston and Japan, it’s a quiet, sensual exploration of how we decide who we stick around for.
…sing along to Hadestown: Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera
A modern retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Never Look Back takes the doomed lovers and places them in NYC. Eury saw the horrors of Hurricane Maria firsthand, among other traumas, and comes to the Bronx for a fresh start. It’s there she meets the lovestruck player Pheus. Tying in details from the original myth, but with plenty of modern-day fun, Rivera creates a haunting, lyrical love story for YA fans.
…love peeking though your fingers at the escalating creepiness of Get Out: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
I was already a fan of Cole’s thanks to her excellent romance novels, but this thriller took my love to a new level. When No One is Watching is the kind of book you tear through in one sitting, desperate to know what happens next and not being able to stop until you do. Sydney Green is a long-time Brooklyn resident who has seen what gentrification has done to be her beloved, tight-knit community. But when older residents start disappearing, she suspects something even more sinister is unfolding. Read with a light on!
…miss Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom (out Nov. 15)
I’ll be honest: I’ve been let down by many of the “Famous Funny Actress Writes a Book of Essays” installments. But Bloom’s is a treat, mostly for how delightfully weird IWTBWTNPA is. The stories have everything: Harry Potter fanfiction, deep thoughts about pooping, blow-by-blow accounts of fights with S&P during Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
I cracked up throughout, but what made it stick with me was her articulation of her anxieties. It was easy to see where and how in her life the beginnings of her work formed, and why certain experiences loomed large. All that, plus lyrics to songs she wrote about her former roommates! I’m telling you: It’s good weird.