If you thought September was a busy book month, welcome to October. If allowed, I'd triple this list to include more memoirs, biographies and a few cookbooks. However, these 10 titles will give you a great start on your fall reading. Bonus: Not a candy-corn calorie to count in the bunch.
"The Butterfly Girl: A Novel" by Rene Denfeld (Oct. 1)
We first met Naomi, a talented investigator, in 2017's "The Child Finder." She returns here in a story that involves the homeless Celia, who lives on the streets of Portland, Ore., which is also where Naomi is searching for a sister she barely remembers. Chilling, suspenseful and yet full of hope, Denfeld's second mystery is as satisfying as her first.
"Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick" by Wendy Wood (Oct. 1)
Many authors have written about habits - e.g., Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit" - but Wood is also a premier scientist in psychology, working on how habits affect and are affected by the human mind. Top tip: Willpower isn't enough. But through her original research, Wood explains what does work.
"Grand Union" by Zadie Smith (Oct. 8)
Nineteen stories, 10 of which first appeared in the New Yorker (surely that's a record of some sort?), make up this collection in which the multitalented Smith ("White Teeth," "On Beauty") mixes genres with aplomb. Whether she's spinning sci-fi ("Meet the President!"), horror ("The Canker") or reliable lit fic ("Just Right"), Smith's stories show a smart, curious writer at play.
"On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey" by Paul Theroux (Oct. 8)
Theroux has taken many trains (as he did in "Riding the Iron Rooster" and "The Great Railway Bazaar"), but for his travels around Mexico, he decided to drive. The choice was wise, as it allowed him to visit villages and landmarks he might otherwise have missed. Whether it's Frida Kahlo's legendary Blue House, border towns or coastline, Theroux presents a Mexico riddled with problems and gifted with beauty.
"Erosion: Essays of Undoing" by Terry Tempest Williams (Oct. 8)
"We need not lose hope," writes Tempest Williams, an environmental activist and writer. "We just need to locate where it dwells." Her new essay collection focuses on how the earth and human beings have unraveled. Currently writer-in-residence at Harvard Divinity School, the author includes the spiritual without assuming its transcendence.
"Your House Will Pay" by Steph Cha (Oct. 15)
Nearly 30 years after his sister Ava was killed, Shawn Matthews finds himself a suspect in the drive-by shooting of the woman responsible. Grace Park, that woman's daughter, searches for answers - and when she and Shawn discover that those answers are hidden in a tangle of racial violence, the two attempt to find the truth. This L.A. noir mystery ties past and present together without resorting to easy answers.
"Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA" by Amaryllis Fox (Oct. 15)
Fox joined the CIA during graduate school at Georgetown after developing a complex algorithm that could predict terrorist hot spots around the world. After a short stint as an analyst, she was selected as an operative. She's walked the walk in Karachi, Shanghai and other places, but after she married a fellow agent and had a daughter, she decided to quit and work for peace.
"Girl" by Edna O'Brien (Oct. 15)
You might associate O'Brien with Ireland, where she's from and where many of her novels take place. But in "Girl," O'Brien turns to Nigeria and a protagonist named Maryam, whose abduction recalls the girls of Chibok, taken by Boko Haram in 2014. While the author writes about a culture wholly different from her own, she does so not just with grace and compassion but with Nigerian songs, tales and myths.
"All This Could Be Yours" by Jami Attenberg (Oct. 22)
How can the story of a hardened criminal, his abused and complicit wife and their psychologically wrecked progeny be tender, compassionate and funny? Attenberg ("The Middlesteins," "All Grown Up") works literary magic, turning a terrible past into a healthier future. If you choose one novel this fall, choose Attenberg's.
"The Beautiful Ones" by Prince (Oct. 29)
Of course Prince's posthumous memoir wouldn't be like anyone else's. The iconic and multitalented musician's book consists of four parts, framed by authorized writer Dan Piepenbring's research: First, lyrical musings about his journey; second, a scrapbook of photos and writings; third, images showing his self-creation; leading up to the fourth and final section, his treatment for "Purple Rain."