Paperback Picks is back — now a once-a-month compilation. Here are 10 great books just out in paperback; some of which I’ve read and enjoyed, and some I can’t wait to get to. Happy fall reading!
by Octavia E. Butler
Butler, who died in 2006, was a pioneering Black female writer in science fiction. This reissue of her acclaimed 2005 vampire novel — in which a 53-year-old vampire presents as a 10-year-old Black girl — makes appropriate reading for this shadowy season. “In charged, erotic prose, Butler weaves a mystery that’s as titillating as it is disturbing,” wrote a New York Times reviewer.
”The Family Chao”
by Lan Samantha Chang
Chang’s 2021 novel is at once multigenerational family story, immigrant saga, coming-of-age tale, whodunit mystery and literary pastiche (inspired by “The Brothers Karamazov”). And, like in the multicourse Chinese dinners featured in the plot, each element contributes to a hugely satisfying whole.
”Cloud Cuckoo Land”
by Anthony Doerr
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “All the Light We Cannot See” returns with a very different kind of novel: one that spans multiple times and places — from mid-15th century Constantinople to a futuristic spaceship, with several stops in between — to form an intricate love letter to books and libraries.
by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich, a National Book Award-winning author, sets this novel in Birchbark Books, a Minneapolis bookstore that she owns in real life; it’s a story of ghosts, on the page and off. “The joy of Erdrich’s novels lies in the way her characters live so richly, and are as present to the reader as our own friends and relatives are,” wrote a reviewer in The Guardian.
”The Book of Magic”
by Alice Hoffman
Hoffman concludes her popular series about a family with supernatural powers, following “Practical Magic,” “The Rules of Magic” and “Magic Lessons.” A New York Times reviewer noted that, “like the witches who populate her stories, Hoffman certainly knows how to enchant.”
”Empire of Pain”
by Patrick Radden Keefe
If this book were a novel, people would say it was too far-fetched. Keefe, a longtime journalist for The New Yorker, crafts a mesmerizing/horrifying tale of greed and tragedy in this profile of the ultrarich family whose pharmaceutical company became a key player in the public health crisis around opioids. This was one of the best books I read in 2021.
”Anywhere You Run”
by Wanda M. Morris.
I was a big fan of Morris’ 2021 debut, “All Her Little Secrets”; Morris, an attorney, masterfully combined elements of legal thriller, whodunit, character study and portrait of being a Black woman in a corporate world. Her new novel, involving two Black sisters and a murder in the Jim Crow South, was called “stunning” by Publishers Weekly.
”Music Is History”
In his sixth book, the leader of the hip-hop crew The Roots chooses and analyzes one or more songs from each year from 1971 to 2021. A Washington Post reviewer wrote that in this book “Questlove ultimately does what he has always done, what he does best: shares great music, tells great stories about musicians (many of whom he knows personally, as he doesn’t hesitate to mention), and serves as a sort of music ambassador, by encouraging an appreciation for the importance of songs.”
by Colm Tóibín
Named as one of 2021’s best books by multiple publications, Tóibín’s latest is a biographical novel of the writer Thomas Mann, set in wartime Europe. “At 500-plus pages, ‘The Magician’ is Mann-sized, but it canters along not only on the strength of Tóibín’s graceful prose, but also because the reader can hardly wait for the next bon mot from a family member or guest,” wrote a Washington Post reviewer.
”The Answer Is ...”
by Alex Trebek
If you, like me, have vivid memories of watching “Jeopardy!” with your dad (or anyone else), Trebek’s slim autobiography, written shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2020, might make for sweet reading.