November is a lovely month for reading, and for thinking about what books to buy as holiday gifts. (You may have heard: Order early this year.) Here are six fresh-minted options in paperback, to suit a variety of tastes.
"Leave the World Behind" by Rumaan Alam (HarperCollins, $16.99). A bestseller and National Book Award finalist, Alam's novel throws two families — strangers to each other — together in a remote beach house during a blackout. Calling it a "slippery and duplicitous marvel of a novel," a NPR reviewer noted that "'Leave the World Behind' is atmospheric and prescient: Its rhythms of comedy alternating with shock and despair mimic so much of the rhythms of life right now. That's more than enough to make it a signature novel for this blasted year."
"The Searcher" by Tana French (Penguin, $18). French is the author of the wonderful Dublin Murder Squad series, which began with the award-winning "In the Woods" and continued for five more novels, each told from the point of view of a different member of a Dublin police department's homicide division. Her last two have been stand-alone mysteries; this one was inspired by the Irish author's love of Westerns. Reading it last year, I wrote, "'The Searcher' feels different from French's previous books — there's a sparseness to the setting that contrasts with the bustle of the Dublin Murder Squad, or even the gathered family in 'The Witch Elm' — but is no less addictive; the pages practically turn themselves."
"Moonflower Murders" by Anthony Horowitz (HarperCollins, $17, available Nov. 30). If you, like me, fell head over heels in love with Horowitz's "Magpie Murders" — a mystery deliciously wrapped in another mystery — you'll be delighted to hear of this sequel. In it, former editor Susan Ryeland (now running a hotel on a Greek island) gets called back into the literary world when she learns that one of her former authors, now deceased, based his book on a real-life crime. If you're in need of a holiday gift for someone who loves witty British mysteries, wrap up these two books and prepare to be thanked.
"Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix" by Philip Norman (Liveright, $16.95). Born in Seattle 79 years ago this month, Hendrix was only 27 when he died in London, after a remarkable four years as a rock star. "In this rollicking biography, Norman ("Paul McCartney") follows the electric guitar god from hardscrabble Seattle boyhood to enormous fame and his 1970 martyrdom to rock-star excess," wrote Publishers Weekly in a starred review. "Norman's entertaining, psychedelically tinged portrait shows why Hendrix made such a deep impression on rock 'n' roll."
"The Writer's Library: The Authors You Love on the Books that Changed Their Lives" by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager (HarperCollins, $16.99). Seattle librarian extraordinaire Pearl and playwright Schwager asked 22 prominent authors — among them Seattle's own Charles Johnson, plus Michael Chabon, Donna Tartt, Luis Alberto Urrea, Amor Towles and Louise Erdrich — to name the books that shaped and inspired them. Pearl and Schwager "bring boundless enthusiasm and curiosity to this eclectic and probing book of interviews," wrote Publishers Weekly, in a starred review. "Readers of this delightful compendium will relish the chance to find many of those shared loves, as well as discover new ones."
"The City of Mist: Stories" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (HarperCollins, $15.99). Zafón, the Barcelona-born author of the international bestseller "The Shadow of the Wind," died last year of cancer at age 55. This posthumous collection of stories features many that have never before been published in English, returning readers to the mythical Barcelona library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books explored in "The Shadow of the Wind" and several sequels. Writing of "The Shadow of the Wind," which sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, a New York Times reviewer described Zafón's style as "Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges for a sprawling magic show, exasperatingly tricky and mostly wonderful."