The best autumn and winter books 2019

Autumn books 2019

The final quarter of the year is the busiest time for the publishing industry and the most exhaustive time on a book lovers wallet. With people already thinking about Christmas (which should be banned until after Halloween) and events like Super Thursday (the day of the year where more books are published than any other) that September is THE month for new books. I did do a peek ahead to the most exciting books of the year back in January but lots of these hadn’t been confirmed then so I thought it was the perfect time to look at the best autumn and winter books of 2019.

As of writing this, I am halfway through reading The Testaments and I just don’t want it to end. Margaret Atwood made it clear that she couldn’t continue Offred’s story but instead, she focuses on Aunt Lydia and two ladies who have had their lives controlled by Gilead but in very different ways. If you haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? Get your mitts on a copy asap and then follow up with this delight of a sequel.

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More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’ Margaret Atwood

The master of darkness is back (not that he ever went away!). Stephen King’s latest offering, The Institute, sounds more fantasy-based than horror and the blurb brings to mind The Xavier Institute, the school from X-Men comics.

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Deep in the woods of Maine, there is a dark state facility where kids, abducted from across the United States, are incarcerated. In the Institute they are subjected to a series of tests and procedures meant to combine their exceptional gifts – telepathy, telekinesis – for concentrated effect.

Luke Ellis is the latest recruit. He’s just a regular 12-year-old, except he’s not just smart, he’s super-smart. And he has another gift which the Institute wants to use…

Far away in a small town in South Carolina, former cop Tim Jamieson has taken a job working for the local sheriff. He’s basically just walking the beat. But he’s about to take on the biggest case of his career.

Back in the Institute’s downtrodden playground and corridors where posters advertise ‘just another day in paradise’, Luke, his friend Kalisha and the other kids are in no doubt that they are prisoners, not guests. And there is no hope of escape.

But great events can turn on small hinges and Luke is about to team up with a new, even younger recruit, Avery Dixon, whose ability to read minds is off the scale. While the Institute may want to harness their powers for covert ends, the combined intelligence of Luke and Avery is beyond anything that even those who run the experiments – even the infamous Mrs Sigsby – suspect.

The Harvey Weinstein revelations shook Hollywood and have forced the world to take a closer look at people in power have abused those around them. I don’t often read non-fiction but this book details how two journalists broke a story that has changed the world, who wouldn’t want to read that?

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On 5 October 2017, the New York Times published an article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey that helped change the world.

Hollywood was talking as never before. Kantor and Twohey outmanoeuvred Harvey Weinstein, his team of defenders and private investigators, convincing some of the most famous women in the world – and some unknown ones – to go on the record.

This is how they did it

For months ahead of the story breaking, Kantor and Twohey had been having confidential discussions with top actresses, former Weinstein employees and other sources, learning of disturbing, long-buried allegations. The journalists meticulously picked their way through a web of decades-old secret payouts and non-disclosure agreements, pressed some of the most famous women in the world – and some unknown ones – to risk going on the record, and faced down Weinstein, his team of high-priced defenders, and even his private investigators.

In She Said, Kantor and Twohey relive in real-time what it took to break the story and give an up-close portrait of the forces they were up against. They describe the experiences of the women who spoke up – for the sake of other women, for future generations, and for themselves.

Their stories have never been told in this way before.

As my favourite novel of all time is Frankenstein it’s unsurprising that a book on the women who pioneered horror would appeal. Hopefully, I can get my mitts on a copy before Halloween and I can discover some classic horror for my favourite time of the year.

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Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein; but have you heard of Margaret Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier? Have you read the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era? Or the stories of Gertrude Barrows Bennett, whose writing influenced H.P. Lovecraft? Monster, She Wrote shares the stories of women past and present who invented horror, speculative, and weird fiction and made it great. You ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V.C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Coltor, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). And each profile includes a curated reading list so you can seek out the spine-chilling tales that interest you the most.

I’ve read some incredible fiction from Japanese fiction over the last few years ( If Cats Disappeared From The World and Convenience Store Woman) and I’m always on the lookout for another short, meditative novel to join that list. I’ve heard some great things about Before The Coffee Gets Cold so I can’t wait to get my teeth into it.

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In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story – translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot – explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

Author of The Girl of Ink & Stars is back to tell us the untold story of the brides of Dracula. This is the main YA book that I’ve been looking forward to this year. On top of an intriguing sounding story, this is one of the most beautiful hardbacks you’ll ever see.

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They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

Jessie Burton burst onto the literary scene in 2014 with her debut novel The Miniaturist. This went on to sell over a million copies and won numerous accolades including Waterstones Book of the Year and winner of The Specsavers National Book Award. Her second novel, The Muse, also became a Sunday Times number one bestseller and a Richard and Judy Bookclub selection. The Confession is her third novel and it’s set to be another bestseller.

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One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession . . .

Laura Purcell is the queen of modern gothic Victoriana and Georgian tales, if you disagree I’ll happily fight you to the death. Her debut novel, The Silent Companions, was one of my favourite books of 2017 and her second novel, The Corset, was just as haunting. Laura Purcell is one of my favourite authors so this is right at the top of my TBR (to be read) pile.

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Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken.

But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

Around this time every year, you’ll find a number of celebrity autobiographies hitting the shelves but it’s only once in a blue moon that one really grabs my attention. This year it’s the wonderful documentary filmmaker and journalist Louis Theroux. I don’t think I really need to explain why, but his career has seen him conduct a multitude of incredible interviews with people in fascinating circumstances. From Jimmy Saville to the family at the core of the Westboro Baptists Church (otherwise known as the most hated family in America), his interviews are always done with compassion and ease that gets the most out of them. I’ve listened to him in a number of podcasts and the stories about his exploits have always been entertaining so I’m really excited to hear more about his experiences in his own words.

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In 1994 fledgling journalist Louis Theroux was given a one-off gig on Michael Moore’s TV Nation, presenting a segment on apocalyptic religious sects. Gawky, socially awkward and totally unqualified, his first reaction to this exciting opportunity was panic. But he’d always been drawn to off-beat characters, so maybe his enthusiasm would carry the day. Or, you know, maybe it wouldn’t . . .

In Gotta Get Theroux This, Louis takes the reader on a joyous journey from his anxiety-prone childhood to his unexpectedly successful career. Nervously accepting the BBC’s offer of his own series, he went on to create an award-winning documentary style that has seen him immersed in the weird worlds of paranoid US militias and secretive pro-wrestlers, get under the skin of celebrities like Max Clifford and Chris Eubank and tackle gang culture in San Quentin prison, all the time wondering whether the same qualities that make him good at documentaries might also make him bad at life.

As Louis woos his beautiful wife Nancy and learns how to be a father, he also dares to take on the powerful Church of Scientology. Just as challenging is the revelation that one of his old subjects, Jimmy Savile, was a secret sexual predator, prompting him to question our understanding of how evil takes place. Filled with wry observation and self-deprecating humour, this is Louis at his most insightful and honest best.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was a bestselling novel before it hit the silver screen in 2012 and, at last, his highly anticipated second novel is hitting shelves. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that it’s just as wonderful as his first.

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IMAGINE…

Leaving your house in the middle of the night.
Knowing your mother is doing her best,
but she’s just as scared as you.

IMAGINE…

Starting a new school, making friends.
Seeing how happy it makes your mother.
Hearing a voice, calling out to you.

IMAGINE…

Following the signs, into the woods.
Going missing for six days.
Remembering nothing about what happened.

IMAGINE…

Something that will change everything…
And having to save everyone you love.

I’ve been recommended Nicci French novels more times than I can remember but I’ve just never gotten around to reading them but thanks to the wonderful pre-publication reviews I have seen around this novel, this will be my first.

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Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn’t call the police.

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.

She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all.
But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.
She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves?
And who does she really know? And who can she trust?

A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan was a novel that completely blew me away in 2016 and brought me to tears more than once (in a good way!). If you enjoy magical stories with women at the forefront or enjoy authors like Margaret Atwood or Angela Carter then please inject some Kirsty Logan into your life. Things We Say in the Dark in her forthcoming collection of short stories that I already have scheduled in to be my Halloween read.

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So here we go, into the dark.

Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark. We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.

The characters in this collection find their aspirations for happy homes, happy families and happy memories dissected and imbued with shimmering menace. Alone in a remote house in Iceland a woman is unnerved by her isolation; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool. Couples wrestle with a lack of connection to their children; a schoolgirl becomes obsessed with the female anatomical models in a museum; and a cheery account of child’s day out is undercut by chilling footnotes.

Sarah Hall is my go-to author whenever I need a literary pick-me-up. If I’m in a reading slump and nothing really grabs me, Sarah Hall will lift me out of it and she’s never disappointed. The Electric Michelangelo is simply one of my favourite books of all time and I’ve read her short story Mrs Fox (available in her short story collection, Madam Zero) more times than I could count. In my eyes, she owns short stories so this can’t come soon enough for me.

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The characters in Sudden Traveler walk, drive, dream, and fly, trying to reconcile themselves with their journeys through life, death, and love. Science fiction meets folktale and philosophy meets mortality.

A woman with a new generation of pacemaker chooses to shut it down in the Lakeland, the site of her strongest memories. A man repatriated in the near east hears the name of an old love called and must unpack history’s dark suitcase. From the new world-waves of female anger and resistance, a mythical creature evolves. And in the woods on the border between warring countries, an old well facilitates a dictator’s downfall, before he gains power.

A master of short fiction, Sarah Hall opens channels in the human mind and spirit and takes us to the very edge of our possible selves.

Feminism, time travel and saving the future, what’s not to like? Add in all the positive hype around this book and it’s one I’m really looking forward to curling up with.

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In a world that’s just a step away from our own, time travel is possible. But war is brewing – a secret group is trying to destroy women’s rights, and their access to the timeline. If they succeed, only a small elite will have the power to shape the past, present, and future.
Our only hope lies with an unlikely group of allies, from riot grrls to suffragettes, their lives separated by centuries, battling for a world where anyone can change the future. A final confrontation is coming.

I was very lucky to be able to read an early submission of Jason Arnopp’s debut novel, The Last Days of Jack Sparks when it was sent to a company I was working for a few years back. I completely fell in love with it and was gutted I never ended up working on it but now his second novel is just about to come out and I am going to be grabbing myself a copy as soon as possible.

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Kate Collins has been ghosted.

She was supposed to be moving in with her new boyfriend Scott, but all she finds after relocating to Brighton is an empty flat. Scott has vanished. His possessions have all disappeared.

Except for his mobile phone.

Kate knows she shouldn’t hack into Scott’s phone. She shouldn’t look at his Tinder, his calls, his social media. But she can’t quite help herself.

That’s when the trouble starts. Strange, whispering phone calls from numbers she doesn’t recognise. Scratch marks on the walls that she can’t explain.

And the growing feeling that she’s being watched . . .

Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus, was published to critical acclaim back in 2011 and has gone on to gain a huge fanbase. I’m just one of the many, many people who can’t wait for her second novel to be published. Just check out that cover too, glorious!

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When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and nameless acolytes, but they also contain something impossible: a recollection from his own childhood.

Determined to solve the puzzle of the book, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover – a bee, a key and a sword. They guide him to a masquerade ball, to a dangerous secret club, and finally through a magical doorway created by the fierce and mysterious Mirabel. This door leads to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth.

When the labyrinth is threatened, Zachary must race with Mirabel, and Dorian, a handsome barefoot man with shifting alliances, through its twisting tunnels and crowded ballrooms, searching for the end of his story.

You are invited to join Zachary on the starless sea: the home of storytellers, story-lovers and those who will protect our stories at all costs.

Gave you ever wanted to buy a book on hype only? Whether that’s word of mouth, reviews or even just a damn fine book cover. I’ve never read any Will Carver books before but I’ve seen and heard a ridiculous amount of positive feedback about this novel. Add that to a captivating blurb (I find the psychology behind cult mentality fascinating) and this looks like it could make wonderful, if slightly horrific, Christmas reading.

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Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

And there we have it, the best autumn and winter books 2019 . There isn’t a hope in hell of my reading them all before 2020 rings in but I’ll do my best. What ones are you most looking forward to? And if I’ve missed something incredible please do let me know!

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