5 British Books to Look Out For in October

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Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

If there’s a theme to this month’s offering of British books being published in the US, it’s challenge. There’s the challenge of fighting the patriarchy. There’s the challenge of dealing with the internet and the surprising and sometimes dark world it opens up, and the challenge of imagining a world in which teen girls hold the power. There’s a literary memoir to help us with the challenges life throws at us and a novel exploring the challenge of being stuck with our families. But it’s October, so here’s to enjoying these sometimes scary things snuggled under a duvet, sipping hot chocolate.

bloodprint UK coverThe Bloodprint, by Ausma Zehanat Khan (Harper Voyager, 3rd October)

Ausma Zehanat Khan, a British-born Canadian, is known for her great mystery series which features Muslim characters. The Bloodprint is the first installment in her new fantasy series. “A dark power called the Talisman, born of ignorance and persecution, has risen in the land. Led by a man known only as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.” Sounds timely.

anna karenina fixThe Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature by Viv Groskop (Penguin, ebook only in the US, 5th October)

Comedian and journalist Viv Groskop has discovered the answers to all of life’s big questions in Russian literature, and she shares them with us here. What do you do if you’re anxious about your appearance? Or if you’re suffering from the pangs of unrequited love? Or if you’re not sure what to do with your life? The Russians are here to help. I seem to remember there’s a lot of helpful hints on the farming front, too, what with all that wheat threshing. (Looking at you, Tolstoy.)

the power coverThe Power by Naomi Alderman (Little, Brown, 10th October)

This speculative novel won this year’s Baileys Prize for Fiction, one of the big British literary awards, and could be just what you need after bingeing The Handmaid’s Tale. The world of this book is similar t0 ours, but with one important twist: teenage girls are now hugely powerful—able to cause immense physical pain as well as death. And, of course, this twist changes everything.


the secret lifeThe Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age by Andrew O’Hagan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 10th October)

Well-respected journalist Andrew O’Hagan turns his investigative reporting to three Internet-related stories: Julian Assange and Wikileaks, the mysterious founder of (the arguably equally mysterious) Bitcoin, and his own adventures building an entirely new identity with which to explore cyberspace.


seven days of usSeven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak (Berkley, 17th October)

If you loved Emma Straub’s The Vacationers, this might be one for you to try next. The Birch family are quarantined away over Christmas after one of them returns from deploying her medical skills in an epidemic abroad. And to make matters worse, even the Wi-Fi is uncooperative and they might have to talk to each other. Secrets and tensions and an unexpected guest are all part of what awaits them. Sounds like a delicious read.