Nerdy Special List October 2017

October is one of my favorite months. The leaves change colors—well, not in L.A. but back east in pictures from family. The weather is cooler so I don’t have to sweat my back off every day, and we have Halloween, when I can laugh at people’s costumes and eat all the leftover candy.

And then there are fall books. October has such strong releases that even after three of us fought over the same book (Joe Ide’s Righteous; Erin won the wrestling match), we had no shortage of other titles to recommend.

Read on for this month’s picks.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash (William Morrow, October 3)

Wiley Cash’s third novel is based on the story of Ella May Wiggins, a white woman working in an integrated North Carolina textile mill. Wiggins works nights six days a week—approximately 70 hours—and earns nine dollars. Abandoned by her husband with four small children, Wiggins has very few options if she wants her family to survive.

When she learns about a union rally in a nearby town, she risks everything and attends on her only day off. Her personal story and singing talent grab the attention of the union organizers, and she soon finds herself the poster child for the movement.

Cash’s rich sense of place, enthralling narrative, and compassion make The Last Ballad a wonderful reading experience. The illustrations of early union efforts remind us of the sacrifices that were made to build the United States into the country it is today. Relating it to current events only makes the themes all the stronger. Another winner for Cash.

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (Razorbill, October 31)

Debut author Tochi Onyebuchi has created a profoundly gripping fantasy world, using influence from Nigerian folklore and the age-old, universal idea of haves and have-nots.

In this world, there are the powerful mages who can extract sin from people in the form of beasts, and aki who are needed to kill and eat the sin once it’s been withdrawn. The aki then bear the burden of the sin, in their hearts, minds, and on their skin in the form of tattoos.

Taj is a cocky young aki who gets tangled in a sinister plot to destroy his homeland. He must team up with a young mage to defeat the evil forces and protect his loved ones. Beasts Made of Night is brilliant and intense. It touches on powerful themes like justice, inequality, and family. And it unhooked this fantasy skeptic from her stronghold on reality and delivered her into an amazing realm of magic and wonder.

From Erin at In Real Life:

Righteous by Joe Ide (Mulholland Books, October 17)

What do ruthless Chinese gangsters, a loan shark with a horrific past, a beautiful lawyer, and a DJ have in common? They’re all part of the case Isaiah Quintabe investigates in Joe Ide’s impressive sophomore novel.

IQ heads to Las Vegas on a case that is close to his heart, while also investigating his brother’s death ten years earlier. Ide balances mystery, action, humor, and danger perfectly, and has a singular ability to create a cast of characters as engaging and fascinating as any you’ll meet, and the cases IQ investigates are worthy of his skills.

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison (Gallery Books, October 10)

In 1962, Gloria Golden and three twentysomething girlfriends live by Prim: A Modern Woman’s Guide to Manners. Then, at a monthly potluck, over martinis and Neil Sedaka on the hi-fi, they explore a copy of The Housewife’s Handbook to Selective Promiscuity.

For the next 54 years, the group meets to secretly discuss evocative books, pushing the boundaries of their truths and repressions. Their fabulous history is the background for a new generation when Gloria’s gang passes the club on to four young women who hardly know each other and sometimes don’t even like each other.

Though filled with ribald humor and infused with a fantastic Golden Girls/Maude vibe, there is plenty of substance as well. Funny and warm, smart and sassy, it’s an all-around satisfying read.

Where the Sun Shines Out by Kevin Catalano (Skyhorse Publishing, October 17)

My tagline when I recommend this debut, and I’ve been doing that quite a bit lately, is “Gird your loins.” It’s not for the faint of heart, but man, is it worth the pain if you’re a fan of grit-lit.

Two young brothers are abducted in a gut-clenching opening and only one returns alive to their small hometown in New York. The impact on the surviving brother, his family, other members of the town, and the town at large are explored in depth over ten interrelated stories that strip life to its core and then probe it with a red-hot poker. This is never done for the sake of shock value, but always in furtherance of the characters and story.

If, like me, you’re a lover of great writing that pushes your comfort zone, look no further. As an added bonus, the cover is glorious.

From Patti at Patti’s Pens & Picks:

Breach of Containment: A Central Corps Novel by Elizabeth Bonesteel (Harper Voyager, October 17)

This is the third in a science-fiction series, and I am loving them!

After Elena Shaw has left Central Corps, she’s working as an engineer for a commercial shipping vessel. She meets up with her former ship and shipmates after a disastrous delivery on a planet that added more problems.

There are space rescues, tense communications, and Elena’s reunion with her ship, but with a corporation trying to rule the galaxy, will reunions save it?

While this is part of a series, this strong and page-turning story stands alone.

PCN’s recommendation:

We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union (Dey Street, October 17)

Whether or not you’re already a fan of Union’s screen work, you’ll likely want to be friends—or at least have drinks—with the actress after reading this collection of personal essays. She is funny, whip smart, and unafraid to make herself look ridiculous, like in detailing the home remedy she tried for her yeast infection to avoid being seen buying Monistat.

But as I was still laughing, she ripped me to shreds with the account of her rape at 19. And about her wearing mittens in her mostly white Chicago neighborhood because “thugs don’t wear mittens.” Union has faced obstacles but she’s a survivor, and readers will find her strength and sense of humor inspiring.

Which October releases are you excited about?



  • Reply
    October 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    The Last Ballad – I know I should read it, but it’s just going to bum me out.

    Beasts Made of Night – Love the idea of an entity that takes away our sins.

    Righteous – This book IS RIGHTEOUS!! Big fan of Joe Ide!

    The Dirty Book Club – Yeah, okay, I read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, so I’m in.

    Where the Sun Shines Out – Just the description scares me a little, but yes.

    Breach of Containment – Will browse through it to change my mind, but not grabbing me right now.

    We’re Going to Need More Wine – I’ve read excerpts of this book and I laughed out loud and also nodded emphatically. Looking forward to the read.

    • Reply
      October 6, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      Eirego – Jong plays a role in DBC, unsurprisingly. Fear of Flying is, if I remember correctly, the first book the club reads. This book was a bit out of my normal wheelhouse (and I HATE this secondary cover, which makes it look like a silly book – my own prejudice, I admit), I was laughing out loud and texting PCN some of the funnier parts. I found the older women much more interesting (maybe because I’m, well, older), but I really enjoyed the whole.

      The Catalano should scare you. There are scenes in this book that normally wouldn’t make me think twice, but the way he writes them is just so packed with character history and emotion that they take on a whole new level of visceral. I told Kevin that the writing pretty much scooped my innards out like a melonballer. Great stuff, but tough stuff.

      I’m with you on the Cash. There are some books going in you just know they’re going to wreck you. Strangely, those are usually my favorites.

      I had no interest in Gabrielle Union’s book, but PCN sold it to me while she was reading it. I love when something takes you by surprise like that.

      I hope you’ll come back and tell us what you think when you read some of these!

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