Five Books You Need To Read This Month: November

As we edge closer to Christmas and the end of 2017, here are five new releases you should be adding to your reading pile, or your wish list.

This month is packed with new books from award winning authors, be it the Miles Franklin or the Man Booker. Amongst this month’s titles as well there is a debut novel from the founder of a hit television show, and a new book looking at the Icelandic sagas.

As always you should be able to find all these titles in all the usual places – online and in the real world. I do recommend checking out your local Independent bookstore, if you have one, they’re always a great place to discover the best of what’s new and recent.

Here are this month’s five must read books…

Atlantic Black – A.S. Patrić

2016 Miles Franklin winner A.S. Patrić returns this month with his new novel Atlantic Black. Set on the R.M.S. Aquitania, an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic Black follows the story of Katerina Klova, the seventeen-year-old daughter of an ambassador. Taking place across the day and night of New Years Eve 1939, Katerina is left to fend for herself and navigate her way through the murky class and social structures of her fellow travellers – each harbouring their own ambitions, fears and quirks.

Set so soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, in Atlantic Black Patrić subtly explores the tensions of the period, from the violent legacy of the First World War to the fracturing of the families, shedding light on a changing world. Black Rock White City, Patrić’s debut novel, was released to great acclaim in 2015, earning him the Miles Franklin, and early reviews suggest that he has another success on his hands with this, his second novel, with critics and fellow authors described it as “compelling”, “haunting”, and “mesmerising”. Fans of the authors previous novel, and short story collections will undoubtedly enjoy this one, as should anyone with a keen interest in contemporary Australian literature.

Atlantic Black is available now through Transit Lounge Publishing

Heather, the totality – Matthew Weiner

Heather, the totality is the debut novel (though novella might be more apt) from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. The eponymous Heather is the daughter of Mark and Karen Breakstone, successful Manhattan socialites. Heather, is presented as the centre of their existence: beautiful, compassionate and entrancing. What could possibly go wrong? Enter Bobby Klasky, a neglected and maltreated labourer from New Jersey, who takes a dark interest in Heather.

Heather, the totality is a short, yet striking read, and one which explores, with noirish flare, the decay of contemporary America. Weiner neatly highlights the disparity inherent in contemporary American society, exposing the very different choices available to those from different economic backgrounds. Heather, the totality will likely appeal to fans of Weiner’s television work, but should also appeal to those wholly unfamiliar with Mad Men, or The Sopranos. But if you like your fiction dark and a little unsettling then this could be the book for you.

Heather, The Totality is available now through Allen and Unwin

A Long Way From Home – Peter Carey

Two time Man Booker Award winning author Peter Carey also returns with a new novel this month. A Long Way From Home follows the story of Irene Bobs, and her husband Titch, as they enter the Redux Trial, a race around Australia, on roads that no car should be expected to survive. Joining them is their navigator Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion and failed schoolteacher. Taking part in the race soon removes the group from the comfort and familiarity of the white Australia they know so well.

Carey is well known for his novels exploring Australian history, two of which – Oscar and Lucinda and The True History of the Kelly Gang – earned him Man Booker Awards. A Long Way From Home is very much an extension of that exploration of the national history and identity, and examines the consequences of European imperialism and the  long shadow left on this country by colonisation. A Long Way From Home sees Carey still in fine form, it’s a thrilling page turner, that’s also equally thought-provoking.

A Long Way From Home is available now through Penguin Books

Winter – Ali Smith

With touch of seasonal disconnect for those of us in the southern hemisphere, Winter the second book in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet is released this month. Taking faint inspiration from Shakespeare, and that seasonal classic Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, amongst others, Smith explores life in a Post-Brexit, Post-Truth Britain. Centred around a family Christmas, Winter exposes the familial fault lines, and continues Smith’s current theme of intergenerational dialogue.

From the smallest snippets I’ve read, Winter is brimming with witty prose and wonderfully realised characters. Really, the whole Seasonal Quartet project is interesting in itself, an exercise in seeing whether literature can capture the immediacy of contemporary society. It also serves as a wonderful rumination on the cyclical nature of time, and the influence of history and memory on the present day. Whilst Winter displays some familiar tropes, Smith deploys them masterfully, neatly sidestepping cliche. Early reviews can only be described as effusive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Winter sees Smith in awards contention once again.

Winter is available November 13th through Penguin Books

Saga Land – Richard Fidler & Kári Gíslason

As most of my friends will attest I’m a huge fan of all things Nordic – be it music, literature or design. Unfortunately I’ve not really had chance to visit any of those countries, except a fleeting visit to Denmark as a child, which I can barely remember. So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across a listing for Saga Land, the new book from journalist and author Richard Fidler, written in collaboration with writer and academic Kári Gíslason. Saga Land is part travelogue, part collection of the Icelandic sagas, and part family mystery – all wrapped up into one wonderful whole.

Along with Fidler and Gíslason’s prose included in Saga Land are several photographs taken by the authors on their two trips (one in Summer and one in Winter), as well as images from other sources, all of which highlight the stark beauty of the landscape. You of course shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but Saga Land is exquisitely designed, from the beautifully designed and silver inlaid dusk jacket, to the author’s photographs, to the maps designed by Claire O’Flynn. Saga Land is a must buy for those with an interest in the Icelandic sagas, in the Vikings, or indeed just Iceland itself. And with Christmas just around the corner it’ll make a great gift too.

Saga Land is available now through HarperCollins Australia and ABC Books.