These are independent reviews of the products mentioned, but TIME receives a commission when purchases are made through affiliate links at no additional cost to the purchaser.
If you're in need of some Thanksgiving reading or looking to pick up an early holiday gift for the lit lovers in your life, this month’s slate of new books offers everything from a dystopian thriller to two standout works of COVID-19 fiction to a memoir from the best-selling female recording artist in history. In investigative deep-dive Endgame, journalist Omid Scobie delves into the British royal family’s fight for survival in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II's death. In essay anthology Critical Hits, an array of writer-gamers explore the cultural significance of the past 50 years of video games. Here are the best new books to read in November.
The Future, Naomi Alderman (Nov. 7)
After a trio of tech billionaires are forewarned of an apocalyptic superbug and flee to a secret doomsday bunker to save only themselves, an unlikely group of friends embark on an intrepid mission to take down the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world. Beginning with the end of civilization and jumping back and forth through time, Naomi Alderman, the award-winning author of 2016's The Power, weaves a cautionary tale of what society stands to lose in a near-future where AI has transformed all walks of life.
The Vulnerables, Sigrid Nunez (Nov. 7)
Set against the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, National Book Award winner Sigrid Nunez's tender and humorous new novel explores the abiding power of connection during an era of unprecedented isolation. The Vulnerables centers on an aging, solitary female writer (the story's narrator) who moves into a friend of a friend's Manhattan apartment. There, she cares for a pet macaw named Eureka while its owner is stuck in California. When the bird's previous sitter, a collegiate Gen Z-er, unexpectedly shows up at the apartment after getting kicked out of his parents' house, the trio form an unexpected bond that carries them through a time of widespread fear and uncertainty.
Same Bed Different Dreams, Ed Park (Nov. 7)
From the acclaimed author of the 2008 novel Personal Days comes a sprawling work of meta speculative fiction. In Same Bed Different Dreams, Ed Park imagines an alternate history in which the Korean Provisional Government established during Japanese occupation secretly persisted beyond the end of Japanese rule in 1945 and into today. Through riveting prose, Park describes how its members work behind the scenes to unite a fractured Korea. In doing so, the author weaves together three intersecting narratives to create a poignant, postmodern epic that turns 20th century history on its head.
To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul, Tracy K. Smith (Nov. 7)
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivers a searing manifesto on the power of collective ritual in confronting the persistence of violence and racism against Black people in America. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Smith combines lyrical reflections on her personal experiences as a Black woman, mother, and educator with a historical examination of how her ancestors endured in the face of overwhelming oppression and subjugation. In writing a book about "Black strength, Black continuance, and the powerful forms of belief and community that have long bolstered the soul of my people," Smith says she came to believe that "all of us, in the here and now, can choose to work alongside the generations that precede us in tending to America’s oldest wounds and meeting the urgencies of our present.”
My Name is Barbra, Barbra Streisand (Nov. 7)
Over the course of nearly 1,000 pages, living legend Barbra Streisand tells the story of her life and decades-spanning career as one of the most iconic figures of the stage and screen. Titled after her Emmy Award-winning first TV special, Streisand's much-anticipated memoir offers what is being touted as a “frank, funny, opinionated and charming" account of her unparalleled showbiz success. From breaking into superstardom as Fanny Brice in the 1964 original Broadway production of Funny Girl to earning the most coveted honor in all of Hollywood, an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), Streisand candidly reflects on her storied past.
The New Naturals, Gabriel Bump (Nov. 14)
Following the death of their infant daughter, grieving parents and Black academics Rio and Gibraltar decide they need to make a change. Weary of campus racism at the Boston liberal arts college where they both teach, the duo leaves the city in pursuit of a new dream. With the help of a wealthy benefactor, the couple begin constructing an underground world with the aim of creating a utopia where people can feel accepted and protected. Dubbed the New Naturals, the sanctuary is located under an abandoned restaurant on a hill off a highway in Western Massachusetts. But as their subterranean haven grows—and begins to attract a motley crew of guests, from a dejected former college soccer star to two unhoused men who travel from Chicago by bus to reach the facility—questions of what really makes for a true safe space for all threaten to derail the burgeoning experiment.
Day, Michael Cunningham (Nov. 14)
Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, delivers a quietly profound portrait of a Brooklyn family navigating love and loss before, during, and after COVID-19 upends their existence. Day, Cunningham's first book in nearly a decade, is divided into three sections, each set during a snapshot of time on a single day over three successive years—“April 5, 2019: Morning,” “April 5, 2020: Afternoon,” and “April 5, 2021: Evening”—and handles recent history with care and nuance. Although the words COVID and pandemic never appear in the novel, Cunningham told the New York Times that he felt compelled to center the story around the outbreak of the virus. “How does anybody,” he said, “write a contemporary novel that’s about human beings that’s not about the pandemic?”
Critical Hits: Writers Playing Video Games, edited by J. Robert Lennon and Carmen Maria Machado (Nov. 21)
In this incisive anthology, short story masters J. Robert Lennon (Pieces for the Left Hand) and Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) compile a collection of essays that reflect on the pivotal role video games play in our culture and celebrate the medium as an art form. Entries include musings from a diverse lineup of writer-gamers, from a piece by memoirist Elissa Washuta on how the central plot of 2013's The Last of Us mirrors her early COVID-19 pandemic search for a medical diagnosis to a story from novelist Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah on how playing 2019's Disco Elysium helped him come to terms with his father's passing.
Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy's Fight for Survival, Omid Scobie (Nov. 28)
After being delayed three months so it could include details on the coronation of King Charles III, journalist Omid Scobie's investigative look into the inner turmoil and global reputation of the British royal family in the aftermath of Queen Elizabeth II's death will be released later this month. Endgame arrives on the heels of Scobie's best-selling 2020 blockbuster Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, a highly positive accounting of the relationship between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The new book is expected to delve into the early days of King Charles' reign, feud between Prince William and Harry, and allegations of sexual abuse against Prince Andrew, among other topics.
Write to Megan McCluskey at email@example.com.