Every month, LitVox will bring you our choice of the best books to look forward to over the coming month. Here are our best books of November.
Our fiction pick of the month
That Old Country Music – Kevin Barry (Cannongate Books)
Kevin Barry is simply a genius of the short story format. His madcap, dark and often hilarious stories contain a dizzying originality that is definitivley Irish. The setting is almost exclusively rural Ireland, but the breadth and depth of characters on display is stunning. There are philosophical taxi drivers, a failed writer who buys a hotel to see out the apocalypse, a teenage goth on a terror mission. Our personal favourite is an elderly amnesiac with no memory of his former life other than the deeds proving that he has purchased a run-down chipper in Clonmel, County Tipperary.
In That Old Country Music, Barry’s lyrical prowess, established in his first two story collections, is on full display. The stories perhaps lack the bizzare, twisted punch of Dark Lies the Island, but there is also a sign that Barry is maturing, deliberately focusing on more contemplative and ethereal themes. That said, the humour is still savage. The heroine of the title story has “a face on her like a scorched budgie”. The weather on a particularly windy day is described as “up and about itself”. These are short stories, but you’ll want to take your time with them, savouring and slurping the language for every delicious drop.
Our Crime/Thriller pick of the month
Tana French’s latest thriller is crisply written and draws the reader in from the very outset.
Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.
But then a local kid comes looking for his help. His brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Cal wants nothing to do with any kind of investigation, but somehow he can’t make himself walk away.
French is a master of penning subtle, suspense-filled narratives. Here at LitVox we frequently recommend her novels to people who don’t regularly read crime titles. There’s a thrilling, sinister quality to her writing that has a power to hold you in its grip, even if this style of novel is not usually your cup of tea. Her previous novel, The Wych Elm, is also fantastic.
Non-Fiction pick of the month
In a world of Trump, Brexit and climate chaos, there’s a general sense that everything has just gone a wee bit mad. Throughout the madness, Germany proves time and time again that it is the most grown-up country in the world. Mixing personal journey and anecdote with compelling empirical evidence, this is a critical and entertaining exploration of the country many in the West still love to hate. Raising important questions,, Kampfner asks why, despite its faults, Germany has become a model for others to emulate, while Britain languishes. Part memoir, part history, part travelogue, Why the Germans Do It Better is a rich and witty portrait of an eternally fascinating country.
Our Kids pick of the month
Our kids pick for November is one of the most spellbinding children’s novels we’ve come across in a very long time. From the author of the enchanting The House With Chicken Legs comes another inspired twist on traditional fairy tales.Thirteen year old Olia steps through a magical doorway into a land tangled by an evil wizard. Soon Olia learns that she is destined to save this land, but with time running out and her new friends and family in danger, she must search for the magic within herself – to save everything and everyone she loves. This wonerful kids novel is suitable for both boys and girls, and would best suit kids aged between 9 and 13. Sophie Anderson is one of the most imaginative and brightest talents writing for children today.
November's Rediscovered Classic
Tom from the LitVox team picked up this novel a month ago, and it’s simply one the best historical novels of its generation.
After the brutal murder of his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, Octavian, a shy and scholarly youth of nineteen, suddenly finds himself heir to the vast power of Rome. He is destined, despite vicious power struggles, bloody wars and family strife, to transform his realm and become the greatest ruler the western world had ever seen: Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor. Building on impeccable research, John Williams brings the legendary figure of Augustus vividly to life, and invests his characters with such profound humanity that we enter completely into the heat and danger of their lives and times.
What are you reading this month?? Do you agree with our Best books of November list? Let us know in the comments!