BitchReads13 Books You Must Read in October

Every fall, my reading list grows and grows and grows. As the temperature drops and many of us begin spending more time at home opposed to rooftop parties, our schedules (sometimes) allow for more reading. In preparation for that, here’s Bitch’s October reading list. There’s some YA, a short story collection, and two anthologies that will deepen your thinking about critical social issues.

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1. Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties book cover

Photo via Graywolf Press

{ Graywolf Press }
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Price: $16.00

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The best part about short story collections is that you’re able to escape into multiple worlds within one book. Carmen Maria Machado takes full advantage of that format in Her Body and Other Parties, taking readers through the lives of women who’ve inflicted violence and had violence inflicted on them. It, like What We Lose, escapes the boundaries of fiction in really experimental ways. For instance, “Especially Heinous” turns Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on its head by reimagining every episode with supernatural characters, including ghosts, ghouls, and women who have bells for eyes. Machado takes readers on a raucous but enjoyable ride that left me pining for her next collection of work.

2. Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind
Mental book cover

Photo via Blue Rider Press

by Jaime Lowe


{Blue Rider Press }
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Price: $28.00

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There are few memoirs about mental illness that are as honest and raw as Jaime Lowe’s Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind. When Lowe was 16, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after having severe hallucinations that included Michael Jackson speaking to her from the “Neverland Underground.” She was then prescribed lithium, which curbed some of her bipolar episodes, but also had long-term effects, including irreversible kidney damage. In Mental, Lowe interviews experts and travels the world exploring lithium mines and flats to better her understanding of a drug that’s still misunderstood and demonized. Lowe’s openness about her disorder is refreshing, and works to end the stigma attached to mental illness.

3. Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution In Trump’s America edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

Nasty Women book cover

Photo via Picador

{ Picador }
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Price: $16.00

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History was in our grasp. On November 8, it seemed inevitable that Hillary Clinton would become the first female president of the United States, until 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump and millions of voters in swing states, like Ohio and Florida, cast their ballots for the first reality-television president. The election of a sexist, racist, xenophobic bigot galvanized millions of marginalized people at town halls, airports, and even the biggest demonstration on America’s soil. Now, almost one year later, 23 writers, including Cheryl Strayed, Nicole Chung, Samantha Irby, and Randa Jarrar, are writing through about that resistance, and what solidarity means in a Trump-led world. Nasty Women will surely be an anthology that’s taught in women’s studies classes and one that you’ll want to revisit time and time again.

4. The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

The Future Is History book cover

Photo via Riverhead Books

{ Riverhead Books }
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Price: $19.50

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Masha Gessen is an incessant thorn in Vladimir Putin’s side who has reported honestly and bravely about Russia’s corrupt political economy and the Russian president’s quest to destabilize the West. Given her expertise in Russian politics and fearless pursuit of Putin, it’s no surprise that The Future of History is highly anticipated and will be an automatic bestseller. Through Gessen’s impressive, but somber, reporting, The Future Is History warns us of what will become of the United States if we don’t push against our burgeoning authoritarian government and fight for democracy. She traces the lives of four people who were born as the Soviet Union collapsed and democracy seemed to be the next step in Russia’s evolution. Through the promise, and eventual failed promise, of their lives, Gessen shows how totalitarianism harms ordinary people who are simply trying to live up to their potential. The Future Is History is a chilling read, but a necessary one.

5. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We Were Eight Years In Power book cover

Photo via One World

{ One World }
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Price: $28.00

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of America’s foremost intellectuals. After winning the National Book Award, writing Black Panther comics for Marvel, making the case for reparations, selling 1.5 million books, and becoming a MacArthur genius, what else is there left for him to do? Contextualizing Barack Obama’s presidency in the wake of Donald Trump’s election is next on his slate, and he over-delivers with We Were Eight Years in Power. In this sobering collection of previously published and new essays, Coates draws an important parallel between Reconstruction, the period after the Civil War when Black Americans made social gains that were later gutted through lynching and racist legislation, and our current political moment. In his role as an unofficial historian, Coates asks necessary questions about how we arrived at this moment, and the important lessons Reconstruction offers that will blaze a path forward.

6. Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer

Lady Killers book cover

Photo via Harper Perennial

{ Harper Perennial }
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Price: $15.99

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Secretly, many of us are fascinated by serial killers. We know their names—Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and Jack the Ripper. We know the basics of their stories: their childhood indiscretions, how many people they killed, and what led to their capture. Yet, most serial killers are automatically presumed to be men, turning Aileen Wuornos and other female killers into anomalies. Lady Killers is a continuation of Tori Telfer’s Jezebel column about the female serial killers who history has purposefully overlooked and forgotten. Each of the book’s 14 chapters details the crimes of women like Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova and Erzsébet Báthory who were as brutal and demented as men, but haven’t been memorialized through television movies. Past their individual crimes, however, Telfer brilliantly uses the disparity in serial killer coverage to explore how sexism influences our perception of crime victims.

7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic book cover

Photo via Simon & Schuster

{ Simon & Schuster }
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Price: $27.99

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Twenty-two years after Alice Hoffman introduced us to the cursed Owens sisters in Practical Magic, the acclaimed author is bringing us back to that magical family in The Rules of Magic. In this prequel to her bestselling book and cult classic movie, Hoffman introduces us to Franny, Jet, and Vincent—ancestors of Sally and Gillian Owens—who are also forbidden from falling in love, lest their beloved die unexpectedly. Their mother, Susanna Owens, has very strict rules for them: They can’t read books about magic, wear red shoes or black clothing, or befriend crows and cats, so their New York City neighbors won’t suspect that they’re masters of witchcraft. All three children abandon those rules when they visit their aunt Isabelle in the same town that will later fear Sally and Gillian and decide that they’re the generation who will end the curse. As we know, Franny and Jet are the aunts who will later raise Sally and Gillian to follow some of the same rules imposed on them, but what happens between their childhood and the beginning of Practical Magic can only be described as cinematic.

8. We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America edited by Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page

We Wear the Mask book cover

Photo via Beacon Press

{ Beacon Press }
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Price: $18.00

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The concept of “passing”—or posing as a person with more privilege in order to access social capital and equality—is fascinating. Whether it’s Black people passing as white during slavery and Jim Crow or working class people passing as wealthy, history is full of these fascinating stories. In We Wear the Mask, 15 writers, including Margo Jefferson, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, and Clarence Page, explore passing in the context of their own lives. For instance, Gabrielle Beldot, taps into “passing” as it relates to trans identity while Susan Golomb explores “passing” in Jewish communities. We Wear the Mask is a dense, academic read, but you’ll leave with a firmer grasp over passing, and realize that it isn’t a phenomena reserved for our history books.

9. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter book cover

Photo via Knopf Books for Young Readers

{ Knopf Books for Young Readers } Release Date: October 17, 2017
Price: $17.99

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is the coming of age story we’ve been waiting for. Julia is not, as the title suggests, a “perfect Mexican daughter” because her dreams don’t align with her family’s dreams for her. She wants to move out of her parents’ home after high school and attend college in another state, but after her “perfect” sister Olga is tragically killed, Julia is forced to piece her family back together again. While tragedy is at the center of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, it’s also funny as hell at times and incredibly introspective. It’s longlisted for a National Book Award for a reason: You’re going to love it.

10. The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst

The Floating World book cover

Photo via Algonquin Books

{ Algonquin Books }
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Price: $26.95

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Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the Gulf Coast were recently decimated by hurricanes. As hurricane victims begin the arduous process of recovering and rebuilding their communities, The Floating World offers a fictional, but very real, example of the struggles they’ll face. C. Morgan Babst’s debut novel focuses on the Boisdorés, a family whose lives are upended by Hurricane Katrina. The novel begins right before the hurricane hits, as the family makes the crucial decision to evacuate without Cora, their oldest daughter who refuses to leave with them. Their lives are forever changed by the devastating storm, which is captured in heartbreaking detail throughout the book. What becomes of those harmed by natural disasters after the news cameras leave and attention is diverted to the next human crisis? That’s the question at the center of The Floating World, a book that will surely give its readers empathy for all those who are putting their lives back together.

11. Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Calling My Name book cover

Photo via Greenwillow Books

{ Greenwillow Books }
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Price: $17.99

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Like so many Black girls, Taja Brown doesn’t know who she is. The Houston-native knows that she must attend church with her family every week, but she doesn’t have her own spiritual practice. She knows that her parents expect her to excel in school, but she doesn’t know if their expectations align with her own. She knows that her older brother has more freedom within their home and outside of it than she does, but she doesn’t quite grasp sexism. In Calling My Name, debut author Liara Tamani gives voice to a Black girl protagonist who’s all too familiar for Black girls who’ve been where she is. Through questioning her identity, spirituality, and sexuality, Taja begins forming a purpose for herself as she transitions from middle school to high school. Through this book, we’re able to watch a Black girl give herself permission to be free. Calling My Name that should be shared with all of the young, Black girls in our lives.

12. Courage Is Contagious: And Other Reasons to Be Grateful for Michelle Obama edited by Nick Haramis

Courage Is Contagious book cover

Photo via Lenny

{ Lenny }
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Price: $20.00

Buy It Now

I love Michelle Obama, and it’s not just because she’s the first woman in the White House who looks like me. Obama is also a truth teller, a connoisseur of hope, an advocate for girls and women, and a girl from the South Side who’s remained true to who she is. In this collection of essays, an elite list of thinkers, political figures, and celebrities, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gloria Steinem, and Tracee Ellis Ross, pay homage to, arguably, our greatest first lady. They explore how Obama inspired them to live their truth as she has, and the indelible mark she’s left on them and this country.

13. With Ash on Their Faces: Yezidi Women and the Islamic State by Cathy Otten

With Ash On Their Faces book cover

Photo via OR Books

{ OR Books }
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Price: $25.00

Buy It Now

When ISIS invaded northern Iraq in 2014, they killed thousands of Yezidi men, and then captured and enslaved the region’s women and children. Three years later, many of those women and children are still enslaved, though their plight is rarely discussed in our political conversations. Through her compelling but heartbreaking reporting, Cathy Otten, a British journalist based in Iraqi Kurdistan, sheds new light on their continuing fight for freedom. More than 3,000 of these enslaved women are being sex trafficked while others have escaped and are fighting to remaining free. Through her interviews with these survivors, Otten puts human faces on a tragedy that’s used for political discourse, but never approached with empathy.

by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.

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