With Halloween come and gone, it is time to start thinking about other holidays. All the books on this month’s list would make stellar gifts, whether you are trying to please a history fiend or a home chef. The number of early November releases will be especially helpful for those trying to get shopping out of the way so they can spend more time reading.
“The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness,” by Susannah Cahalan (Nov. 5): Following her 2012 memoir about mental illness, “Brain on Fire,” Cahalan is back with another look at how the mentally ill are diagnosed, treated and cared for through the true story of a group of psychiatrists who went undercover in asylums during the 1970s. Her investigative work will change how many see the history of psychiatry in our country.
“Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives — And Save Theirs,” by Richard Louv (Nov. 5): Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods” urgently reminded humans how we are losing contact with the natural world, and in “Our Wild Calling” he tells us more about why that contact is essential. Wildlife preservation concerns more than saving species; it helps our own habitats and connects us to each other, as well.
“In the Dream House: A Memoir,” by Carmen Maria Machado (Nov. 5): Machado, a queer woman of color, challenges the way we read as she changes what a memoir means, just as she did in her 2017 National Book Award finalist “Her Body and Other Parties: Stories.” Machado’s memoir consists of short, arresting chapters about her relationship with a woman who physically abused her.
“Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, The Berlin Wall, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth,” by Iain MacGregor (Nov. 5): Nov. 9 heralds the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. MacGregor brings the wall back to life through interviews with the people who built, defended and lived with it.
“The Revisioners: A Novel,” by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (Nov. 5): We know American racism has not been eradicated, but in the National Book Award nominee’s second novel, we see that it is all too alive and kicking. Unemployed multiracial southerner Ava moves in with her white grandmother, Margaret. Soon a century-old rift in their community affects how the two women manage their personae.
“Little Weirds,” by Jenny Slate (Nov. 5): Indescribable, but eminently readable, the actor-comedian’s book consists of a carnival of observations, ideas and events that may or may not make up a memoir. Basically, “Little Weirds” is performance art in high-caliber prose.
“Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking,” by Toni Tipton-Martin (Nov. 5): The acclaimed culinary journalist and community activist has assembled a comprehensive account of African American recipes and foodways. From the kitchens run by enslaved people to the family tables of freemen to the careers of entrepreneurs and chefs, “Jubilee” covers the breadth of a true American cuisine.
“Joy of Cooking: 2019 Edition Fully Revised and Updated,” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker and Megan Scott (Nov. 12): When last we met “The Joy” (as many aficionados call it), it was 2006. The venerable cooking bible has been revised nine times since its 1931 publication. Squirrel-skinning and tea cakes have made way for pizza and hummus, and this time around, there is tempeh, chana masala and Beef Rendang. Never fear: You can still find the signature Banana Bread Cockaigne.
“Linda McCartney: The Polaroid Diaries,” by Ekow Eshun, Chrissie Hynde, et al (Nov. 17): McCartney’s skill as a photographer precedes this quirky, personal collection that will only strengthen her legacy. Many parents take casual snapshots of bathing children covered in foam, but only in McCartney’s lens is one transformed into an instant Klimt painting. As her husband Paul writes in the introduction: “Many of her photos, it’s just that one click. You’ve got to recognise when a great photo is happening in front of you.”
“Great Society: A New History” by Amity Shlaes (Nov. 26): Shlaes’ account of America in the 1960s recalls her 2007 “The Forgotten Man,” about America in the 1930s, and finds — guess what? — a complicated nation. The author writes with a free style, including information on lesser-known figures of the era, as well as an interesting assessment of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.