The best books to read in November

The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes 

This book is basically about a 19th-century playboy gynaecologist who revolutionised women’s medicine while philandering his way through Parisian high society. It’s also a bit about Brexit.

Look at the painting that inspired Barnes to write it: Samuel Jean Pozzi, the real life Frenchman the book is based on, was a stone-cold dreamboat who made James Bond look like a fumbling teenage boy. But more than that, he was a politician, a senator, an art connoisseur and a pioneering surgeon. Infidelities aside, he was a seriously interesting guy.

He also lived in fascinating times. Barnes paints an intoxicating picture of the ‘Belle Epoque’ society in which Pozzi moved among artists and libertines. There’s enough sex, dawn duels and decadence to make Charlie Sheen blush. But Barnes is also at pains to prove it was also a period riven by hysterical narcissism, paranoia, and ‘blood and soil nativism’. In other words, it stinks of our own ‘hyperventilating times’. I loved it. 

Matt, Staff writer 

Blue Moon by Lee Child

It's taken twenty-four installments of Lee Child's wildly popular Jack Reacher series for this witless reviewer to finally get onboard, and like so many before me I was left wondering what on earth took me so long by the end of the first chapter.

Fans will be familar with the drill: Reacher, the ex-cop who wanders America one action-adventure at a time, meets an elderly couple caught in the middle of a violent gang turf war. Rather than run a mile, he decides to help, leading to terse conversations in moody bars, the seduction of a streetwise waitress and a pile of expertly-dispatched bodies - one brilliantly contructed sentence at a time. Jack Reacher is a bona fide phenomenon and, like the rest of the world, I'm in.

 

Sam, Editor-in-chief  

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Coming seven long years after her debut bestseller The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea is the story of Zachary Rawlins, who discovers a strange book in Vermont's University library which seems to describe a moment from his own childhood. From this he embarks on a quest that takes him from book-themed masquerade balls in New York to subterranean libraries that lead down to the Starless sea itself. 

It’s a labyrinth of a book with stories and fables weaved throughout the main plot and, at 500 pages, it's an epic read. The best approach it is to just jump in and go along for the ride.

Sarah, Website manager

Don't be Evil by Rana Foroohar

'Don’t be evil'. One of life’s more achievable mantras, you would hope.

Fun fact: this was in Google’s code of conduct up until 2018, when it was removed for something altogether more ambiguous and worrying. But Financial Times global business correspondent Rana Foroohar has adoped the giant’s lost motto for the title of her book, a sobering critique on Big Tech’s impact on society.

Whether you’re a luddite or a tech-nerd, this will plunge you into the realities of how the monopolies of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Netflix – y’know, the platforms we use daily and disclose untold amounts of data about our lives to – now threaten our democracies. It feels like reading George Orwell’s 1984 - except this is now, and it’s terrifyingly real.  

Donna, Website editor

Ness by Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood

Five otherworldly beings made up of the elements – As, She, He, They and It – are making their way toward The Green Chapel to stop a ritual led by The Armourer, which will result in terrible consequences. 

As you might have guessed from the synopsis, Ness is a great book for fans of mysticism, mythology and all things nature. A novella-cum-poem by Robert Macfarlane, it's also beautifully illustrated by Stanley Donwood. A real treat.


Yasmin, Social media editor

 

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