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October Book 2019

The books to blow off plans and stay indoors for this October

From Zadie Smith’s dazzling first collection of short stories to a searing memoir by Stanford survivor Chanel Miller, here are the must-reads for this month

The days are getting colder, the nights are getting longer, and I think I’m developing RSI from pulling my thumb across a phone screen to refresh a stagnant IG timeline. Lock your door, crank up the electric blanket your housemates definitely don’t know about, and pick up a book. Where last month was about cultivating hot nerd autumn, this October is all about blowing off plans to get lost in a good read. With this list, we’ve got some stunning poetry for the most extremely online among us, searing memoirs, and a sprawling look at every iconic moment Miuccia Prada has ever brought to the runway – enjoy!

KNOW MY NAME – CHANEL MILLER

For four years, Chanel Miller hasn’t been called by her name. Instead she was attributed titles that would temporarily steal her identity: Emily Doe; unconscious intoxicated woman; rape victim. Now, in her memoir Know My Name, Miller – who only just waived her anonymity – is determined to regain control of her story. In 2015, the University of California graduate was found lying behind some bins as Brock Turner thrusted against her lifeless body. Famously known as the Stanford sexual assault case, Miller’s experience sparked global outrage, shining a light on the unfair treatment of perpetrators and their victims in sexual abuse cases. The author and artist’s new book details her traumatic experience and how she’s fought to rebuild her life in its aftermath. From suffering repeated postponement of her trials and learning to navigate the backwards legal system, to joining art classes and absorbing light from other survivors and supporters online, Know My Name is a determined reclamation of self, and sends one clear message: survivors of sexual abuse will not be silenced. (BD)

Out now, Viking

TRANS POWER: OWN YOUR GENDER – JUNO ROCHE

Juno Roche is one of my favourite writers. She’s so direct and honest – which is no mean feat given the sensitivity of the topics she writes about; surgically getting a vagina and realising it doesn’t necessarily make you feel like a woman, being homophobically attacked when she was younger, getting diagnosed as HIV positive. In her last book, Queer Sex (which I interviewed her about here), she took on the topic of intimacy for trans and nonbinary people, in order to try and improve her own sex life. Now, in her new book, Trans Power, she interviews the likes of writer Kate Bornstein, performance artist Travis Alabanza, drag legend Glamrou (who wrote Unicorn, below) and model Josephine Jones. Through these conversations, and snippets of memoir, she explores the idea of trans as an identity in and of itself, and looks at how moving beyond the gender binary might be freeing for all of us. (AA)

Out October 21, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

THERE WILL BE NO QUIET – STANLEY DONWOOD

The man behind the Kid A bear, Stanley Donwood has created visuals for Radiohead for over 23 years, and his new book, There Will Be No Quiet, is a no holds barred dive into the 50-year-old’s creative practice, from his first designs for single “My Iron Lung” to albums Hail to the Thief and A Moon Shaped Pool. With commentary by Thom Yorke and Donwood himself, the publication reads as a chronological dive into the artist’s cerebral playground, complete with crying centaurs, child-like figures, and computational phrases written in all-caps, like “ARMED RESPONSE” and “SMOG CHECK” – all icons that have come to define the Radiohead lore over the years. (GY)

Out now, Thames and Hudson

UNFOLLOW – MEGAN PHELPS-ROPER

Notorious for their hate-filled picket signs – “God hates Jews”; “Abortion is bloody murder”; “Death penalty 4 f*gs” – the Westboro Baptist Church is widely regarded as the most hated family in America, a title affirmed by Louis Theroux’s enlightening documentaries about the group. In 2012, Megan Phelps-Roper, a granddaughter of the church’s founder, left the homophobic, anti-Semitic religious sect, and has since spent her time advocating for people and ideas she was brought up to despise. In her forthcoming memoir, Unfollow, the author shares her in-depth insight into the church’s closed world, discusses the internal conflict between her worldly compassion and her loyalty to her family, and explains why she eventually decided to escape the group. “The end of this spiral of rage and blame begins with one person who refuses to indulge these destructive, seductive impulses,” Phelps-Roper previously said in her TED Talk. “We just have to decide that it’s going to start with us.” (BD)

Out October 8, riverrun

PALETTE: THE BEAUTY BIBLE FOR WOMEN OF COLOUR - FUNMI FETTO 

Last month’s Africa Utopia x Indaba X’s Beauty: It’s a Shady Business panel was another opportunity for Glamour’s executive editor and beauty director Funmi Fetto to call out the beauty industry’s still-excruciating slowness to cater to black women with darker skin tones. “Thanks, we’ve got our foundations now, but what else is there?” she asked fellow panellists like Clara Amfo and Ray BLK and the audience. Well, the beauty specialist’s just-released debut book collates the answers for women of colour across hair, skincare and body products as well as make-up. If ‘bible’ sounds like a mighty claim, it’s not. Years of testing products and dishing out honest, confidence-building advice to family and strangers alike are consolidated here. It’s “essential reading” according to Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful. (FP)

Out now, Hodder & Stoughton 

VALIDATE ME – CHARLY COX

This one’s for anyone that’s caught themselves closing Twitter then immediately reopening it for one more slack-jawed scroll, who’s got themselves twisted over a rotating in-app pinwheel as the notifications slow down for a recently posted selfie, texted your mates to ‘stop being a fucking traitor and like my recent IG pic’ (that last one might be just me). Poet Charly Cox’s Validate Me, a follow-up to the acclaimed She Must Be Mad, zones in on those very specific internet anxieties and the blistering symptoms of digital burnout with beautiful, stark, ‘I-feel-very-seen’ prose. Log off and let the internet compassion fatigue wash over you and away for this one – I read it all in a single sitting. (AC)

Out now, Harper Collins

SLEEVELESS: FASHION, IMAGE, MEDIA, NEW YORK 2011-2019 – NATASHA STAGG

In an interview about her 2016 novel Surveys, a coming of age story about a social media star, writer and Dazed contributor Natasha Stagg talked about cutting out the markers (mainly, references to specific internet phenomena) that would inevitably date the book – though, she said, she didn’t set out to create that narrative, that’s just how people “filled in the blanks”. Her new collection, Sleeveless, does the opposite: the subtitle, ‘Fashion, Image, Media, New York 2011 – 2019’ drops the pin so specifically there aren’t many blanks to fill. The texts are a mixture of essays and fiction – without making explicit what each one is – but if you spent time on the internet in the years mentioned at all, Stagg’s characters and storylines (Me Too, internet scammers, Demna Gvasalia’s red boots, artist–instagrammer Alexandra Marzella), will feel familiar, real or not. A lot of Stagg’s readers will come from her world, but I really hope not all because her treatment of herself as narrator, and the flat (as in non-hierarchical) attention given to her subjects mean that Sleeveless is a document of its time, rather than of trends (even when she is writing about trends). (ZSP)

Out October 2019, Semiotext(e)

PRADA CATWALK – SUSANNAH FRANKEL

Written by AnOther magazine editor-in-chief Susannah Frankel, Prada Catwalk is 632-page-long trip through every single look Miuccia Prada has ever put on the runway, starting all the way back in 1988 and ending here, in 2019. Open the book at any page and you’ll be confronted with a slice of the Italian fashion house’s history – from the iconic ugly-chic Banal Eccentricity collection of SS96 and SS11’s wild banana and monkey prints, all the way through to the Wednesday Addams-inspired offering that made its debut for AW19 – as well as cameos from the likes of Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Kristen McMenamy, Naomi Campbell, and Dazed cover girls Licett Morillo and Fran Summers. (ED)

Out now, Thames and Hudson

GRAND UNION – ZADIE SMITH

A stunning first collection of short stories from the brilliant writer that is Zadie Smith – each time I finished one, I inwardly announced it was the best of the bunch, but they just kept stacking up, each more triumphant, decimating, dazzling. Smith stretches narrative and structural form with intertwining essays and myth, takes risks with rich, spirited language that left me breathless. We meet an Antigua immigrant in 1959 London with a meta-fictional story of murder, and explore male violence in blistering detail with Two Men Arrive in a Village, while Meet the President! zones in on surveillance and data harvesting. Sentimental Education is the pinnacle of all things great in Smith’s exhilarating writing. (AC)

Out now, Penguin

IN THE CUT, SUSANNA MOORE

In The Cut is a newly reissued cult classic that first came out in 1995, where sex and death are equally as tantilising and titilating – it revels in blood and cum and spit and sweat. Our narrator Frannie is a divorced English professor research New York street slang (in the cut is a phrase that incorporates a euphemism for vagina to mean ‘a safe place to hide’) – she is fascinating and frustrating, pulled into a seedy world of murder and salicious lust when she witnesses a public sex act and later finds one of the participants dead. It rises above the erotic thriller genre – that can rest darkly on violence against women – with deliciously smart turns, rich, expansive language, and skin-pinching moments of suspense. If I’ve failed to convince you, check the Jane Campion film adaption. (AC)

Out now, Penguin Randomhouse

UNICORN: THE MEMOIR OF A MUSLIM DRAG QUEEN, AMROU AL-KADHI

Russell T. Davies summed up this one well when he said it was “a masterpiece of psychology, a major study of Islam and a definitive study of drag.” Unicorn is the story of Iraqi-born Amrou Al-Kadhi’s transformation into Glamrou, their drag queen alter ego, via a love-hate relationship with their mother and the Muslim faith, as well as a crash course in what it’s like to experience racism at Eton and Cambridge University. It’s a truly unique memoir, and a moving story about religion, family and friendship, but you know, shot through with the quick wit of a drag queen with an acid tongue. An important addition to the small but growing canon of books written by and about nonbinary people, too. (AA).

Out now, HarperCollins