Why trawl the web for updates on just how little has changed in the US election process or how many more people have caught COVID-19, when you could spell the month in books?

This idea has apparently been bouncing around the world of books recently—I got it from Lisa at ANZ LitLovers. You just spell out the name of the month using the titles of books you’ve reviewed or ones you have on your shelves.

So here’s my bookish November, which I’ve put together by choosing my favourites among the books I’ve reviewed on this site for each letter. The titles link to my original reviews, which span the last decade or so:

N: Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

Nocturnes by Ishiguro

I reviewed this collection of five stories way back in 2009, and although it wasn’t my favourite Ishiguro, I did find that the stories “dealt with themes of disappointment, desperation, lost love and the yearning for fame in a convincing and thought-provoking way.”

O: On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King

This is one of those books that I keep returning to. I’m not a big Stephen King fan in general, but I loved this mix of memoir and writing advice. I wrote this review ten years ago and remarked on how much my rereading differed from my original encounter ten years earlier. Maybe it’s time for a re-rereading…

V: Violent Borders by Reece Jones

Violent Borders

We keep hearing about the tragedies of refugees and migrants dying, but not so much about why these tragedies occur. Reece Jones shows that borders create violence by the way they are set up. Strengthening border controls increases the danger and violence to which migrants are subjected. It was a thoroughly researched and well-told story.

E: Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan

Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan

Wow. I loved this book so much that it surprised me to see in my review: “At first I found the amount of detail overwhelming, and thought the pace was too slow.” But this book really grew on me, so much that I ended up calling the author.

M: The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

I loved this short, claustrophobic tale of a dysfunctional family, with clear political symbolism. Can the oppressed wife and children overthrow the tyrannical father? And meanwhile, that huge pot of mussels keeps simmering in the background…

B: Birchwood by John Banville

Birchwood by Banville

This was my first encounter with the Irish writer John Banville, and it wouldn’t be my last. I just love the way this man writes—which reminds me, I must check out his latest book, just published recently.

E: Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing

Electric Arches by Eve Ewing

Ah, “E” was the hardest choice. Even with two slots, there were still so many great contenders, like Vasily Grossman’s Everything Flows, Petina Gappah’s An Elegy for Easterly, and others. But I went for Electric Arches, a gloriously creative mashup of poetry, prose, visual art, and  black revolutionaries dropping from the moon. The fact that the author’s first and last names also begin with “E” is satisfying but purely coincidental.

R: The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

Radetzky March

Let’s finish the month off with a classic, Joseph Roth’s sweeping historical novel charting the decline and fall of the Trotta family and, in a broader sense, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I read it for German Literature Month, which is back again this November too.

Join In!

So here’s my version of November, spelt out in book titles:

November month in books

How would you spell the month in books? Leave your compilations in the comments below—or write your own post and feel free to drop a link to it in the comments as well. Here’s to a good reading month in November!

6 Comments

  1. Caroline 8 November 2020 at 8:52 am

    Thanks, Andrew, for mentioning German Literature Month.
    Vanderbeke is another one quite a few people read during GLM.
    I’m looking forward to your Hesse review, should you decide to read it this November.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 9 November 2020 at 5:00 pm

      You’re welcome, Caroline! It’s my favourite book blogging event, even if I don’t always have as much time to participate as I’d like.

      Reply
      1. Caroline 9 November 2020 at 6:21 pm

        That’s so nice to hear. Thank you. Oh time. . . Sometimes almost miss my own events.

        Reply
  2. Emma 15 November 2020 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    Very interesting list and a good idea to introduce November.

    I’ve only read The Radetzky March and I keep hearing good things about the Mussel Feast.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 18 November 2020 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks for persevering, Emma 🙂 I think you’d enjoy The Mussel Feast. I read The Radetzky March as part of Caroline’s readalong last year, but I see you read it before the rest of us. I’ll check out your billet!

      Reply
  3. BuriedInPrint 18 November 2020 at 5:58 pm

    That’s a fun idea. Like you, I enjoyed a reread of Stephen King’s book on writing so much more the second time (on the first time, though, I did really appreciate his list of reading recommendations). Just the other day, listening to one of the NYT Book Review podcasts, a listener had written in to recommend the audio of this book…that might be fun too.

    Reply

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