The Devil and the Dark Water, Stuart Turton (Raven Books, £16.99)

Stuart Turton’s follow-up to his debut thriller The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a huge, boisterous, at times silly, but always gripping page-turner that mashes up Sherlock Holmes with William Golding (or maybe the maritime stories of William Hope Hodgson) and adds several pungent flavours of its own. It is 1634 and a ship is travelling from the Dutch East Indies with a mysterious cargo and the world’s greatest detective in chains in its bowels. Soon, livestock are being murdered, passengers and crew start hearing terrible whispers in the night and rumours abound that a demon called Old Tom, is onboard and they are all doomed unless they pledge him their loyalty. Expect mystery, murder, red herrings and knife fights.


Love, Roddy Doyle (Jonathan Cape, £18.99, published Thursday)

Back in February Roddy Doyle told The Herald Magazine that writing books about middle-aged men drifting toward old age wasn’t necessarily the wisest literary choice. Women, he said “don’t want to read about ageing men.” And as for ageing men, he said, “they only want to read about Hitler and Stalin and football.” Thankfully, Doyle still persists, and his latest book Love is a sharp, funny two-hander about the friendship between two of those aforementioned ageing men that pivots to somewhere much darker and sadder towards the end. Easy to read, hard to forget.

Read More: The 30 best Autumn books for 2020 (Part One)

When the Lights Go Out, Carys Bray (Hutchinson, £14.99, published November 12)

A victim of coronavirus-related publishing delays, Bray’s third novel finally appears next month. It is a family saga that tackles climate change, set against a northern English seaside setting. Costa-shortlisted Bray won praise for her debut novel A Song for Issy Bradley and early reports suggest When the Lights Go Out is warm, witty and well worth your time.

The First Woman, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Oneworld, £16.99)

A feminist coming of age tale, Makumbi’s novel takes us to a small Ugandan village in the time of dictator Idi Amin. The book asks how can a young woman be true to herself in a society that is desperate for her to conform. It’s a book about motherhood (and the lack of it), which mixes up Ugandan folklore, historical detail and the reality of oppression.

Cassius X, Stuart Cosgrove (Polygon, £17.99)


A bonus extra volume to Cosgrove’s “Soul Trilogy”, Cassius X looks at a year in the life (1963 mostly) of the man who would become Muhammad Ali. It takes in his growing interest in Islam, his friendships with Sam Cooke and Malcolm X and his showdown in the ring with Sonny Liston. Cosgrove’s book, in passing, is also a primer on the birth of soul music and the story of the civil rights movement. The result is a riveting profile of one of the world’s greatest sportsmen and the world he moved in.

Island Dreams, Gavin Francis (Canongate, £20)


This strange, beguiling book is full of sea frets and misty memory. Author and doctor Francis wraps up biography, exploration (his own and others), literature and cartography into a compelling, restless piece of travel writing that takes in pirates and monks and albatrosses and explores the appeal of solitude. It’s a book that simply, beautifully, floats across the brain.

Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There: How a Few Skinny Brits with Bad Teeth Rocked America, David Hepworth (Bantam Press, £20)

“It is only overstating the case slightly to say that in pop music, hair is everything,” pop critic and broadcaster David Hepworth notes in his waspish, witty new book. How true.  Hepworth’s nostalgic excavations of pop culture have now become annual treats for music fans of a certain age. His latest book looks at the British invasion of the American charts in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, from the Beatles to Bowie and Boy George.

Read More: The 30 best Autumn books for 2020 (Part One)

Home Stretch, Graham Norton (Coronet, £20)

When the comedian and TV presenter published his first novel the general tone of the reviews was “this is better than we expected”. That sniffiness has fallen away and Norton’s third novel Home Stretch should receive a warm welcome. It is a compelling family saga that travels from the 1980s to the present day in Ireland and elsewhere, and from homophobia to gay marriage and the collateral damage caused by the car accident that starts the book.

Dear Reader, Cathy Rentzenbrink (Picador, £12.99)


Cathy Rentzenbrink

There is, as one former 1980s indie music icon (now in some disgrace for his dubious political views) once said, more to life than books, you know, but not much more. Cathy Rentzenbrink’s ode to the “comfort and joy” of the written word certainly believes so. “When the bite of real life is too brutal,” she writes near the beginning, “I retreat into made-up worlds and tread well-worn paths.” What follows is an elegant, moving memoir that takes in Rentzenbrink’s days as a bookseller, simple pleasures, family tragedies and the consolations of familiar books, from Du Maurier’s Rebecca to CS Lewis’s Narnia books.

The Lives of Lucian Freud: Fame 1968 -2011, William Feaver (Bloomsbury, £35)


The concluding volume of William Feaver’s biography of the artist offers the same mixture of gossipy, insider information (Feaver was a long-term confidant) as its predecessor. It’s fair to say that this portrait of the artist doesn’t hide his flaws. The result is insightful and fascinating. Plus, it’s funny. Because Freud often was. He never liked Florence, it seems. “Horrible place: should be twinned with Ipswich.”

I Wanna Be Yours, John Cooper Clarke (Picador, £20, published Thursday )


“Dying is a fantastic feeling; ask anybody who’s ever been brought back from the dead and they’ll tell you the same thing.” As you might expect, the autobiography of John Cooper Clarke, poet, broadcaster, sometime drug addict and one-time Sugar Puffs promoter is not short of colour, with walk-on parts for everyone from Elvis Costello to Bernard Manning.

The Silence, Don DeLillo (Picador, £14.99, published October 29)

Don DeLillo might be one of the last authentic claimants of the title “the great American novelist,” even if that now feels a very recidivist 20th-century notion now. The author of Underworld and Libra has returned with The Silence, a slim, curious literary take on our current taste for apocalypse fiction that asks what might happen to us if we lose all our technology.

Afterland, Lauren Beukes (Michael Joseph, £16.99)

For a more barnstorming approach to the apocalyptic there’s South African author Lauren Beukes’s new novel Afterland, which posits a post-viral world where 99 per cent of men have been wiped out. It’s all about a mother and her son on the run. Perfect lockdown reading in other words.

Read More: The 30 best Autumn books for 2020 (Part One)

Agent Sonya, Ben Macintyre (Viking, £25)

Ben Macintyre’s latest real-life spy drama tells the story of a British housewife and mother who is also a Soviet spy. The Agent Sonya of the title helped plan an assassination attempt on Hitler and provided intelligence to help Russia build an atomic bomb. Macintyre is not only a diligent researcher, but he has a real flair for storytelling. The result is a book full of Cold War thrills without the imminent fear of nuclear destruction ... Well, hopefully.

The Stubborn Light of Things, Melissa Harrison (Faber, £14.99, published November 5)


Nature writer and novelist Melissa Harrison lived in London for 20 years but a move to rural Suffolk reconnected her to the changing seasons. The Stubborn Light of Things – also the title of her excellent podcast – draws on her nature columns for the Times. It’s a nature diary that show off Harrison’s eye for the world around her and encourages the reader to look harder too. Illustrations by Joanna Lisowiec help make this a visual treat, but it’s Harrison’s way with words that will linger with you.