Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork, by Reeves Wiedeman (Little, Brown, Oct. 20)
After it was founded in 2010, WeWork seemed poised to change work culture around the world, attracting interest from high-profile investors and expanding at a breakneck pace. The company’s flaws have been well-reported, and ultimately, it’s a story of 21st- century boom and bust. Wiedeman, a contributing editor at New York magazine, has written a satisfying ticktock of the company’s rapid rise and crash, culminating in its disastrous I.P.O. in 2019 and Neumann’s ouster.
Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery/Saga Press, Oct. 13)
Roanhorse, an Indigenous author and the winner of Hugo and Nebula awards, often weaves Navajo elements into her writing. In “Black Sun,” the first book in a projected trilogy, she draws on pre-Columbian civilizations to tell an epic story, centering on a mysterious young man, Serapio, who sets out to avenge a crime.
The Cold Millions, by Jess Walter (Harper, Oct. 27)
Set in 1900s Spokane, this novel follows two orphaned brothers and a series of larger-than-life characters (think union organizers, madams and vaudeville performers), and unfolds against a decade of class tensions and free-speech protests.
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, by Les Payne and Tamara Payne (Liveright, Oct. 20)
This biography is 30 years in the making: Les Payne, a pioneering Black journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, died in 2018, leaving his daughter Tamara to finish the manuscript. It fills in some of the gaps of Malcolm X’s autobiography, rounding out the years of his childhood and adolescence and exploring how his incarceration and conversion shaped his views. The book’s most compelling moments put readers in the room with Malcolm X at critical junctures, including the moments before his assassination. Last week, it was named to the National Book Awards longlist for nonfiction.
Earthlings, by Sayaka Murata. Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori. (Grove Press, Oct. 6)
Growing up, Natsuki feels deeply out of place, finding relief only after her cousin Yuu tells her he’s convinced he’s an alien. This novel shares themes with Murata’s acclaimed English-language debut, “Convenience Store Woman”: a deadpan, detached narrative style, a woman caught between her own feelings of being an outsider and society’s pressure to conform.
Inside Story, by Martin Amis (Knopf, Oct. 27)
This book is billed as a novel, but it draws heavily on Amis’s own life and its principal figures: his father, Saul Bellow, Philip Larkin, Iris Murdoch and others. The death in 2011 of his best friend, the journalist and critic Christopher Hitchens, is at the book’s emotional core, as Amis explores aging, grief and more.
Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam (Ecco, Oct. 6)
Amanda, Clay and their children are a middle-class, white Brooklyn family, entranced by a vacation rental home on Long Island that promises near-total seclusion. But when a catastrophe strikes, the arrival of the home’s owners is a shock — not least because they’re wealthy and Black. Alam’s third book, this novel is set for a film adaptation and was longlisted for the National Book Award.
Let Love Rule, by Lenny Kravitz with David Ritz (Henry Holt, Oct. 6)
A far-ranging memoir looks back at Kravitz’s coming-of-age, creative career and personal life. His story derives its power from his contradictions, he writes: “Black and white. Jewish and Christian. The Jackson 5 and Led Zeppelin. I accepted my Gemini soul. I owned it. I adored it. Yins and yangs mingled in various parts of my heart and mind, giving me balance and fueling my curiosity and comfort.” Ritz is a prolific ghostwriter and biographer who has worked with musicians like Ray Charles, B.B. King and Janet Jackson.
Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck, by William Souder (Norton, Oct. 13)
A comprehensive new biography of America’s best-known novelist of the Great Depression arrives at a timely moment. Though Steinbeck’s books remain his most significant literary output, Souder also dives into Steinbeck’s life as a journalist, including overseas postings during World War II and the Vietnam War, and how they shaped his worldview. And he doesn’t shy away from Steinbeck’s vices — philandering, heavy drinking — along with the feelings of inferiority that haunted him throughout his career.
Memorial, by Bryan Washington (Riverhead, Oct. 27)
Benson and Mike are a couple at an impasse, and their future is murky at best. Mike leaves for Japan to care for his terminally ill father just as his mother arrives for a visit, leaving her and Ben, who is Black, to become uneasy roommates. Race, sexuality and class all commingle against the backdrop of Houston’s Third Ward.
Missionaries, by Phil Klay (Penguin Press, Oct. 6)
Klay’s debut story collection, “Redeployment,” about the experiences of Americans fighting overseas, was one of the Book Review’s 10 best books of 2014. Now, he returns with his first novel, set in Colombia amid its long and bloody civil conflict. Klay, a Marine veteran, explores in painstaking detail how people respond in extremis, while respecting that some experiences can’t be fully expressed.
150 Glimpses of the Beatles, by Craig Brown (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Oct. 13)
The author of the highly entertaining “Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret” (the princess makes an appearance in these pages, too) eschews a linear narrative in favor of correspondence, imagined outcomes that never came to pass and cascades of interviews to convey the singular cultural importance of the Beatles. This is the biography for anyone who’s wondered which Beatle Fran Lebowitz liked best. (Ringo Starr — “the contrarian position,” she says.)
Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, by Heather Clark (Knopf, Oct. 20)
This vast new biography sets out to recover Plath from her melodramatic legacy. Her life story — from her institutionalizations to her tempestuous marriage to Ted Hughes — has often been reduced to that of a depressive, literary femme fatale, which Clark believes ignores the poet’s true genius. Her book draws on all of Plath’s surviving letters and incorporates part of an unfinished novel, “Falcon Yard.” Plath’s poem “Stings” is a fitting epigraph for the project: “They thought death was worth it, but I / Have a self to recover, a queen.”
The Searcher, by Tana French (Viking, Oct. 6)
A new novel by French, whose books are “superb,” according to our critic Janet Maslin, is always an event. Cal Hooper has left behind his job as a Chicago cop, settling in rural Ireland in the wake of an ugly separation from his wife. But he’s unnerved by his new surroundings, and after he begins investigating a disappearance, some dark secrets come to light.
Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World, Fareed Zakaria (Norton, Oct. 6)
The CNN host moves beyond current questions (When will a vaccine be ready? How might it change things?) and looks at the longer-term economic, medical and biological effects of the coronavirus. Despite the grim circumstances, he finds reason for some optimism: “This ugly pandemic has created the possibility for change and reform,” he writes. “It has opened up a path to a new world.”
War: How Conflict Shaped Us, by Margaret MacMillan (Random House, Oct. 6)
In MacMillan’s view, war is not an aberration — it’s a fundamental element of human nature. The author, a Canadian historian known for her scholarship about the Treaty of Versailles and British imperialism, surveys war’s far-ranging effects over the centuries, showing how it has time and again altered human history and influenced everything from a culture’s artistic output to the values it exalts.
The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for American Freedom, by H. W. Brands (Doubleday, Oct. 6)
A fascinating study of two Americans who opposed slavery, but by different means. John Brown favored violence and direct action, and paid with his life. Abraham Lincoln supported the Constitution and political action, but in the end he also paid with his life.