October books 2023

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories by Terry Pratchett, Night Side of the River by Jeanette Wilson and Liberation Day by George Saunders

A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories – Terry Pratchett

Hands up, I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan, and this collection of his previously unpublished early stories – before he found fame with the legendary Discworld novels – is certainly a must for all lovers of his work. But ask any Pratchett lover just how good a writer he was and they’ll mostly tell you the same thing: he was a literary genius would’ve won pretty much every highbrow book award going if he wasn’t pigeonholed as a fantasy writer. There’s something in here for anyone and everyone interested in the formative years of one of the greatest authors ever in this or any other universe.

A truly unmissable, beautifully illustrated collection of unearthed stories from the pen of Sir Terry Pratchett: award-winning and bestselling author, and creator of the phenomenally successful Discworld series. Twenty early short stories by one of the world’s best loved authors, each accompanied by exquisite original woodcut illustrations. These are rediscovered tales that Pratchett wrote under a pseudonym for newspapers during the 1970s and 1980s. Whilst none are set in the Discworld, they hint towards the world he would go on to create, containing all of his trademark wit, satirical wisdom and fantastic imagination. Meet Og the inventor, the first caveman to cultivate fire, as he discovers the highs and lows of progress; haunt the Ministry of Nuisances with the defiant evicted ghosts of Pilgarlic Towers; visit Blackbury, a small market town with weird weather and an otherworldly visitor; and go on a dangerous quest through time and space with hero Kron, which begins in the ancient city of Morpork…

Images above: A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories cover, author Terry Pratchett

Night Side of the River – Jeanette Winterson

Brilliant author. Ghost stories. October. If a world exists where this isn’t one of the easiest, greatest and most perfectly timed recommendations for the month beginning with O then I certainly don’t want to go there. It’d probably be very, very dull and not have enough chocolate cake, for starters.

The genre-bending and masterful new collection of ghost stories from Jeanette Winterson. A ghost has no substance, but it has power – and presence – and it can appear in alternative forms. In the metaverse, we are all alternative forms. The Dead will join us. Our lives are digital, exposed and always-on. We track our friends and family wherever they go. We have millennia of knowledge at our fingertips. We know everything about our world. But we know nothing about theirs. We have changed, but our ghosts have not.

They’ve simply adapted and innovated, found new channels to reach us. They inhabit our apps and wander the metaverse just as they haunt our homes and our memories, always seeking new ways to connect. To live amongst us. To remind us. To tempt us. To take their revenge. These stories are not ours to tell. They are the stories of the dead – of those we’ve lost, loved, forgotten… and feared.

Some are fiction. But some may not be.

Images above: Night Side of the River cover, author Jeanette Winterson

Liberation Day – George Saunders

Obviously a good portion of your October time should be spent drinking hot drinks with novelty flavours in them, frolicking through piles of autumn leaves and wearing cable-knit jumpers throughout the next autumnal heatwave, so a fantastic collection of science fiction tinged, dystopian and wonderfully imaginative short stories from n award winning author is the perfect reading solution to dip in and out of in between seasonal activities.

The first short story collection in ten years from the Man Booker Prize-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo. George Saunders returns with a collection of short stories that make sense of our increasingly troubled world. A masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics and justice, and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose – wickedly funny, unsentimental, and perfectly tuned – Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: here is a collection of prismatic, deeply resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.

Images above: Liberation Day front cover; author George Saunders