Books by Will Smith to Louise Erdrich: eight exciting titles out this month

November's releases include memoirs by the Hollywood star, as well as a translated short story collection by Najwa Bin Shatwan

November is going to be a month of biographies. Whether it's the memoirs by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and US actor Will Smith, or the books examining the lives of US literary critic Elizabeth Hardwick, The Talented Mr Ripley author Patricia Highsmith, and Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, there's lots to pique your interest.

But there's also plenty of fiction to look forward to.

Catalogue of a Private Life, an English translation of Libyan novelist Najwa Bin Shatwan's short stories, will be released as will a new novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Erdrich.

Here are eight novels worth adding to your reading list this month.

‘1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir’

Contemporary artist Ai Weiwei has been an open critic of China. The artist grew up in the far north-west of the country, owing to his father’s exile. Ai's father, the poet Ai Qing, was condemned during the Anti-Rightist Movement resulting in his family being sent to a labour camp in 1958, when he was aged only 1. They were then exiled to northern Xinjiang, where they lived for more than 15 years.

In 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, he highlights this experience, giving a sweeping look at Chinese history, while ruminating on his own artistic practice.

Published by Crown, the book was released on November 2

‘The Sentence’

Erdrich’s newest novel is a side-splitting ghost story. A bookstore in Minneapolis that specialises in works by indigenous authors is haunted by the spirits of one of its most irritating patrons. “Flora dies on All Souls’ Day but she simply won’t leave the store,” the book’s blurb reads. "Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading with murderous attention, must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and furious reckoning.”

Published by HarperCollins, the book will be released on Tuesday, November 9

‘Will’

Smith is no stranger to the public, having been well in the spotlight since his hit 1990 TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But in his new memoir, Will, the actor and rapper shares a new side.

The book springs from Smith’s childhood in West Philadelphia, tracing a “profound journey of self-knowledge” through the worlds of music and Hollywood. A trailer for a YouTube series, Best Shape of My Life, debuting on Monday, November 8, which was largely filmed in Dubai, shows Smith reading extracts from the book to his family, including children Trey, Jaden and Willow.

Published by Penguin Press, the book will be released on Tuesday, November 9

‘Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks 1941-1995’

Highsmith, author of psychological thrillers including Strangers on a Train and the series of novels featuring the character Tom Ripley, was famously tight-lipped about her private life. But she ritualistically kept a diary and notebook to log her day and record ideas for her works.

Highsmith voiced her wish to have her journals posthumously published in 1995, aged 74. Her long-time editor, Anna von Planta, then began sifting through 8,000 pages of Highsmith’s personal writings, extracting her most illuminating entries for this volume.

Published by Liveright, the book will be released on Tuesday, November 16

‘A Splendid Intelligence: The Life of Elizabeth Hardwick’

This is the first biography of US critic and short story writer Hardwick. The author of the 1979 semi-autobiographical novel Sleepless Nights was often outshone by her marriage to poet Robert Lowell, but she was a literary force in herself. A Splendid Intelligence by Cathy Curtis traces Hardwick’s life from her early years in Kentucky to her move to New York City, where she met and became friends with cultural figures Susan Sontag, Elizabeth Bishop and Mary McCarthy.

Published by WW Norton, the book will be released on Tuesday, November 16

‘Catalogue of a Private Life’

Najwa Bin Shatwan skyrocketed to regional attention when she became the first Libyan to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2017. The author of four novels, she is as acclaimed for her shorter works. Translated by Sawad Hussain, Catalogue of a Private Life compiles eight stories that illuminate the effects of civil war on Libyan society. The stories, originally published in Arabic in 2018, often touch on the absurd while examining the brittle lines between betrayal and loyalty, cruelty and tenderness.

Published by Dedalus Books, the book will be released on Wednesday, November 17

‘A Life of Picasso IV: The Minotaur Years, 1933 - 1943’

The fourth and final instalment of John Richardson’s highly detailed examination of Picasso’s life is being published two years after the author’s death. The book captures one of Picasso’s most prolific and troubled periods – the years between the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War – as the Spanish painter completed some of his most recognisable works, including Guernica and his portraits of Dora Maar and Marie-Therese Walter.

Published by Knopf, the book will be released on Tuesday, November 16

‘Essays Two: On Proust, Translation, Foreign Languages and the City of Arles’

Famous for her succinct storytelling and surgically precise prose, Lydia Davis is also acclaimed for her translations of French classics, including Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way. In Essays Two, the US author writes on what drew her towards translation while reflecting on the layered relations between different languages. The book comes as a follow-up to the 2019 collection Essays, which compiles five decades worth of her essays, commentaries and lectures.

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, the book will be released on Tuesday, November 30

Updated: November 3rd 2021, 11:32 AM