Our top book picks this week: Death by Water by Nobel laureate Kogito Choko and much more

Plus: why beards are all the rage right now and the seamy but vibrant side of 19th century Paris.

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Death by Water

Kenzaburo Oe

Atlantic Books, December 3

Nobel laureate Kogito Choko is suffering from writer’s block. Choko wants to write about his difficult relationship with his father but words are failing him. But then his estranged sister calls, with news of a trunk full of mysterious documents set to unlock the secrets of the past.

Playthings

Alex Pheby, Galley Beggar Press,

November 5

Paul Schreber is a man who wants to go home. But he can’t – he’s crippled by an illness that he cannot understand. His family is falling apart and past traumas are resurfacing – he’s paranoid and people really are out to get him. This is based on the true story of a man who became a case study for Sigmund Freud.

You Have Me to Love

Jaap Robben,

World Editions, December 3

Mikael lives with his parents on an island somewhere between Scotland and Norway. But one day, his father, Sven, saves him from drowning and is killed in the process. Mikael blocks out all memories of the terrible event and returns home but his mother blames him and becomes psychotic.

Of Beards and Men

Christopher Oldstone-Moore,

University Of Chicago Press, December 8

From New York hipsters to rustic outdoors men, beards are all the rage today. This argues that the current trend is part of a centuries-long cycle and it looks at the connections between grooming, masculinity and culture.

This Muslim American Life

Moustafa Bayoumi,

NYU Press, September 18

Sweeping arrests after 9/11 led to the deportation of thousands of Muslims. This looks at the war on terror from the perspective of ordinary Muslims and how many feel they are being victimised despite playing a positive role in the US.

The Other Paris

Luc Sante,

Faber and Faber, November 5

We know Paris as the City of Light – a place of elegant boulevards and classy cafes. But there was another Paris: one of flea markets, rubbish tips and drinking dens. This looks at the seamy but vibrant forgotten areas of 19th century Paris.