Best Books of October
Welcome to our Best of the Month page, where, in addition to our regular Significant Seven picks (our favorite books of the month, which we offer all month long at 40% off), you can find seven more picks on the side (since we always have more books we want to share), our favorite new paperbacks, and up-to-date lists of the topselling and most discussed books of the month.

The Signficant Seven LogoThe October Significant Seven
The Kingdom on the Waves | Alinea | More Information Than You Require | The Widow Clicquot | An Imperfect Offering | American Rifle | "Have You Seen...?"


Spotlight Title: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson
The Kingdom on the Waves With the publication of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume I back in 2006, M.T. Anderson assured readers that his gripping account of the American Revolution from the perspective of a young slave in colonial Boston would continue. Volume I received the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and the anticipation among critics and readers inevitably grew for the story to continue. Thankfully, Anderson is a man of his word. With The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves Anderson has not just delivered an equally haunting second and final act to his hero's story, he's completed a literary masterpiece that simply blows away its limited categorization as Young Adult lit. Octavian II engages the reader (teenaged or otherwise) to reimagine the birth of the nation from an unfamiliar perspective--that of an African American slave compelled by incredible circumstance, and the hope of freedom, to fight in a counterrevolutionary army. No less than acclaimed historians David McCullough and Joseph Ellis, Anderson turns everything you thought you knew about America's founding sideways. Through his expert incorporation of historical detail and colonial-era voice, the novel transports us deep into the perilous military and moral battles that defined the American Revolution. That these historical conflicts continue to inform today's charged debates about national identity and purpose makes his novels all the more relevant and powerful. --Lauren
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Alinea by Grant AchatzMore Information Than You Require by John Hodgman
Alinea The dishes at Grant Achatz's award-winning Chicago restaurant Alinea are entirely new, yet what diners taste often resurrects their most cherished food memories. Achatz has said that flavor is memory, and of all the ways in which Alinea appeals to the senses, it's flavor that he has harnessed and reinvented in a kitchen that never rests on its laurels. (Although, Achatz has employed everything from smoking oak leaves to cinnamon torches to impart flavor, so who's to say that laurel branches are out of the question?) For a menu as ambitious as Alinea's, its cookbook incarnation is as clear a window into a chef's creative process as you could hope for, buttressed by stunning photography and thoughtful essays from Achatz and food literati Michael Ruhlman and Jeffrey Steingarten, among others. This doesn't mean necessarily that you'll cook from Alinea often, or perhaps ever: the 600 recipes are composed precisely to show that any motivated cook can recreate Alinea's dishes at home, but to do so may be missing the point. What makes Alinea remarkable--and unlike any other cookbook on the shelf--is its passionate insistence that there isn't just one recipe for being a cook. --AnneMore Information Than You Require While John Hodgman had a considerable cult following before his first book, The Areas of My Expertise, he has since become a "Famous Minor Television Personality" on The Daily Show and as the PC in the ubiquitous "Get a Mac" ads, so the world should be primed to embrace More Information Than You Require, Book Two in his Compendium of Complete World Knowledge. (Or, as it says on the cover, "New Ferret, Same Old Con.") Fun facts, bizarre trivia, and oddball photos ("Figure 51: Jane Addams, Pre-Antlers") are crammed into every corner of the page, with extended riffs on How to Tell the Future Using a Pig's Spleen, Gambling ("Sure Thing Number Three: Star Wars Slots"), How to Deal With Some Common Infestations, and of course, How to Be Famous. And what he did for hobos in The Areas of My Expertise, celebrating their free spirit and conniving ways (and a list of 700 hobo names), Hodgman now does for mole-men, the "race of humanoids who live in the complex warren of tunnels and vast caverns beneath the earth." Did you know, for instance, that Thomas Jefferson uncovered in his "mole-manic palace known as Monticello" a "small group (or 'Parlor') of mole-men dining on weevil pie and discussing world affairs... 'They touched my face,' wrote Jefferson, 'and hissed, as is their custom.'" Hodgman may be up to the same old con, but this brand new ferret of a book is a wise (and wise-ass) little predator who will swindle away your reading time with endless hours of rabies-free laughs. --Brad
Read our exclusive Q&A with chef Grant Achatz
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The Widow Clicquot by Tilar MazzeoAn Imperfect Offering by James Orbinski
The Widow Clicquot From the artillery of popping corks on New Year's Eve to the clinking of newlywed glasses, Champagne has long been the beverage of choice for those in a celebratory mood. Yet had it not been for the pioneering Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, the libation deemed "the wine of civilization" by Winston Churchill might today be available only to the excessively wealthy or extremely lucky. Tilar J. Mazzeo toasts the élan of Champagne's Grand Dame with The Widow Clicquot, a fascinating story of the cunning bravery and good fortune that helped build the Veuve Clicquot brand. Widowed at age 27 by the death of her husband, François Clicquot, Barbe-Nicole assumed control of her family's wine business amid the chaos of the Napoleonic Wars. That she became a prominent female leader in a male-dominated industry was one thing; building an empire during savage political unrest was quite another. With passionate research and true admiration for her subject, Mazzeo pays homage to the beloved widow from Reims and the remarkable weight her name still carries today. --DaveAn Imperfect Offering From his biography, James Orbinski seems superhuman. As a med student in the late '80s, he spent a year researching pediatric AIDS in Rwanda, which opened his eyes to the human consequences of political failure. After cofounding the Canadian chapter of Doctors Without Borders, Orbinski embarked on relief missions to the world's most chaotic pockets, including war-torn Somalia and the refugee camps of Afghanistan. When reports of genocide filtered out of Rwanda, Orbinski led a small team that--with scant supplies--tended to the sick and wounded around Kigali. Within 14 weeks, 800,000 people were killed as the international community sat idly by, and Orbinski experienced a profound personal crisis. He emerged with renewed commitment to his role as a doctor, not only as a healer but as a voice for those who have been disastrously failed by governments. In An Imperfect Offering, he bears witness to surreal levels of suffering, and his actions seem almost impossibly heroic. But descriptions of his patients' courage and his own moral challenges make this story an exploration of what it means to be human, and what our responsibilities are to each other. Through his words, the suffering of millions is no longer unimaginable, and indifference is not an option. --Mari
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American Rifle: A Biography by Alexander Rose"Have You Seen...?" by David Thomson
American Rifle Given the title, American Rifle is a book that many potential readers might dismiss without a thought. Don't do it: Alexander Rose's peculiar "biography" is not written for gun enthusiasts--though they'll certainly enjoy it--but for anyone interested American history from George Washington to the Wild West to Iraq. Drawing on original sources ranging from Samuel Colt to the soldiers who depend on the weapon the most, this book is an exhaustive history of the rifle's place in American culture, not only as an instrument of war, but also as a driver of technological innovation and advances in mass production that helped propel the United States into its role as both a military and economic superpower. Once you start, American Rifle will have to be pried from your cold, dead hands before you put it down. --JonHave You Seen? Having already written (and twice revised) the greatest bathroom book of all time, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson has refreshed his encyclopedic and idiosyncratic understanding of movie history to confect another giant slab of candy for anyone who loves movies or just likes to watch a great mind at work. "Have You Seen...?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films is no cobbled collection of old reviews: written fresh from start to finish, Thomson's page-long profiles often ignore plot to focus instead on the people behind the film or the slippery, personal question of what the movie is actually like to watch. And writing about a thousand films pushes him beyond his favorites into more interesting territory: flaws and failures are often his best subjects. You'll want to discover movies you've never heard of before, and rediscover others you thought you knew well. --Tom
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Most of the Month: Topsellers in October
Updated Tuesdays. Rankings based on orders during the month.
All BooksOverallWestMidwestSouthEast
The SnowballThe Snowball by Alice Schroeder 1 2 3 3 1
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini 2 1 2 2 2
The Shack by William P. Young 3 3 1 1 3
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer 4 5 4 7 5
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer 5 4 8 6 7
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer 6 8 9 8 6
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer 7 7 6 9 9
The Love Dare by Stephen Kendrick 8 - 7 4 -
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks 9 - 5 5 8
Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman 10 9 - - 4
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski - 10 10 - 10
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling - - - 10 -
The Limits of Power by Andrew J. Bacevich - 6 - - -
Books Published in OctoberOverallWestMidwestSouthEast
Kill Bin LadenKill Bin Laden by Dalton Fury 1 3 2 1 3
The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly 2 1 4 2 4
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 3 2 1 5 5
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke 4 4 3 4 7
A Wanted Man by John le Carre 5 7 - 7 1
The Way We Work by David Macaulay 6 6 9 8 2
The Gate House by Nelson DeMille 7 9 8 3 6
The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones 8 5 - - 9
Pieces of My Heart by Robert J. Wagner 9 8 7 10 10
Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn 10 10 6 6 -
Ted, White, and Blue by Ted Nugent - - 5 9 -
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks - - 10 - -
The Partnership by Charles D. Ellis - - - - 8

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We're Blogging Books
Omnivoracious
Bookmark Omnivoracious, the Amazon.com books blog, for daily book-loving posts and author appearances, including these guests:

Charlie Huston
Lemony Snicket
Erin Hunter
Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria
Rick Perlstein and John Dean
Tim Harford and Dan Ariely
More Media Picks
The Significant Seven
See the monthly favorites of our other editorial teams:

Music
Movies & TV
Best Books of 2008
Best of 2008
Visit our Best of 2008 Store to find our picks for the best books of the year, including The Northern Clemency, which leads our editors' top 100.


More to Watch For:
October Category Picks


Arts & Photography

The Printed Picture by Richard Benson
Equus by Tim Flach
More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today by Jennifer Siegal


Biographies & Memoirs

Emily Post by Laura Claridge
Amarcord: Marcella Remembers by Marcella Hazan
Chagall by Jackie Wullschlager


Children's Books

Science Fair by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Runaway Dolls by Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin, and Brian Selznick


Cooking, Food & Wine

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten
Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide by Thomas Keller
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito


Home & Garden

Energy Efficient Homes for Dummies by Rik DeGunther
Seams to Me: 24 Reasons to Love Sewing by Anna Maria Horner
Roots of Our Home: Our Journey to a New Old Home by Russell Versaci


History

The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World by John Demos
Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell


Literature & Fiction

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews


Mystery & Thrillers

The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant
The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
The Glass of Time by Michael Cox



Best Paperbacks of October

Schulz and PeanutsMany of the books we loved in hardcover are new in paperback this month, including David Michaelis's subtle and surprising biography of an American master, Schulz and Peanuts:

The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross
Duma Key by Stephen King
I Like You by Amy Sedaris
Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Time and Materials by Robert Haas
The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones
Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch



Seven on the Side


Best Book for Cubicle Cattle

Dilbert 2.0 Celebrate two decades of corporate frustration with a 10-pound collection of classic strips from cartoonist Scott Adams. --Dave

Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert by Scott Adams


Best Book for Armchair Travel with Famous Friends

Spain In this PBS series companion, Batali and Paltrow team up with Mark Bittman and actress Claudia Bassols to eat their way across Spain. --Brad

Spain: A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow


Best Way to Light Up Your Brain Through Your Eyes

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories: Volume 2 Brunetti's second gorgeously produced collection is so full of wonders you'll expect a third, a fourth, a fifth, all equally rich. --Tom

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories: Volume 2, edited by Ivan Brunetti


Best Book to Inspire Your Barbaric YAWP

Paper TownsPaper Towns reminds you of that invincible, romantic, and completely in-over-your-head feeling of being alive. (PS: Fans of Walt Whitman and Billy Bragg must read immediately.) --Anne

Paper Towns by John Green


Best Backwoods Lady Macbeth

Serena Brutal, beautiful, and riveting, a tragedy that puts modern flesh on the timeless bones of one of Shakespeare's most compelling villains. --Daphne

Serena by Ron Rash


Best Look at the Oracle of Omaha

The Snowball An insightful inside portrait of the self-effacing but determined man who became the world's richest person while remaining one of its most respected. --Mari

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder


Best Glimpse of a Man Before He Became a Maus

Breakdowns Spiegelman's long out-of-print collection, updated with new autobiographical insight into a groundbreaking work that exploded the way comics were produced and perceived. --Jon

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! by Art Spiegelman