It's not every month that an abundance of really terrific fiction falls into your lap like ripe fruit. This October, for instance -- the peak of the harvest season, strangely enough -- definitely wasn't one of those months. We opened several volumes with keen anticipation only to find our enthusiasm flagging less than halfway through. We took a pass on new books by Umberto Eco (enjoyable enough but too slow off the dime) and Tim O'Brien (fine, if you're real sentimental about the '60s generation), as well as quite a few novels by authors with less distinguished résumés. We won't include any book in our monthly "What to read" selection unless we can recommend it heartily, and some months we've really got to hunt for them.
We did, however, find ourselves caught up in Irvine Welsh's intricate, raunchy farce about Edinburgh lowlifes, and in Aleksandar Hemon's enigmatic tale of a Bosnian refugee exploring the mysteries of Chicago. Multicharacter stories set in India and Manhattan's Upper West Side were rounded out by a deliciously wicked first-person diatribe. It may have been harder that usual in the assembling, but that makes us all the more delighted with our final selection of books. We hope you like them, too.