Welcome back to the Nerdist Reading List. Each month I curate book recommendations that’ll delight, charm, and terrify. Basically, this is the place to find the best fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and romance books and comics to add to your books-to-read pile. To make things easier, each month will include a selection of already released books you can grab instantly. We also have new books you’ll definitely want to pre-order or add to your library holds. For October books we’ve got epic trans led YA fantasy, a reimagining of a classic Chinese novel, a clutch of spooky horror reads, and even a saucy Holiday romance! Basically there’s something for everyone.
Fantasy October Books
One of the best books I’ve read all year, The Sunbearer Trials has already become an indie bestseller. This immersive fantasy is filled with vibrant queer characters stunning action and a central set of trials as engaging as The Hunger Games. In this Mexican-inspired fantasy young every ten years teen semidioses must battle through a series of dangerous challenges to protect their world. Teo is a Jade, one of the “lesser” semidioses who lives in the shadow of the Golds. But when Teo is selected for the trials along with another Jade his world is thrown into turmoil as he gets the chance to shape and save the home he loves so much.
This stunning paranormal romance anthology edited by the brilliant Patrice Cauldwell is a perfect spooky season treat. Featuring YA stories from many of our favorite writers, this collection features romantic tales about angels, demons, merpeople, vampires and more. And the list of authors is just as exciting as the concept. Kalynn Bayron, Kendare Blake, Kat Cho, Melissa de la Cruz, Sarah Gailey, Hafsah Faizal, Chloe Gong, Alexis Henderson, Adib Khorram, Anna-Marie McLemore, Casey McQuiston, Sandhya Menon, Akshaya Raman, Marie Rutkoski, and Julian Winters. What more could you want from an anthology this month??
Tilly Nyx is living in the shadows of her own mistakes. Her mother’s death and exile haunt her every day. Now after over a decade living undercover in New York city she has the burning desire to return home, though she has no idea where that is. It’s here that her unbelievable quest begins sending Tilly into an uncanny world of magic, fleets, and potions. Will she be able to find her family and the truth about who she is? Or is it too late to turn back the clock on what happened so many years before?
The highly-anticipated sequel to The Witch Haven drops this month continuing the story of Frances and her fellow witches. Now living a peaceful life in the cozy halls of Haxahaven Academy, Frances feels like her woes are behind her. But when her magic begins to act strangely and she’s suddenly called to France, her adventures begin once again. It’s in the cobbled streets of Paris where she learns that her actions from the first book have had dire consequences. So, now she has to rectify her wrongs in this lovely fantasy yarn.
We adore the writing of Joan He here at Nerdist. From her daring mystery debut Descendant of the Crane to her sophomore sci-fi masterpiece The Ones We’re Meant to Find she never disappoints. Her newest book reimagines the classic Chinese novel Three Kingdoms, but replaces its predominantly male cast with a roster of brilliant complex women. Our story centers on Zephyr, a startlingly intelligent strategist for a ruthless warlord. After she’s forced to infiltrate an enemy camp Zephyr is drawn into an unexpected adventure and quest for survival in this must read historical fantasy from one of the most exciting authors working today.
Horror October Books
Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching was one of the standout novels of 2020. She’s back to follow up that searing debut with this stunning gothic novel. Marion answers an oddly worded advertisement to take a position working for the upper echelons of society in a far off part of the country. Soon she’s enmeshed in the strange happenings of the House of Hunger. Rich aristocrats who hire “bloodmaids” in order to drink from them at will. It’s a shocking arrangement that becomes even more dangerous when some of her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing, pitting Marion against Countess Lisavet, the powerful woman at the center of it all.
A queer reimagining of Dracula told through the eyes of his first bride? You can sign us up just based on that description. And that’s before we get to the complex, dreamy, and lyrical style that S.T. Gibson brings the world of Constanta and her new paramour to life. Soon though she realizes her husband is capable of terrible things, putting her new life into question. Originally released in 2021 through the independent publisher Nyx, Redhook acquired the title and are rereleasing it in October in perfect time for the spookiest of seasons. So if you need some gothic polyam / bisexual romance in your life then make sure to add this to your pre order list.
Camilla Bruce broke onto the scene with her atmospheric chiller You Let Me In. And her followup The Witch in the Well looks to be just as darkly delightful. Elena and Cathy grew up together but as so many friends do grew apart with age. But when they’re flung back together, both inspired to write about a terrible tragedy centuries before their worlds collide. The past and the present weave a treacherous puzzle as the pair try to find the truth about the witch hunts that had hundreds of years before torn apart the idyllic summer paradise they once visited. But soon their story begins to echo that of the women that came before with deadly consequences.
You can check out a ton more spooky reads on our Halloween Reading List!
You’ve likely heard of Judge Dredd, but did you know he comes from a brilliant British comics series called 2000AD? In this new quarterly graphic novel series from editor Owen Johnson collects some of the best and most iconic stories from the publisher and pairs them with thoughtful essays from some of comics criticism’s best minds. The first volume has a gorgeous cover from Jamie McKelvie, stories by icons like Alan Moore, John Wagner, and Alan Grant. And it features an incredible essay from comics editor and historian Adam Karenina Sherif.
The GrishaVerse has already inspired a smash hit Netflix show and multiple brilliant books, but now the sprawling fantasy universe has its first comic book. Creator Leigh Bardugo teams up with awesome artist Dani Pendergast to bring to life the prequel story of the Darkling. Centering on the villain when he was just a boy, this tragic and beautiful story adds layers to the villain we know and the scared child he once was. And Pendergast’s art brings a whole new visual language and magic to the world of the Grisha. A must read for fantasy lovers everywhere.
If you’ve yet to discover the vibrant and hilarious works of Steve Thueson then you’re in for a treat. The Philly based cartoonist has long been delighting readers of their self-published works. But in a new Middle Grade graphic novel they introduce us to Timothy Dinoman. Basically, imagine James Bond if they were a cool, kind, anthropomorphic iguanodon. This is one of the funnest books of the year as Thueson brings to life an all-ages friendly espionage adventure. Filled with gadgets, action, and cool disguises, you don’t want to miss Timothy Dinoman’s debut!
It’s a bestseller match made in heaven as authors Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone collaborate on this absolutely delightful plus size Holiday love story. Bee Hobbes is already a successful performer when she’s cast in a clean cut Christmas movie on the Hope Channel. The only problem is her other career is as a beloved plus-size adult film star. She has to keep that under wraps as the film begins to shoot and that becomes a lot harder when her childhood crush and co-star Nolan Shaw, discovers the truth and the pair begin a steamy romance. Saucy, fun, and delightfully dirty this is a Christmas romance for adults only, and it’s all the better for it.
Featured Image: Ace Books/Viking Books for Young Readers/Roaring Brook Press