The 10 Books You Should Be Reading This September
New novels from Whitehead and Knausgaard, a definitive investigation into the economic impact of COVID and more
Looking for a theme for your September reading? How about this: stories and knowledge. This month sees the publication of some eagerly anticipated novels, including new titles from two of the world’s most decorated writers, Colson Whitehead and Karl Ove Knausgaard. And if your tastes lean more toward nonfiction, September also has some fascinating insights into how things work, from the human body to the effects of the pandemic on the world’s economy. Whatever you’re in the mood for, odds are good that this month has something you’ll find compelling in store.
Pump: A Natural History of the Heart by Bill Schutt (Sept. 21)
How do you follow up acclaimed books about blood and cannibalism? If you’re Bill Schutt, you get to the heart of the matter by taking a very literal route. Pump is a comprehensive look at the heart, covering its role in the human body and culture as well as its biological function across a wide variety of species. There’s a reason why the heart has long fascinated poets and physicians alike; this book offers a detailed explanation of why.
The Actual Star by Monica Byrne (Sept. 14)
Over the years, a number of writers have taken the idea of telling an epic story across distinctive time periods and run with it. That same description applies to the likes of Alan Garner’s Red Shift, Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. With her new novel, Monica Byrne joins that company and tells an expansive story that hearkens back to the days of the Maya civilization and then hurtles forward into the future.
Inter State: Essays From California by José Vadi (Sept. 14)
In the last 100 years, California’s history has encompassed labor unrest, natural disasters and a massive tech boom. What are some of the threads that bind those fractured histories together? In his new essay collection Inter State, José Vadi offers a distinctive perspective on the past, present and future of the Golden State.
The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish (Sept. 7)
Atticus Lish’s first novel, the award-winning Preparation for the Next Life, told the story of an unconventional romance and blended empathic tenderness with an exploration of trauma. With his latest novel, he returns to some of those same themes in a new context, focusing a young man’s coming of age as he deals with his mother’s terminal illness and his father’s deceptions. It’s a deeply felt, often unpredictable work of fiction.
Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy by Adam Tooze (Sept. 7)
The pandemic is far from over, but we can start to explore the ways in which it’s affected different aspects of society. With his new book Shutdown, Adam Tooze brings the same acuity that he demonstrated in his acclaimed Crashed to explore the full spectrum of COVID-19’s effects on the global economy.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Sept. 14)
Colson Whitehead’s last two novels both won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, making him one of a handful of writers to have received this prestigious honor twice. His new book offers another journey back in time, transporting the reader to the 1960s to tell the story of a man caught between his family’s underworld ties and his own desire to make a more legitimate living. Thrilling and panoramic, this shows off yet another side of Whitehead’s immense literary talents.
The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Sept. 28)
Over the course of a decade, Karl Ove Knausgaard chronicled his own life and family history in the six-volume My Struggle, helping to spark debates over autobiographical fiction along the way. What’s next for him? Apparently the answer involves a journey into the uncanny. The Morning Star finds him heading into the supernatural — and if you’ve read his earlier novel A Time for Everything, you’ll know that the combination of this author and the supernatural is volatile indeed.
Brothers on Three: A True Story of Family, Resistance, and Hope on a Reservation in Montana by Abe Streep (Sept. 7)
In 2017, the Arlee Warriors — a high school basketball team based on the Flathead Indian Reservation — won a state championship in Montana. But the narrative of this team’s push for glory on the court isn’t the only story here. Abe Streep has written about this team before, and with Brothers on Three he offers a complex and moving portrait of athletes and a community.
The Trees by Percival Everett (Sept. 7)
Over the course of his career, Percival Everett has written everything from incisive satire to head-spinning literary thrillers. If you haven’t encountered his work yet, this is an excellent time to start – and The Trees, about a pair of investigators looking into the origins of a series of surreal murders that may point to a larger conspiracy.
The N’Gustro Affair by Jean-Patrick Manchette (Sept. 21)
We’ve touted the virtues of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s taut thrillers here before, and we likely will again. First published in the 1960s and 1970s, Manchette’s fiction is frequently gripping, even as it contended with political and intellectual questions. Here, he takes the reader into the mind of a man involved in an assassination plot gone wrong — and its haunting implications.
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