What’s on your reading list for September? We have a few recommendations for you, as the seasons slowly make their way from summer to fall. September’s recommended books are heavy on the nonfiction side — though there are still a wide range of styles on display, from haunting memoirs to explorations of language and technology. Whether you’re looking for a visit to the great outdoors or insights into the creative mind, there’s a lot to savor here.
Rhona Bitner, Listen: The Stages and Studios That Shaped American Music (Sept. 27)
Certain venues loom large in music history — and that can include spaces as disparate as the Blue Note or 924 Gilman. An increasing number of books are giving legendary venues their due, and Listen — a new collection of photos of spaces that played a big role in musical history — uses that history to create a work of art all its own.
David Milch, Life’s Work: A Memoir (Sept. 13)
It’s hard to overstate the importance of David Milch to television history. His work on shows like NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues and Deadwood helped to change people’s expectations of televised drama. And Milch’s skill at creating memorable characters and complex dialogue established his reputation even more. With his new memoir, he takes stock of — as you might guess from the title — his life and his work. It’s a unique look into the world of a singular artist.
Jim Harrison: The Search for the Genuine: Nonfiction: 1970-2015 (Sept. 13)
Over the course of his long career as a writer, Jim Harrison wrote eloquently about the American outdoors in countless ways. The Search for the Genuine assembles 45 years’ worth of his nonfiction, covering subjects ranging from Yellowstone National Park to searching for sharks. Looking for a lyrical, meditative take on the grandest subjects out there? Look no further.
Dipo Faloyin, Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent (Sept. 6)
There’s a sense of myopia that can crop up when some writers discuss countries within Africa — essentially, a conflation of country and continent that’s frustrating to behold. Dipo Faloyin’s new book is a corrective to this, taking in the specificity of different nations and regions. Faloyin’s book touches on everything from cuisines to sports, powerfully evoking a sense of place time and time again.
Douglas Rushkoff, Survival of the Richest : Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires (Sept. 6)
Read enough about the incredibly wealthy and you’ll soon find discussions of how some of them are hedging their bets against societal unrest or collapse. Douglas Rushkoff, who has written extensively about technology and ethics, explored how this came to be — and delves into the origins of the philosophy that underlies this approach to escaping society.
Tom Mustill, How to Speak Whale: A Voyage Into the Future of Animal Communication (Sept. 6)
We’re currently living through a moment in which the sentience and personhood of some non-human species are hotly debated. It doesn’t take too long for these conversations to involve whales — which are clearly intelligent and have massive brains to boot. Inspired by the author’s own close encounter with a humpback whale, Tom Mustill’s new book explores the scientists working to communicate with whales — and in the process better understand the world.
Daniel Stashower, American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America’s Jack the Ripper (Sept. 6)
In the 1930s, Eliot Ness left Chicago for Cleveland and found himself on the trail of one of the nation’s first documented serial killers. That a Depression-era true story pitting Ness against a man referred to as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run and the Torso Killer hasn’t been written about more is something of a mystery. (One caveat: Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko’s Torso, which was inspired by the same events, and is quite good.) Daniel Stashower’s new book offers a detailed account of this shocking period in American history.
Hua Hsu, Stay True: A Memoir (Sept. 27)
In the hands of a talented writer, the story of a friendship with a tragic ending can take on even greater depths. Hua Hsu’s new book explores one personal bond that resonated through his life, and the ways in which it resonates with questions of race, class and place. The result is a moving, thought-provoking work of nonfiction.
Sarah Kendzior, They Knew : How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent (Sept. 13)
Something you might have noticed over the last few years: we’re living in a boom time for conspiracy theories. And if your first instinct is to say, “What’s the harm in that?” — well, that’s what Sarah Kendzior’s new book is here to answer. It’s a detailed look into both the appeal of conspiracy theories and the effects that they can have on society writ large.
Brian Michael Jenkins, Plagues and Their Aftermath: How Societies Recover from Pandemics (Sept. 20)
Living through a pandemic isn’t easy — but neither is figuring out how best to feel comfortable in society in their aftermath. In his new book, Brian Michael Jenkins looks back in time to see how different societies have wrestled with this question. Along the way, he covers everything from ancient Athens to the effects of SARS, making for an informative and timely read.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.