10 books to add to your reading list in September
On the Shelf
10 September Books For Your Reading List
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Critic Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and nonfiction, to consider for your September reading list.
2022’s fall lists groan like sideboards at a medieval feast, weighed down with delicious titles of every kind: Stephen King! Louise Penny! Ina Garten! Let’s not forget Michelle Obama (not out until November, so we’ll have to be patient). September’s stellar selections bring back two beloved protagonists, introduce a couple of unforgettable families and remind us that style has its place, even in a world that’s burning.
If I Survive You
By Jonathan Escoffery
MCD: 272 pages, $27
It’s rare for a story collection to break out of the gate with as much buzz as Escoffery’s debut, but his linked tales justify the unusual attention. Circling back and forth across the life of Trelawny and his Jamaican immigrant family as they wrestle with what’s left of the American dream (beginning in 1970s Miami), the author exposes uncomfortable social truths with fine details, wit and dazzling verbal versatility.
The Marriage Portrait
By Maggie O’Farrell
Knopf: 352 pages, $28
Lucrezia de’ Medici sits for her marriage portrait. A beautiful young bride whose wedding was arranged in haste, for political reasons, to a sly cipher of a husband, her main purpose will be as a mother. As in 2020’s “Hamnet,” O’Farrell balances historical atmosphere with themes sadly relevant to the 21st century, a time when power still trumps justice and women are still reduced to incubators.
Less Is Lost
By Andrew Sean Greer
Little, Brown: 272 pages, $29
When last we saw Arthur Less, the hero of Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2017 novel, his peacock-blue suit may have been disheveled but he knew he’d found a life partner in Freddy Pelu. Freddy provides the narrative voice for some parts of Less’ new cross-country adventures as the hapless 50-something tools along back roads accompanied by a pug named Dolly in a camper called Rosina.
Lucy by the Sea
By Elizabeth Strout
Random House: 304 pages, $28
A new entry in Strout’s Lucy Barton series always excites her fan base, but this one has a certain Superman versus Batman appeal as it finds the compelling heroine in a Maine town within driving distance of a certain Olive Kitteridge, titular protagonist of Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2008 novel. Lucy has arrived in with her ex-husband and co-parent, William, to escape the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all of us, she will emerge transformed.
Strout’s latest novel, ‘Oh, William!,’ her third about the successful and heavily burdened Lucy Barton, is somehow both exclamatory and plainspoken.
By Namwali Serpell
Hogarth Press: 288 pages, $27
Serpell’s “The Old Drift” gave us the story of Zambia told through an elegant yet unsparing intertwining of racial histories. Her equally elegant new novel is set in Maryland and focuses on a family’s tragic loss. As Cassandra Williams (known as “C”) grows up, grieving her brother Wayne, Serpell examines the idea of double consciousness and the way it affects every aspect of Black American lives.
A Visible Man: A Memoir
By Edward Enninful
Penguin Press: 288 pages, $30
With nods of gratitude in his title to Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, Enninful, the first Black editor in chief of British Vogue, steps into full visibility. With candor and compassion, the Ghanaian-born style icon recounts his childhood in Africa, his years in a family of working-class refugees in England and his rise to creative fame, both sharing and embodying his belief that fashion should be for everyone.
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
By Kate Beaton
Drawn & Quarterly: 436, $40
Beaton’s exceptionally well-told and well-drawn graphic memoir takes us through her journey, at age 21, from Cape Breton, at the eastern edge of Canada, into the far-west interior of Alberta to work the Athabasca crude deposits. Though she is now best known as the cartoonist of “Hark! A Vagrant,” this first of two volumes, full of insights into human and environmental degradation, make her a memoirist of the first rank.
In ‘Seek You,’ Kristen Radtke melds social science and personal anecdotes with hauntingly beautiful imagery, making the lonely feel less alone.
Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Challenged the Future of Espionage
By Nathalia Holt
Putnam: 400 pages, $28
Americans owe a great deal to Adelaide Hawkins, Mary Hutchison, Eloise Page and Elizabeth Sudmeier, the four “wise gals” of Holt’s title who helped build the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services into the Central Intelligence Agency. What they accomplished, in a full moral accounting, might be up for debate, but in the annals of espionage that is too often focused on men, understanding how these women not only contributed to but also contravened the nascent world order is vital.
Stay True: A Memoir
By Hua Hsu
Doubleday: 208 pages, $26
Not since Ann Patchett wrote about her friend Lucy Grealy in “Truth and Beauty” has there been such an achingly tender book about a platonic friendship. Hua Hsu, son of Taiwanese immigrants, meets the Japanese American Ken, and despite their differences the two Bay Area teens form a strong bond. Just three years later Ken is killed — and Hsu, now a staff writer at the New Yorker, writes an ode and elegy to the memories they shared.
Ryan Lee Wong’s first novel, “Which Side Are You On,” follows an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement with a lot to learn from his L.A. parents.
Fen, Bog, and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in Climate Crisis
By E. Annie Proulx
Scribner: 208 pages, $27
If you’ve ever smelled a peat fire in an Irish pub, you’ll know that wetlands contain noxious gasses. But they also nurture important flora and fauna, reduce storm damage and improve water quality. We eliminate them at our peril but, as demonstrated by Proulx, the acclaimed author of “The Shipping News” and “Brokeback Mountain,” we keep eliminating them anyway. Her astute and impassioned examinations of all kinds of wetlands, including estuaries, show a new side of the novelist we thought we knew.
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