10 books to add to your reading list in September

10 books to read in September.

On the Shelf

10 books for your September reading list

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Critic Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and nonfiction, to consider for your September reading list.

As the seasons turn (or at least so we hope), September’s most anticipated fiction ponders change of all kinds, making us feel deeply about families coping with loss and think hard about choices that have led to conflict. The nonfiction hits even harder, covering the stigma of mental illness, the trouble with school reform, the history of a mass-shooting weapon and — in what passes for a palate cleanser these days — an amusing case of mistaken identity that leads to an indictment of our twisted politics.


Wednesday’s Child: Stories
By Yiyun Li
FSG: 256 pages, $27
(Sept. 5)

In a collection that has already been awarded the PEN/Malamud Prize, characters live in and move on through loss. “A Sheltered Woman” finds a traditional Chinese postpartum nanny treated with contempt by her employers, while “When We Were Happy We Had Other Names” centers on a mother trying to quantify grief over a child’s loss. Each piece feels like a distinctly, uniquely perfect snowflake of pain.


"The Wren, the Wren," by Anne Enright
(W. W. Norton)

The Wren, The Wren
By Anne Enright
W.W. Norton: 288 pages, $28
(Sept. 19)

How we romanticize the Irish poets, with their gifts for imagery and personal excess. And how the men among them wither on closer examination. Enright, whose novels (including “The Gathering”) have already secured her place among the Irish greats, creates a fictional poet named Phil McDaragh to show how difficult someone like him might have been, sowing dreams and discord from wife to daughter to granddaughter — women who, at last, find that their love conquers his memory.

Fiction from Zadie Smith, Yiyun Li and Jesmyn Ward, memoirs from Sly Stone and Werner Herzog and a bio of Elon Musk are among the fall’s most anticipated books.

Aug. 28, 2023

Night Watch
By Jayne Anne Phillips
Knopf: 304 pages, $28
(Sept. 19)

Phillips sets her first novel since “Quiet Dell” (2013) eight years after the Civil War, focusing not on Reconstruction but on a girl named ConaLee and her mute, traumatized mother. At the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, where they wind up, the real-life Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride ran a program for the mentally ill that he called “moral treatment.” Its compassion allows ConaLee’s mother to recuperate and heal.

"Devil Makes Three," by Ben Fountain
(Flatiron Books)

Devil Makes Three
By Ben Fountain
Flatiron: 544 pages, $32
(Sept. 26)

Writing about Haiti would daunt any author, but Fountain (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”) settles in easily amid the country’s corruption and contradictions, perhaps because he’s visited 50 times. The action begins just after the removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and its cleverly drawn characters include a handful of locals, a CIA liaison, a scuba entrepreneur and more, encompassing every flavor of postcolonial excess and tragedy.

Kevin Powers was among the best in a wave of novelists on Iraq and Afghanistan. His new thriller, “A Line in the Sand,” signals their slow fade from relevance.

May 12, 2023

Land of Milk and Honey
By C Pam Zhang
Riverhead: 240 pages, $28
(Sept. 26)

The Earth’s resources have been depleted. A young American chef, stuck in London due to bureaucratic mishaps, leaps at the chance to work in a mysterious Italian mountain silo where every foodstuff imaginable has been hidden away. As the unnamed chef discovers, that’s not all that’s being hoarded, and her survival may depend on how she copes. It’s the most breathtakingly beautiful dystopian novel since “Station Eleven.”



While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence
By Meg Kissinger
Celadon: 320 pages, $30
(Sept. 5)

An award-winning journalist, Kissinger has long investigated the effects of mental illness on American life. Now, in an expansive memoir, she investigates its impact on her own loved ones. From the outside, her large, loving family seemed perfect. In reality, her parents and some of her siblings (including two who died by suicide) suffered greatly. Their lives have inspired a startling, important book.

"Doppelganger," by Naomi Klein
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World
By Naomi Klein
FSG: 416 pages, $30
(Sept. 12)

You’re a trusted academic and public intellectual whose bestselling books are read around the world. Suddenly, the public confuses you readily with another public intellectual, one whose books were once respected before her ideas and methods took a turn into conspiracy theories. What do you do? How do you recover your identity? But Klein’s new work isn’t just about Naomi Wolf, or even identity confusion; it’s about how a contorted mindset has gained in popularity by holding up a warped mirror to the reality we know.

In “On Fire,” Naomi Klein’s purpose is not to dishearten but to awaken us to the growing global movement called the Green New Deal.

Sept. 19, 2019

Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal
By Bettina Love
St. Martin’s: 352 pages, $29
(Sept. 12)

A Columbia University endowed professor and co-founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network, Love demonstrates how Reagan’s War on Drugs policies targeted largely Black school systems and students, resulting in low-performance statistics that continue to affect those schools and neighborhoods. She also argues forcefully for reform that will overturn this devastation with child-centered policies.

"Father and Son," by Jonathan Raban

Father and Son: A Memoir
By Jonathan Raban
Knopf: 336 pages, $28
(Sept. 19)

After the acclaimed travel writer suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at age 69, his long rehabilitation led him to rethink more than just his suddenly limited range of movement. He began to reconsider his father’s World War II service, examining the letters his parents exchanged during those years. Raban died earlier this year at age 80, and his posthumous memoir forms a worthy, loving excavation into the ways his life intertwined with those of his elders.

The 14 most essential works of nonfiction include histories by Kevin Starr, Carey McWilliams, Reyner Banham and, ruling them all, Mike Davis’ ‘City of Quartz.’

April 11, 2023

American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 Rifle
By Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson
FSG: 496 pages, $32
(Sept. 26)

A pair of Wall Street Journal reporters tell a story that many people will wish didn’t have to be told: the history of the rifle that has become synonymous with mass shootings and gun violence. Invented as an improvement to World War II weaponry, the AR-15 rifle now is used by civilians. The authors meticulously interview many people on all sides of the debate over this tragically iconic weapon of war.