September 2017 Books to Read

Fall publishing season is just on the horizon! Here are some of the books I’m most excited about for September, and just look how many are arriving on September 12, and how many great Library of America volumes are coming! Which ones have I missed that you’re excited about?

The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links, so if you purchase the book (or any item) by going there from this page, we’ll make a bit of money for the site. Do not feel obligated, of course — we’ll keep going regardless!

September 5

The Hainish Novels and Stories
by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Library of America

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

In such visionary masterworks as the Nebula and Hugo Award winners The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin redrew the map of modern science fiction, imagining a galactic confederation of human colonies founded by the planet Hain, an array of worlds whose divergent societies—the result of both evolution and genetic engineering—allow her to speculate on what is intrinsic in human nature. Now, for the first time, the complete Hainish novels and stories are collected in a deluxe two-volume Library of America boxed set, with new introductions by the author.

Voiume one gathers the first five Hainish novels: Rocannon’s World, in which an ethnologist sent to a bronze-age planet must help defeat an intergalactic enemy; Planet of Exile, the story of human colonists stranded on a planet that is slowly killing them; City of Illusions, which finds a future Earth ruled by the mysterious Shing; and the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning masterpieces The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed—as well as four short stories.

Volume two presents Le Guin’s final two Hainish novels, The Word for World Is Forest, in which Earth enslaves another planet to strip its natural resources, and The Telling, the harrowing story of a society which has suppressed its own cultural heritage. Rounding out the volume are seven short stories and the story suite Five Ways to Forgiveness, published here in full for the first time.

The endpapers feature Le Guin’s own hand-drawn map of Gethen, the planet that is the setting for The Left Hand of Darkness, and a full-color chart of the known worlds of Hainish descent.

Norma
by Sofi Oksanen
translated from the Finish by Owen F. Witesman
Knopf

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Here is the blurb from Knopf:

When Anita Naakka jumps in front of an oncoming train, her daughter, Norma, is left alone with the secret they have spent their lives hiding: Norma has supernatural hair, sensitive to the slightest changes in her mood–and the moods of those around her–moving of its own accord, corkscrewing when danger is near. And so it is her hair that alerts her, while she talks with a strange man at her mother’s funeral, that her mother may not have taken her own life. Setting out to reconstruct Anita’s final months–sifting through puzzling cell phone records, bank statements, video files–Norma begins to realize that her mother knew more about her hair’s powers than she let on: a sinister truth beyond Norma’s imagining. As Sofi Oksanen leads us ever more deeply into Norma’s world, weaving together past and present, she gives us a dark family drama that is a searing portrait of both the exploitation of women’s bodies and the extremes to which people will go for the sake of beauty.


September 12

An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic
by Daniel Mendelsohn
Knopf

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Here is the blurb from Knopf:

When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches at Bard College, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. For Jay, a retired research scientist who sees the world through a mathematician’s unforgiving eyes, this return to the classroom is his “one last chance” to learn the great literature he’d neglected in his youth–and, even more, a final opportunity to more fully understand his son, a writer and classicist. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men explore Homer’s great work together–first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son’s interpretations, and then during a surprise-filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus’s famous voyages–it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: Jay’s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last. As this intricately woven memoir builds to its wrenching climax, Mendelsohn’s narrative comes to echo the Odyssey itself, with its timeless themes of deception and recognition, marriage and children, the pleasures of travel and the meaning of home. Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a renowned author-scholar’s most triumphant entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.

For Two Thousand Years
by Mihail Sebastian
translated from the German by Philip Ó. Ceallaigh
Other Press

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Here is the blurb from Other Press:

This literary masterpiece revives the ideological debates of the interwar period through the journal of a Romanian Jewish student caught between anti-Semitism and Zionism. Although he endures persistent threats just to attend lectures, he feels disconnected from his Jewish peers and questions whether their activism will be worth the cost. Spending his days walking the streets and his nights drinking and conversing with revolutionaries, zealots, and libertines, he remains isolated, even from the women he loves. From Bucharest to Paris, he strives to make peace with himself in an increasingly hostile world.

For Two Thousand Years echoes Mihail Sebastian’s struggles as the rise of fascism ended his career and turned his friends and colleagues against him. Born of the violence of relentless anti-Semitism, his searching, self-derisive work captures a defining moment in history and lights the way for generations to come—a prescient, heart-wrenching chronicle of resilience and despair, resistance and acceptance.

Philip Roth: Why Write?
Collected Nonfiction 1960 – 2013
by Philip Roth
The Library of America

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Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

Throughout a unparalleled literary career that includes two National Book Awards (Goodbye, Columbus, 1959 and Sabbath’s Theater, 1995), the Pulitzer Prize in fiction (American Pastoral, 1997), the National Book Critics Circle Award (The Counterlife, 1986), and the National Humanities Medal (awarded by President Obama in 2011), among many other honors, Philip Roth has produced an extraordinary body of nonfiction writing on a wide range of topics: his own work and that of the writers he admires, the creative process, and the state of American culture. This work is collected for the first time in Why Write?, the tenth and final volume in the Library of America’s definitive Philip Roth edition. Here is Roth’s selection of the indispensable core of Reading Myself and Others, the entirety of the 2001 book Shop Talk, and “Explanations,” a collection of fourteen later pieces brought together here for the first time, six never before published. Among the essays gathered are “My Uchronia,” an account of the genesis of The Plot Against America, a novel grounded in the insight that “all the assurances are provisional, even here in a two-hundred-year-old democracy”; “Errata,” the unabridged version of the “Open Letter to Wikipedia” published on The New Yorker’s website in 2012 to counter the online encyclopedia’s egregious errors about his life and work; and “The Ruthless Intimacy of Fiction,” a speech delivered on the occasion of his eightieth birthday that celebrates the “refractory way of living” of Sabbath’s Theater’s Mickey Sabbath. Also included are two lengthy interviews given after Roth’s retirement, which take stock of a lifetime of work.

The Ross Macdonald Collection
by Ross Macdonald
The Library of America

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Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

Ross Macdonald transformed the detective novel into a literary expression of unique psychological depth and drama. Here, for the first time in a deluxe three-volume Library of America boxed set, are eleven of his classic Lew Archer mysteries.

Contains:

Four Novels of the 1950s (Library of America volume #264)
The Way Some People Die
The Barbarous Coast
The Doomsters
The Galton Case

Three Novels of the Early 1960s (Library of America volume #279)
The Zebra-Striped Hearse
The Chill
The Far Side of the Dollar

Four Later Novels (Library of America volume #295)
Black Money
The Instant Enemy
The Goodbye Look
The Underground Man

Elmore Leonard: The Classic Crime Novels
by Elmore Leonard
The Library of America

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from The Library of America:

The Library of America presents the definitive edition of an American master of crime fiction: twelve modern classics in a deluxe three-volume collector’s boxed set. This is Elmore Leonard at his unbeatable best.

Contains:

Four Novels of the 1970s (Library of America volume #255)
Fifty-Two Pickup
Swag
Unknown Man No. 89
The Switch

Four Novels of the 1980s (Library of America volume #267)
City Primeval
LaBrava
Glitz
Freaky Deaky

Four Later Novels (Library of America volume #280)
Get Shorty
Rum Punch
Out of Sight
Tishomingo Blues

Melville: A Novel
by Jean Giono
translated from the French by Paul Eprile
NYRB Classics

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Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In the fall of 1849, Herman Melville traveled to London to deliver his novel White-Jacket to his publisher. On his return to America, Melville would write Moby-Dick. Melville: A Novel imagines what happened in between: the adventurous writer fleeing London for the country, wrestling with an angel, falling in love with an Irish nationalist, and, finally, meeting the angel’s challenge—to express man’s fate by writing the novel that would become his masterpiece.

Eighty years after it appeared in English, Moby-Dick was translated into French for the first time by the Provençal novelist Jean Giono and his friend Lucien Jacques. The publisher persuaded Giono to write a preface, granting him unusual latitude. The result was this literary essai, Melville: A Novel—part biography, part philosophical rumination, part romance, part unfettered fantasy. Paul Eprile’s expressive translation of this intimate homage brings the exchange full circle.

Katalin Street
by Magda Szabo
translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix
NYRB Classics

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Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In prewar Budapest three families live side by side on gracious Katalin Street, their lives closely intertwined. A game is played by the four children in which Bálint, the promising son of the Major, invariably chooses Irén Elekes, the headmaster’s dutiful elder daughter, over her younger sister, the scatterbrained Blanka, and little Henriette Held, the daughter of the Jewish dentist.

Their lives are torn apart in 1944 by the German occupation, which only the Elekes family survives intact. The postwar regime relocates them to a cramped Soviet-style apartment and they struggle to come to terms with social and political change, personal loss, and unstated feelings of guilt over the deportation of the Held parents and the death of little Henriette, who had been left in their protection. But the girl survives in a miasmal afterlife, and reappears at key moments as a mute witness to the inescapable power of past events.

As in The Door and Iza’s Ballad, Magda Szabó conducts a clear-eyed investigation into the ways in which we inflict suffering on those we love. Katalin Street, which won the 2007 Prix Cévennes for Best European novel, is a poignant, somber, at times harrowing book, but beautifully conceived and truly unforgettable.

Forest Dark
by Nicole Krauss
Harper

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Here is the blurb from Harper:

“One of America’s most important novelists” (New York Times), the award-winning, New York Timesbestselling author of The History of Love, conjures an achingly beautiful and breathtakingly original novel about personal transformation that interweaves the stories of two disparate individuals—an older lawyer and a young novelist—whose transcendental search leads them to the same Israeli desert.

Jules Epstein, a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality have, for sixty-eight years, been a force to be reckoned with, is undergoing a metamorphosis. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of more than thirty years, and his retirement from the New York legal firm where he was a partner, he’s felt an irresistible need to give away his possessions, alarming his children and perplexing the executor of his estate. With the last of his wealth, he travels to Israel, with a nebulous plan to do something to honor his parents. In Tel Aviv, he is sidetracked by a charismatic American rabbi planning a reunion for the descendants of King David who insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line. He also meets the rabbi’s beautiful daughter who convinces Epstein to become involved in her own project—a film about the life of David being shot in the desert—with life-changing consequences.

But Epstein isn’t the only seeker embarking on a metaphysical journey that dissolves his sense of self, place, and history. Leaving her family in Brooklyn, a young, well-known novelist arrives at the Tel Aviv Hilton where she has stayed every year since birth. Troubled by writer’s block and a failing marriage, she hopes that the hotel can unlock a dimension of reality—and her own perception of life—that has been closed off to her. But when she meets a retired literature professor who proposes a project she can’t turn down, she’s drawn into a mystery that alters her life in ways she could never have imagined.

Bursting with life and humor, Forest Dark is a profound, mesmerizing novel of metamorphosis and self-realization—of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite.


September 19

The Communist
by Guido Morselli
translated from the Italian by Elizabeth McKenzie
NYRB Classics

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Here is the NYRB Classics blurb:

Walter Ferranini has been born and bred a man of the left. His father was a worker and an anarchist; Walter himself is a Communist. In the 1930s, he left Mussolini’s Italy to fight Franco in Spain. After Franco’s victory, he left Spain for exile in the United States. With the end of the war, he returned to Italy to work as a labor organizer and to build a new revolutionary order. Now, in the late 1950s, Walter is a deputy in the Italian parliament.

He is not happy about it. Parliamentary proceedings are too boring for words: the Communist Party seems to be filling up with ward heelers, timeservers, and profiteers. For Walter, the political has always taken precedence over the personal, but now there seems to be no refuge for him anywhere. The puritanical party disapproves of his relationship with Nuccia, a tender, quizzical, deeply intelligent editor who is separated but not divorced, while Walter is worried about his health, haunted by his past, and increasingly troubled by knotty questions of both theory and practice. Walter is, always has been, and always will be a Communist, he has no doubt about that, and yet something has changed. Communism no longer explains the life he is living, the future he hoped for, or, perhaps most troubling of all, the life he has led.


September 26

Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three
by David Plante
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Difficult Women presents portraits of three extraordinary, complicated, and, yes, difficult women, while also raising intriguing and, in their own way, difficult questions about the character and motivations of the keenly and often cruelly observant portraitist himself. The book begins with David Plante’s portrait of Jean Rhys in her old age, when the publication of The Wide Sargasso Sea, after years of silence that had made Rhys’s great novels of the 1920s and ’30s as good as unknown, had at last gained genuine recognition for her. Rhys, however, can hardly be said to be enjoying her new fame. A terminal alcoholic, she curses and staggers and rants like King Lear on the heath in the hotel room that she has made her home, while Plante looks impassively on. Sonia Orwell is his second subject, a suave exploiter and hapless victim of her beauty and social prowess, while the unflappable, brilliant, and impossibly opinionated Germaine Greer sails through the final pages, ever ready to set the world, and any erring companion, right.

Go, Went, Gone
by Jenny Erpenbeck
translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
New Direction

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

Go, Went, Gone is the masterful new novel by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, “one of the most significant German-language novelists of her generation” (The Millions). The novel tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation, as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. Go, Went, Gone is a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realizes. Exquisitely translated by Susan Bernofsky, Go, Went, Gone addresses one of the most pivotal issues of our time, facing it head-on in a voice that is both nostalgic and frightening.


September 29

The Æneid
by Virgil
translated from the Latin by David Ferry
University of Chicago Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from The University of Chicago Press:

In 2012, David Ferry capped a long career as a poet with a National Book Award, given in honor of his book Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations. But he had no interest in resting on his laurels. In fact, he was in the middle of the most ambitious poetic project of his life. Six years earlier, at age eighty-two, he had embarked on a complete translation of one of the foundational works of Western culture: Virgil’s Aeneid.

Now we have it, and it is a glorious thing. Ferry has long been known as perhaps the foremost contemporary translator of Latin poetry, his translations of Virgil’s Eclogues and Georgics having established themselves as much-admired standards. He brings to the Aeneid the same genius, rendering Virgil’s formal, metrical lines into an English that is familiar and alive. Yet in doing so, he surrenders none of the feel of the ancient world that resonates throughout the poem and gives it the power that has drawn readers to it for centuries. In Ferry’s hands, the Aeneid becomes once more a lively, dramatic poem of daring and adventure, of love and loss, devotion and death. Never before have Virgil’s twin gifts of poetic language and fleet storytelling been presented so powerfully for English-language readers. Ferry’s Aeneid will be a landmark, a gift to longtime lovers of Virgil and the perfect entry point for new readers.

“I sing of arms and the man . . . ” The epic journey, from the fall of Troy to the founding of Rome, is ready to begin. Join us.

By | 2017-09-15T16:50:25+00:00 September 4th, 2017|Categories: News|0 Comments

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