September 2019 Books to Read!

The end of summer has arrived. The kids are back in school, I just had a very pleasant Labor Day, the nights are getting longer. It’s been unseasonably warm here in the mountains of Utah, but the signs of fall are clear . . . including that massive influx of high-profile publications.

Here are some books I’m excited about that are being published this month. Let me know what you’re looking forward to!

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! Release dates are based on the U.S. release date.

September 10

The Testaments
by Margaret Atwood
Nan A. Talese

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Nan A. Talese:

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her—freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” —Margaret Atwood

Gun Island
by Amitav Ghosh
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one that turns Deen Datta’s world upside down.

A dealer of rare books, Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors, but as his once-solid beliefs begin to shift, he is forced to set out on an extraordinary journey; one that takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through the memories and experiences of those he meets along the way. There is Piya, a fellow Bengali-American who sets his journey in motion; Tipu, an entrepreneurial young man who opens Deen’s eyes to the realities of growing up in today’s world; Rafi, with his desperate attempt to help someone in need; and Cinta, an old friend who provides the missing link in the story they are all a part of. It is a journey that will upend everything he thought he knew about himself, about the Bengali legends of his childhood, and about the world around him.

Amitav Ghosh‘s Gun Island is a beautifully realized novel that effortlessly spans space and time. It is the story of a world on the brink, of increasing displacement and unstoppable transition. But it is also a story of hope, of a man whose faith in the world and the future is restored by two remarkable women.

The Corner That Held Them
by Sylvia Townsend Warner
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

A unique novel about life in a 14th-century convent by one of England’s most original authors.

Sylvia Townsend Warner’s The Corner That Held Them is a historical novel like no other, one that immerses the reader in the dailiness of history, rather than history as the given sequence of events that, in time, it comes to seem. Time ebbs and flows and characters come and go in this novel, set in the era of the Black Death, about a Benedictine convent of no great note. The nuns do their chores, and seek to maintain and improve the fabric of their house and chapel, and struggle with each other and with themselves. The book that emerges is a picture of a world run by women but also a story—stirring, disturbing, witty, utterly entrancing—of a community. What is the life of a community and how does it support, or constrain, a real humanity? How do we live through it and it through us? These are among the deep questions that lie behind this rare triumph of the novelist’s art.


September 17

Coventry: Essays
by Rachel Cusk
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Rachel Cusk redrew the boundaries of fiction with the Outline Trilogy, three “literary masterpieces” (The Washington Post) whose narrator, Faye, perceives the world with a glinting, unsparing intelligence while remaining opaque to the reader. Lauded for the precision of her prose and the quality of her insight, Cusk is a writer of uncommon brilliance. Now, in Coventry, she gathers a selection of her nonfiction writings that both offers new insights on the themes at the heart of her fiction and forges a startling critical voice on some of our most urgent personal, social, and artistic questions.

Coventry encompasses memoir, cultural criticism, and writing about literature, with pieces on family life, gender, and politics, and on D. H. Lawrence, Françoise Sagan, and Kazuo Ishiguro. Named for an essay Cusk published in Granta (“Every so often, for offences actual or hypothetical, my mother and father stop speaking to me. There’s a funny phrase for this phenomenon in England: it’s called being sent to Coventry”), this collection is pure Cusk and essential reading for our age: fearless, unrepentantly erudite, and dazzling to behold.

Pittsburgh
by Frank Santoro
NYR Comics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYR Comics:

Pittsburgh is the story of a family, and a city. Frank Santoro faces a straightforward yet heart-rending reality: His parents, once high-school sweethearts, now never speak to each other—despite working in the same building. Stuck in the middle, he tries to understand. The result is this book.

Using markers, pencils, scissors, and tape, with a variety of papers, drawing in vivid colors and exuberant lines, Santoro constructs a multi-generational retelling of their lives. Framed by his parents’ courtship and marriage, and set amid the vital but fading neighborhood streets, the pages of Pittsburgh are filled with details both quotidian and dramatic—from his childhood mishaps to his father’s trauma in Vietnam—interspersed throughout with the mute witness of the family dog, Pretzel.

Santoro, the acclaimed author of Storeyville and Pompeii, has created his masterpiece. Pittsburgh is an extraordinary reimagining of the comics form to depict the processes of memory, and a powerful, searching account of a family taking shape, falling apart, and struggling to reinvent itself, as the city around them does the same.

Last Letters: The Prison Correspondence between Helmuth James and Freya von Moltke, 1944-45
edited by Helmuth Caspar von Moltke, Dorothea von Moltke and Johannes von Moltke
translated from the German by shelley Frisch
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Tegel prison, Berlin, in the fall of 1944. Helmuth James von Moltke is awaiting trial for his leading role in the Kreisau Circle, one of the most important German resistance groups against the Nazis. By a near miracle, the prison chaplain at Tegel is Harald Poelchau, a friend and co-conspirator of Helmuth and his wife, Freya. From Helmuth’s arrival at Tegel in late September 1944 until the day of his execution by the Nazis on January 23, 1945, Poelchau would carry Helmuth’s and Freya’s letters in and out of prison daily, risking his own life. Freya would safeguard these letters for the rest of her long life, much of it spent in Norwich, VT, from 1960 until her death in 2010.

Last Letters is a profoundly personal record of the couple’s love, faith, and courage in the face of fascism. Written during the final months of World War II, the correspondence is at once a collection of love letters written in extremis and a historical document of the first order. Published to great acclaim in Germany, this volume now makes this deeply moving correspondence available for the first time in English.

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett
Harper

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Harper:

“’Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?’ I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer.”

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are. Filled with suspense, you may read it quickly to find out what happens, but what happens to Danny and Maeve will stay with you for a very long time.


September 24

The Red Thread: Twenty Years of NYRB Classics
edited by Edwin Frank
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

In Greek mythology, Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of red thread to guide him through the labyrinth, and the Red Thread offers a path through and a way to explore the ins and outs and twists and turns of the celebrated NYRB Classics series, now twenty years old. The collection brings together twenty-five pieces drawn from the more than five hundred books that have come out as NYRB Classics over the last twenty years. Stories, essays, interviews, poems, along with chapters from novels and memoirs and other longer narratives have been selected by Edwin Frank, the series editor, to chart a distinctive, entertaining, and thought-provoking course across the expansive and varied terrain of the Classics series.

Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming
by László Krasznahorkai
translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet
New Directions

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from New Directions:

Set in contemporary times, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecomingtells the story of a Prince Myshkin–like figure, Baron Béla Wenckheim, who returns at the end of his life to his provincial Hungarian hometown. Having escaped from his many casino debts in Buenos Aires, where he was living in exile, he longs to be reunited with his high-school sweetheart Marika. Confusions abound, and what follows is an endless storm of gossip, con men, and local politicians, vividly evoking the small town’s alternately drab and absurd existence. All along, the Professor?a world-famous natural scientist who studies mosses and inhabits a bizarre Zen-like shack in a desolate area outside of town?offers long rants and disquisitions on his attempts to immunize himself from thought. Spectacular actions are staged as death and the abyss loom over the unsuspecting townfolk.

Family Record
by Patrick Modiano
translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti
Yale University Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Yale University Press:

A mix of autobiography and lucid invention, this highly personal work offers a deeply affecting exploration of the meaning of identity and pedigree. With his signature blend of candor, mystery, and bewitching elusiveness, Patrick Modiano weaves together a series of interlocking stories from his family history: his parents’ courtship in occupied Paris; a sinister hunting trip with his father; a chance friendship with the deposed King Farouk; a wistful affair with the daughter of a nightclub singer; and the author’s life as a new parent.

Modiano’s riveting vignettes, filled with a coterie of dubious characters—Nazi informants, collaborationist refugees, and black-market hustlers—capture the drama that consumed Paris during World War II and its aftermath. Written in tones ranging from tender nostalgia to the blunt cruelty of youth, this is a personal and revealing book that brings the enduring significance of a complicated past to life.

Until Stones Become Lighter Than Water
by António Lobo Antunes
translated from the Portuguese by Jeff Love
Yale University Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Yale University Press:

Award?winning author António Lobo Antunes returns to the subject of the Portuguese colonial war in Angola with a vigorous account of atrocity and vengeance. Drawing on his own bitter experience as a soldier stationed for twenty?seven months in Angola, Lobo Antunes tells the story of a young African boy who is brought to Portugal by one of the soldiers who destroyed the child’s village, and of the boy’s subsequent brutal murder of this adoptive father figure at a ritual pig killing.

Deftly framing the events through an assembly of interwoven narratives and perspectives, this is one of Lobo Antunes’s most captivating and experimental books. It is also a timely consideration of the lingering wounds that remain from the conflict between European expansionism and its colonized victims who were forced to accept the norms of a supposedly superior culture.

The Incompletes
by Sergio Chejfec
translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

“Now I am going to tell the story of something that happened one night years ago, and the events of the morning and afternoon that followed.”

The Incompletes begins with this simple promise. But to try to get at the complete meaning of the day’s events, the narrator must first take us on an international tour?from the docks of Buenos Aires, to Barcelona, until we check in at the gloomy Hotel Salgado with the narrator’s transient friend Felix in Moscow. From scraps of information left behind on postcards and hotel stationery, the narrator hopes to reconstruct Felix’s stay there. With flights of imagination, he conjures up the hotel’s labyrinthine hallways, Masha, the captive hotel manager, and the city’s public markets, filled with piles of broken televisions.

Each character carries within them a secret that they don’t quite understand?a stash of foreign money hidden in the pages of a book, a wasteland at the edge of the city, a mysterious shaft of light in the sky. The Incompletes is a novel disturbed by this half-knowledge, haunted by the fact that any complete version of events is always just outside our reach.

Japanese Ghost Stories
selected and translated from the Japanese by Lufcadio Hearn
edited by Paul Murray
Penguin Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.

Here is the blurb from Penguin Classics:

In this collection of classic ghost stories from Japan, beautiful princesses turn out to be frogs, paintings come alive, deadly spectral brides haunt the living, and a samurai delivers the baby of a Shinto goddess with mystical help. Here are all the phantoms and ghouls of Japanese folklore: “rokuro-kubi,” whose heads separate from their bodies at night; “jikininki,” or flesh-eating goblins; and terrifying faceless “mujina” who haunt lonely neighborhoods. Lafcadio Hearn, a master storyteller, drew on traditional Japanese folklore, infused with memories of his own haunted childhood in Ireland, to create the chilling tales in Japanese Ghost Stories. They are today regarded in Japan as classics in their own right.

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