It’s the first day of September, which means it’s time for us to present you, dear reader, with a sneak preview of the books that are worth reading this fine month, when summer quickly turns to fall. We have stories from the prairies and stories from the circus, as well as memoirs about death, adolescence, and what is what like being the grunge band in Seattle in the ’90s. So click through and tell us what you’re excited about reading in the comments section below.
Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda (September 1)
Svoboda, a Nebraska transplant living in New York, has written about hardship, deprivation, air balloons, and the American West in beautiful prose. The year is 1861 and a girl named Harriet is sold to a Native American man by her good-for-nothing father, who lost a bet. She escapes, and wanders through the Midwest, doing trade and warily shaking hands with Norwegians in the market for a horse. She’s a smart girl, and a tough one, so it makes sense that she is described by Svoboda as a little bit Huck Finn and a little bit like Mattie Ross from True Grit.
Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography by Errol Morris (September 1)
The director of Tabloid, The Fog of War, and Standard Operating Procedure, among other documentaries, revises and reworks essays that he had originally written for The New York Times on the nature of the photographic medium. In his investigation of staged photos, we learn that sometimes the more we learn, the less we know. As Morris writes, “The concepts of naturalness, authenticity, and posing are all slippery slopes that when carefully examined become hopelessly vague.”
The Hilliker Curse by James Ellroy (September 7)
Ellroy is back with a follow-up to My Dark Places, his 1996 memoir about the gruesome murder of his mother, Geneva Odelia (née Hilliker). In his new memoir, The Hilliker Curse, Ellroy writes, “We crave the moral value of one woman. We’ll know Her when we see Her. In the meantime, we’ll look.” His observation of women came early; he would watch girls on the playground when he was a boy, trying to figure out the Other. When he was older, he would attend AA meetings, get married, get divorced, and had all these chivalrous impulses that never quite worked out. Early on in the book, he writes about the wicked fights between his parents and how he would side with his abusive father, Armand Ellroy, rather than his mother. After all these years, he writes, “I’m a Hilliker now.”
The Art of Fielding: A Novel by Chad Harbach (September 7)
Chad Harbach is the co-founder of n+1 and lately has been the subject of a fair amount of media attention after receiving a hefty six-figure advance for this, his debut novel about baseball. In it, Henry Skrimshander is a mild mannered Midwestern shortstop at a liberal arts college who is headed for big things, until he slips up one day and can’t get back on track. His life is intertwined with four other characters, who all struggle to figure out the next step. On the Paris Review‘s blog, Lorin Stein writes, “To say it’s the best novel I’ve read about a college shortstop would be true, as far as it went, but it’s about more than that.”
Pearl Jam Twenty by Pearl Jam (September 13)
Let the nostalgia begin… (You can watch the trailer for the upcoming documentary here, which features a very nasally David Lynch paired with Eddie Vedder’s softspoken explanations.)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (September 13)
Erin Morgenstern is a writer and creator of the Phantomwise Tarot, a deck of black-and-white tarot cards. She is also the author of The Night Circus, which was on the long list for the Guardian‘s first book award. You can read an excerpt from the novel here, which is about two young magicians named Celia and Marco who live in the early 1800s and compete against each other at Le Cirque des Rêves. David Heyman, the producer of Harry Potter films, has expressed interest in adapting the novel to film, so get ready for another blockbuster.
Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch (September 13)
If you want to know how Sue Sees it, then keep watching Glee. But if you’re interested in where the character of Sue Sylvester sprang from — a difficult adolescence and arguably even more difficult adulthood — then get thee to your nearest bookstore and pick up her memoir. She writes, “I started having dreams in which everyone I knew had gotten a part in a play, and I was the only one who was left out. All these years later, I still have those dreams. And when I wake up, I hug my Emmy.” You’ll also discover that Lynch, “like any good, closeted young lesbian of the ’70s,” had a crush on Ron Howard on Happy Days.
The Death and Life of Great American Cities (50th Anniversary Edition) by Jane Jacobs (September 13)
Is it the 50th anniversary already? The battle of Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses is worth looking up, because it’s about two clashing views of how to envision the modern city. Moses won, but Jacobs, the underdog, has a long line of defenders. In her obituary, Douglas Martin at The New York Times writes about the book: “At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs’s prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism — in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.”
Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (September 20)
We just wrote about Stephenson in our post on Books We Dare You To Finish. The author of Cryptonomicon and Anathem, among other best-selling titles, writes about a draft-dodger named Richard Forthrast who escapes to Canada in the early 1970s and makes a ton of money carting weed across the border into the US. With his loads of cash, he then creates an insanely popular multiplayer online role-playing game called T’Rain, which (surprise!) gets hacked by nefarious forces who ransom players’ information and start a war on the system.
Everything Happens Today by Jesse Browner (September 27)
Meet Wes — a seventeen-year-old Manhattanite who attends an elite prep school and lives in a Greenwich Village townhouse with his family, who is falling apart. “In the course of one day everything will happen to Wes: he will lose his virginity to the wrong girl and break his own heart, try to meet a Monday morning deadline for a paper on War and Peace, and prepare an elaborate supper he hopes will reunite his family.”