It’s officially September, which means many good things: back to school, the promise of sweater weather, and tons of great new books coming to a bookstore near you. A good thing too, because there’s something about this month that inspires voracious consumption of literature, particularly for those of us who no longer have assigned reading lists. After the jump, a selection of books, from debut novels to first collections from literary greats to searing poetry, that you won’t want to miss this month — and don’t forget to check out our fall books preview for more.
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (September 2)
Mitchell’s newest behemoth of a novel is Cloud Atlas-ian in its complexity, but somehow even stranger and more ambitious. It concerns, among other things, a down-on-her-luck, foulmouthed teenager, an over-the-hill author, and, er, two warring cults of immortals. While the book suffers from the same shiftiness of meaning as Cloud Atlas, it’s a complete delight on every page — not to mention the book simply everyone will be talking about this season.
The Emerald Light in the Air, Donald Antrim (September 2)
If you only know Antrim from his novels, you may be surprised at the conventionality of the stories in his first collection (comprised entirely of stories that have already been published in The New Yorker). What you won’t be surprised by: their excellence, Antrim’s way with words, and the fact that those words will be ringing in your ears long after you’ve closed this collection.
10:04, Ben Lerner (September 2)
It’s now becoming a pattern: Lerner writes excellent novels with terrible-sounding premises. This one is, technically, a novel about a poet who accidentally wrote a critically acclaimed novel and is trying to write another one (sound like anyone we know?). But actually, it’s a smart and complex meta-novel, whose tricks (reprinting one of Lerner’s stories from The New Yorker in its entirety, headings intact, for example) never seem groan-worthy, and only make you greedy for more.
Wittgenstein Jr., Lars Iyer (September 2)
Iyer’s latest features a group of Cambridge students who become obsessed with their Wittgenstein-esque philosophy professor. A funny, smart, and somewhat insane campus novel, perfect for anyone’s back-to-school hijinks.
The Anatomy of Dreams, Chloe Krug Benjamin (September 16)
Benjamin’s debut novel is like a love story dreamed up by a thriller, where nothing is exactly as it seems, where everything means something else — or maybe nothing. Sylvie and Gabe, plus their old boarding school professor, are lucid dream researchers who hope to find a therapeutic angle — but there are secrets between them, and possibly dangers, and things happening at that edge of real that can’t be reversed.
Prelude to Bruise, Saeed Jones (September 9)
If you’re here, looking at this list on the Internet, then you probably know Jones as the editor of BuzzFeed’s LGBT vertical. Even if not, you should definitely read his first collection of poetry, a daring, ferocious, and often impossibly gorgeous meditation on boyhood and personhood, language and love.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (September 9)
A brilliant, philosophical end-of-the-world novel with quite a bit more Shakespeare than you usually find around the edges of what once was our civilization. Virtuosic and beautiful and bold, and being widely hailed as Mandel’s best yet.
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Eimear McBride (September 9)
McBride’s debut, winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Goldsmiths Prize, is a bizarre, visceral thing that shifts and bends in your hands. It’s a difficult novel to be sure, with harsh, chopped up half-sentences and fragments and grammatical impossibilities everywhere you look, but once you get the rhythm, you’ll be sucked wholesale into this crazy, sad little world.
Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle (September 16)
If you’ve ever heard a Mountain Goats song, you’ll know that Darnielle is a master storyteller. So obviously, you’ll be needing to pick up his debut novel, about a mysterious role-playing game, the disfigured man who created it, and its most recent, disastrous, players.
Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham (September 30)
If David Mitchell’s novel is the talk of the town this week, Miss Dunham will be leading the parade at the end of the month. You know you’re going to read it, so don’t even pretend not to care.