Hungry Heart, Jennifer Weiner
I devoured (no pun intended) bestselling novelist and lightning-rod social media presence Weiner’s memoir-slash-essays. The book is expansive and loaded with mostly new content, but its middle sections about the writer’s difficult adolescence and young adulthood — and a final section about her estranged father’s death after a period of addiction — are as honest, brutal and funny as you’d hope. Reading Hungry Heart, you get a sense of the construction, both by positive and negative forces, of an entire person and personality.
Suite for Barbara Loden, Nathalie Léger, translated by Natasha Lehrer and Cécile Manon
“She said it is easy to be avant-garde, but it is really difficult to tell a simple story well.” French author Leger is on the trail of Barbara Loden, a filmmaker whose single output, Awanda, is a cult classic. Her quest to find out more about the filmmaker results in a work that publisher The Dorothy Project calls “biography and autofiction, film criticism and anecdote, fact and speculation.”
Reel, Tobias Carroll
The first novel from the Vol. 1 Brooklyn editor follows two lives that intersect at a Seattle punk show, and has gotten advance praise from Binary Star‘s Sarah Gerard, amongst others. This novel of “DIY music, road trips, bad tattoos, and strange art” is out via indie house Rare Bird books.
I’ll Tell You In Person, Chloe Caldwell
Released by Emily Books, Caldwell’s book of essays is the opposite of a memoir like Weiner’s: it’s narrow, with little reflection and less of a clear narrative arc. It’s focused on twentysomething misbehavior, and at early moments felt like a romp through consequence-free white privilege. Yet the cumulative effect snuck up on me, and eventually won me over entirely. From drugs, eating issues and nights of pranks and partying, the book builds and evolves into something more, a poignant exploration of leaving youth behind and finding the things — and most importantly, the people — that will make you content as an adult, including perspective on your memories and mistakes.
The Wangs vs. The World, Jade Chang
I’m currently racing through Chang’s funny, surprising and poignant family novel that she wrote as a challenge to the typical immigrant narrative and is one of the season’s most anticipated. A fallen patriarch, a trio of siblings, a cross-country trip kick off the adventures of this unforgettable family. We’ll be running our Sweetest Debut column with the author next Tuesday; stay tuned!
The Mothers, Brit Bennet
Brit Bennet’s novel about three young people — all members of a black church in Southern California — in a years-long love triangle that builds up from one painful, beautiful teenage summer, is the hot debut of the season. Clued-in readers may, as I did, have trouble reconciling the novel in front of you with the insane level of hype for it in literary circles. But ignoring the sound of the buzz, I found it to be a satisfying read, both unsettling and well-crafted, a meditation on the way we can be haunted by the road less traveled.
The Waiting Room, Leah Kaminsky
Kaminsky is an Australian doctor and author. This, her first American novel (it was published in her home country in 2015) follows a family doctor in Haifa, Israel, on a fateful day — weaving in stands of the Holocaust, the Palestinian conflict and occupation, and three generations of one family.
Him, Me, Muhuammad Ali, Randa Jarrar
Jarrar’s debut novel about A Map of Home, about a young girl growing up in the shadow of the first Gulf War, got raves. Now, her new book of short stories from Sarabande focuses on transients around the world, from Egypt to Istanbul to Palestine and Australia.
Hag Seed, Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, Hag Seed is a modern spin on The Tempest involving a theater company in Toronto.
Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple
Semple’s third novel takes on a modern woman striving to have it all, and embeds a graphic memoir within its novel’s pages. This one is next on my list.
Extras for October: The parody website Reductress’s How To Win at Feminism: The Definitive Guide to Having it All And Then Some! provides laughs for the frustrated feminist reader, Abbi Jacobson’s Carry This Book will appeal to Broad City fans, and Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist will bring more of the actress and author’s caustic wit and honesty to readers.
Private Novelist by Nell Zink is an offbeat (is there any other word for Zink?) tribute to the novelist’s friend, the Israeli author Avner Shats — its two linked novellas are a faux translation and meta exploration. This month also marks the arrival of the Best American Short Stories edited by Junot Diaz, about which I’m particularly excited — Kirkus calls this volume “perhaps its strongest installment yet.”
And a few final personal recommendations from the list-compiler: Courtney Mauk’s The Special Power of Retrieving Lost Things is a story of a family coping with the disappearance of a daughter in New York City. . Jocelyn K. Glei’s Unsubscribe is a primer for calming down our digital excesses, especially our email. Making Out Like a Virgin from newcomer Animal Mineral press is an important anthology about sexuality for survivors of assault.