New books to read in September
14 ways to get out of the reading slump
“The Red Widow: The Scandal That Shook Paris and the Woman Behind It,” by Sarah Horowitz (Sourcebooks, Sept. 6)
More than a century before Anna Delvey cheated on her first celebrity, Marguerite “Meg” Steinheil orchestrated her rise to the upper echelons of French society. As she made her way into the drawing rooms and bedrooms of powerful men, including a French president, she used secrets as weapons to protect herself from accusations of the double murder of her husband and mother. Horowitz deepens the fascination of this true crime side-turner by contextualizing how sexuality was used by and against women in Belle Epoque Paris and how far the police went to protect the elites.
Sugar Street, by Jonathan Dee (Grove, Sept. 13)
A man with $168,548 hidden in an envelope under the seat of his car is on the road and off the grid. The money is all he has from a past life that he wants to give up. Eschewing modern surveillance, his life is reduced to the essentials: a roof over his head with a no-questions-asked landlord and food from a camera-less mom and pop market. Pulitzer Prize finalist Dee’s offbeat literary thriller explores what a privileged white man seeking a guilt-free life might do when he’s on the run from himself.
“How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water,” by Angie Cruz (Flatiron, Sept. 13)
Twelve sessions with a Job Counselor frames Cruz’s endearing portrait of a wild, fun-loving woman whose 26-year career at the “Factory of Little Lamps” has come to an abrupt end. To keep getting checks from “El Obama,” she has to look for a job, but her resume is thin Despite great life experience. At each session, she shares more about her life story, her loved ones and marriage, how gentrification in Washington Heights has affected her, her crushing medical debt and why She fell out with her son.
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“A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter,” by Carolyn Hays (Blair, 13 Sept.)
Recent news has documented how Parents of Transgender Children Falsely Accused of Misconduct; Hays already experienced “the knock” the day an investigator from the Department of Children and Families showed up on her doorstep with anonymous allegations of child molestation. Framed as a letter to her teenage daughter, she talks about the horrific incident and her life before and after that day. In the process, the author and her husband learn to love their youngest child exactly as she sees herself.
“The Old Place,” by Bobby Finger (Putnam, Sept. 20)
If you missed Molly Ivins, the irascible Texas humorist who didn’t pull punches, look no further than the fictional Mary Alice Roth, a forced-retired schoolteacher who refuses to be forgotten. Her remaining position of power in Billington is to allocate dishes for the annual town picnic, distributed based on skill and her own personal vendettas. When shocking news arrives, Mary Alice reconsiders her carefully constructed life. Reading Finger’s playful portrait of the residents of a small southern town who accept and forgive their many mistakes feels like laughing with your best friend while sipping sweet tea on the back porch.
Publications worth reading from July 12 and August
“Three Muses,” by Martha Anne Toll (Regal House, Sept. 20)
In Toll’s exquisite novel, set after World War II, dance serves as a catalyst for an attraction that lasts for decades. After seeing prima ballerina Katya Symanova, Dr. John Curtin so enchanted that he waits at the stage door with white roses. Over the years, their paths will part and cross again as each grapples with the lingering effects of trauma. Yet their mutual attraction offers glimpses of a possible life of peace and happiness.
“The Last Dreamwalker,” by Rita Woods (Forge, Sept. 20)
Layla just inherited an island off the coast from South Carolina when she discovers she has the power to enter and influence other people’s dreams, a power passed down through her family for generations. The estate, along with the nightmares that have always plagued her, hold the key to understanding long-buried family secrets and their connection to a Gullah ancestor who had nightmares of his own. Woods, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-winning author, offers compassionate insight into how suffering and mystery can burden families across generations.
“Best of Friends,” by Kamila Shamsie (Riverhead, Sept. 27)
Although their families come from different social classes and have different values, the Pakistani high school students Maryam and Zahra were faithful friends. After a dangerous encounter rocked them, they took different paths into adulthood. They eventually move separately to London and reunite decades later when a threat from the past emerges and they realize their current identities have roots in their shared history. Shamsie, whose previous novel Home Fire won the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction, provides a compelling portrayal of two women trying to figure out if a once-cherished friendship can overcome differences.
“Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm” by Laura Warrell (Pantheon, Sept. 27)
Circus Palmer, a 40-year-old jazz trumpeter, has spent his life escaping romantic entanglements. Left behind are all the ex-wives, single mothers and other women he avoided, including his teenage daughter Koko. Warrell’s compelling debut novel illuminates her stories and weaves the lives of indelibly created characters as they struggle to forge and maintain intimate connections.
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