Toppling Piles of Hot New Books: September

The pile for September was twice as high as the pile for August, new fall releases of every color and style, thick and thin, from all over the world. The pile was actually too high. I was afraid my cat might accidentally knock it over, so now there are two piles for September. Well, that’s too many for a blog. Let’s winnow it down a bit, whittle out a couple that look fairly predictable, get rid of one that’s so thick I’ll never finish it, and here are the ones that look the best:

Home by Marilynne Robinson. Home  Here comes her anticipated companion novel to Gilead, which many of us read in our book groups, the Pulitzer Prize-winning saga of three generations of small town ministers. Now the same story will be told concurrently from the point of view of the Reverend John Ames’ dearest friend and neighbor, Reverend Robert Boughton, whose prodigal son, Jack, figured so powerfully in the first novel. Gilead wasn’t for everyone, and ever since Marilynne Robinson attacked Richard Dawkins over his God Delusion she’s fallen from my personal pantheon of respected writers. Still, if this new book contains any scene half as powerful as the blessing of Jack at the bus stop in Gilead, it will be worth grabbing. Reading the two novels back-to-back in a reading group would be a compelling double-header.

The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez. Book of Murder 2  The new novel by the Argentine author of one of the surprise delights of 2005, The Oxford Murders. If you haven’t tried that one yet, grab it before the movie comes out. It’s a thrilling, intellectually-teasing homage to the great mystery classics, and I smile just remembering it, an elegant tour-de-force that’s part Arthur Conan Doyle, part Jorge Luis Borges, dizzyingly original, refreshingly smart, with a whipcrack of an ending you’ll never forget. Go along with the 22-year-old graduate student from Argentina as his stay at Oxford turns into a treacherous puzzle, where the mysterious mathematical genius, Arthur Seldom, pits his wits against Inspector Petersen of the Oxford police in their pursuit of a serial killer which leads them from Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem to Pythagorean mysticism. You don’t need a scrap of math to enjoy this straight-faced romp. Let’s hope the new one is as good!

The Only Son by Stephane Audeguy. Only Son  A first-person narrative told by the lost brother of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a bad boy who ran off to Germany and disappeared from history, leaving his famous brother as the only son. This new French novel tells the other side of the story.

Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire by David Mura.  Famous Suicides The novel begins with an utterly captivating opening scene – a Japanese-American father shaving with his two little sons, who cuts himself to prove to his children that razors are dangerous. I’m not sure where it’s going, and I don’t like to read back cover copy, but I’ll return to this one for sure.

Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle. Burma Chronicles  A graphic memoir account of author Delisle’s assignment serving the government in Myanmar, where he takes his wife and baby, and their experience living under a dictator in a world of censorship.

Other Lives by Andre Brink. Other Lives  Three interconnected stories taking place in Cape Town. The opening story, about a schoolteacher deciding to quit his teaching career to pursue his passion for painting, has a compelling opening. The South African novelist has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam.  Road of Lost Innocence In 2005, one out of every forty girls born in Cambodia was sold into sex slavery. The author spent a decade of her girlhood in the trade until she became a powerhouse activist and began raiding brothels, rescuing children, and starting schools.

Recovering Charles by Jason F. Wright. Recovering Charles  Some people get tears in their eyes at the mention of 9/11, but for me it’s Katrina that causes a catch in my throat, and that tragedy is what this novel takes on, as a man goes back into the wreckage of New Orleans to come to terms with something about himself and his father. Sounds potent.

The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa. Wonder Singer  A famous opera soprano is found drowned in her bathtub with her eyes opened wide in wonder and her lips in an enigmatic smile. The novel centers on the ghostwriter of her autobiography, left on his own without her now, determined to write the book anyway.

The Angel of Grozny by Asne Seierstad. Angel of Grozny  Her most famous work, The Bookseller of Kabul, continues to draw new readers. She’s one of those fearless reporters who face bombs and snipers to get the real story, and this venture into Chechnya looks like no exception.

What a literary feast! And that isn’t including any of the hot new books still remaining in the pile for October…

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About the Author:

Nick DiMartino is a university bookseller in Seattle, WA. He was a Booklist contributor from 2007 to 2009 and is the author of Seattle Ghost Story (1998) as well as numerous plays.

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