Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.
Red Pill by Hari Kunzru (September 1, Knopf)
If you’re even moderately versed in the culture wars of the Trump era, you know that “red pill” is no longer just a Matrix reference. Pop into any pro-Trump online space and you’re likely to hear talk of being “red-pilled,” or having been awakened to the perceived ills of feminism and liberal politics. Hari Kunzru’s latest novel isn’t about Trump, thank god, but it is about notions of self-worth and creativity as they exist in an increasingly bleak world. Kunzru’s book, as funny as it is thoughtful, begins by following an academic’s unfruitful trip to a writers’ retreat outside of Berlin, a place beset by the specter of past tragedies. The retreat’s radical sense of transparency and the narrator’s obsession with a violent cop show called Blue Lives mingle with that history, coalescing in a portrait of our modern unrest that’s informed by the behaviors of our ancestors.
The Lying Life Of Adults by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein, September 1, Europa)
The pseudonymous author of the wildly popular Neapolitan Quartet returns with another heady story set in a divided Naples. In Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life Of Adults, Giovanna looks back at the time during her comfortable childhood when she first learned of the city’s “depths” and its less-well-off inhabitants. In the process, life-changing secrets about her parents and her father’s estranged sister come to light. A coming-of-age tale wherein one’s naiveté slowly gives over to awareness, Ferrante’s latest looks directly at class and the loss of innocence. As with My Brilliant Friend, the novel is also slated to become a television series (this time on Netflix).
Wendy Carlos by Amanda Sewell (September 2, Oxford University)
“Love Synth Pop? Thank Wendy Carlos, The Trans Woman Who Invented It,” reads the headline for a NewNowNext story about the pioneering composer who introduced synthesizers to the masses in 1967. Carlos’ album Switched-On Bach was a commercial hit that won three Grammys. But in the decades since, the record has gone out of print, and Carlos herself has retreated into obscurity, emerging only to issue takedown notices when her music is uploaded to YouTube. So Carlos declined to participate in Wendy Carlos: A Biography, the first book-length work about her life and work from author Amanda Sewell; perhaps as a result, the book contains more detail about the workings of Carlos’ instruments than of her mind. That’s fairly common in biographies, however, and musicians in particular will appreciate Sewell’s refusal to dumb down the material, delving deep into the music theory and analog engineering underlying Carlos’ compositions. Although we can’t be sure if Carlos approves of Sewell’s project, the personality that comes into focus is of a woman similarly committed to the integrity of her work—making this a respectful biography, if not a fully authorized one.
Once I Was You by Maria Hinojosa (September 15, Atria)
With Once I Was You: A Memoir Of Love And Hate In A Torn America, Emmy-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa weaves together U.S. history and her family’s own story of migration to answer the question “How did we get here?” How did colonialism get rebranded as “immigration” and the search for a better life? And how then did that story get subverted once the faces of immigrants became increasingly brown? The Latino USA anchor’s own story radiates with an optimism that is nonetheless tempered with the reality of decades spent reporting on inhumane, Kafka-eseque immigration policies. Once I Was You is packed with information about borders and the rise of xenophobia in the U.S., making it an informative read. But the memoir also acts as a lifeline to anyone feeling adrift or unwelcome in the so-called melting pot.
Jack by Marilynne Robinson (September 29, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Marilynne Robinson returns once more to the lovely, soulful world of Gilead, Iowa, for another evocative novel about the questions of religion and how we understand our place in the world. The author’s spare, poetic style has already conjured up her near-mythic setting in previous books Gilead, Home, and Lila, and to this near-unimpeachable trifecta she now adds Jack, which focuses its attention on John Ames Boughton, a supporting player in those previous stories. The son of Gilead’s Presbyterian minister, his interracial romance with high school teacher Della is traced from its awkward beginnings to heartfelt (and heartbreaking) later days, with all of Robinson’s signature explorations of the strange power of belief—and the lack thereof.
More in September: Having And Being Had by Eula Biss (September 1, Riverhead); Mannequin And Wife by Jen Fawkes (September 2, Louisiana State University); Suicide’s Suicide by Andi Coulter (September 3, 33 ⅓, Bloomsbury); Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope by Ayanna Dozier (September 3, 33 ⅓, Bloomsbury); Various Artists’ I’m Your Fan: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen by Ray Padgett (September 3, 33 ⅓, Bloomsbury); Silence Is My Mother Tongue by Sulaiman Addonia (September 8, Graywolf); The Seventh Mansion by Maryse Meijer (September 8, FSG Originals); Even As We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle (September 8, Fireside); What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez (September 8, Riverhead); Just Us by Claudia Rankine (September 8, Graywolf); Lecture by Mary Cappello (September 8, Transit); The Invention Of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk (September 8, Grand Central); Pink Mountain On Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau (September 8, Coffee House); The Ancestry Of Objects by Tatiana Ryckman (September 8, Deep Vellum); That Time Of Year by Marie NDiaye (September 8, Two Lines); Three Rings: A Tale Of Exile, Narrative, And Fate by Daniel Mendelsohn (September 8, University of Virginia); What Can I Do? My Path From Climate Despair To Action by Jane Fonda (September 8, Penguin); Carry: A Memoir Of Survival On Stolen Land by Toni Jensen (September 8, Ballantine); The Awkward Black Man by Walter Mosley (September 15, Grove); If Then: How The Simulmatics Corporation Invented The Future by Jill Lepore (September 15, Liveright); American Rule: How A Nation Conquered The World But Failed Its People by Jared Yates Sexton (September 15, Dutton); City Of Sparrows by Eva Nour (September 15, Melville); The Caretaker by Doon Arbus (September 15, New Directions); Igifu by Scholastique Mukasonga (September 15, Archipelago); Greyboy: Finding Blackness In A White World by Cole Brown (September 15, Arcade); More Than A Woman by Caitlin Moran (September 15, Harper); Valentino And Sagittarius by Natalia Ginzburg (September 15, NYRB Classics); Made Men: The Story Of Goodfellas by Glenn Kenny (September 15, Hanover Square); Wagnerism: Art And Politics In The Shadow Of Music by Alex Ross (September 15, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Mother For Dinner by Shalom Auslander (September 22, Riverhead); Solutions And Other Problems by Allie Brosh (September 22, Gallery); Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska by John Luther Adams (September 22, Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Conditional Citizens: On Belonging In America by Laila Lalami (September 22, Pantheon); God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons From The Bronx by Desus & Mero (September 22, Random House); On The Record: Music Journalists On Their Lives, Crafts, And Careers by Mike Hilleary (September 25, University of Massachusetts Press); The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson (September 29, Gallery/Saga); Just Like You by Nick Hornby (September 29, Riverhead); The End Of The Day by Bill Clegg (September 29, Gallery/Scout); Bestiary by K-Ming Chang (September 29, One World); True Believer: The Rise And Fall Of Stan Lee by Abraham Riesman (September 29, Crown); The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (September 29, Viking); Seven by Farzana Doctor (September 29, Dundurn); This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” And The Beginning Of The 21st Century by Steven Hyden (September 29, Hachette); Stranger Faces by Namwali Serpell (September 29, Transit)