A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September

A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September

September is absolutely packed with big releases, including new novels from Sally Rooney, Colson Whitehead, and Naomi Novik

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Image for article titled A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

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 (or six) of the books we’re most excited about.

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On Freedom: Four Songs Of Care And Constraint by Maggie Nelson

On Freedom: Four Songs Of Care And Constraint by Maggie Nelson

Image for article titled A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

On Freedom: Four Songs Of Care And Constraint by Maggie Nelson (September 7, Graywolf)

Don’t let the chauvinistic-, sentimental-sounding title dissuade you; Maggie Nelson’s latest work of nonfiction isn’t Red, White, And Bluets. To the contrary, in On Freedom, the Argonauts author attempts to reclaim the word that conservatives have used as a “jingoistic, even menacing rallying cry” for decades. In exploring weighty issues related to art, sex, drugs, and climate change, Nelson offers her own ideas around what real freedom might look like. Many of the hallmarks of her style are on display here—she’s steeped in theory, which can sometimes result in a circuitousness in the writing—but she gets pointed as well, especially when unpacking timely topics like cancel culture and consent.

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Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Image for article titled A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (September 7, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

This fall is packed with big literary releases, perhaps none of them bigger than the latest novel from Sally Rooney. (That is, if book critics whining on Twitter about getting advance review copies is any indicator—try saying “Sally Rooney galley” three times fast.) The synopsis of Beautiful World, Where Are You is firmly within the Sally Rooney wheelhouse: “Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.” The author of Conversations With Friends and Normal People has once again written a page-turning story of sex, relationships, and class.

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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Image for article titled A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (September 14, Doubleday)

Colson Whitehead finds another ingenious way to uncover this country’s long history (and many flavors) of inequities in Harlem Shuffle. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author uses one form of fiction—the crime novel—to unpack another, that of the myth of aspiration. Whitehead takes his readers on another spirited journey, his often staccato prose turning up the tension in the life of Ray Carney, a furniture salesman in late-1950s Harlem trying to do right by his family. Ray’s bookkeeping also veers into the fictional; some items in his inventory have had a long trip from the factory floor. It’s no surprise when Ray finds himself in over his head, but Whitehead generates nerve-wracking suspense from this family man’s struggle. This page-turner will rouse you from your late-summer doldrums.

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Harrow by Joy Williams

Harrow by Joy Williams



Image for article titled A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Harrow by Joy Williams (September 14, Knopf)

Writing a novel is hard. It cannot be rushed. And while it’s probably easier for Joy Williams to write a sentence as good as a Joy Williams sentence, she should take all the time she needs to write enough of them to make a novel—even if it adds up to 20 years. Williams has published plenty of books since 2000’s The Quick And The Dead, but Harrow is her first novel since that one was named a Pulitzer finalist. As with The Quick And The Dead, in Harrow Williams is preoccupied with the environment and, what else, death. As a baby, Harrow’s protagonist, Khristen, died briefly then came back to life—according to her mother, anyway. After leaving boarding school, Khristen sets out across a landscape ravaged by climate change and winds up at “the Institute,” where suicidal seniors slowly commit acts of eco-terrorism. It’s a real Joy Williams joint: bleak, strange, and often very funny.

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The Trees by Percival Everett

The Trees by Percival Everett

Image for article titled A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The Trees by Percival Everett (September 21, Graywolf)

Percival Everett’s Telephone was a surprise finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Depending on which version of the ever-experimental writer’s 2020 novel (or novels) you read, you were treated to one of three different endings. The prolific prose writer is back with The Trees, a crime story with an intriguing premise. When two detectives arrive in the small town of Money, Mississippi, to investigate a string of murders, they make a strange, unsettling discovery: Each body that’s been found has been accompanied by a second body, which resembles Emmett Till. Everett takes a direct look at racism and police violence in this fast-paced novel.

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The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Image for article titled A new Sally Rooney, Joy Williams’ first novel in 20 years, and more books to read this September
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (September 28, Del Rey)

With last year’s A Deadly Education, veteran fantasy author Naomi Novik (Uprooted, Spinning Silver) offered up an irresistible premise for genre fans: a vision of post-Hogwarts magical education that was actually as violently lethal as shoving a bunch of wizard-y teenagers into constant close proximity with each other would logically be. And if Novik’s follow-up, The Last Graduate, is a little more forgiving on the attendant body count, and a little less fraught—since protagonist El is now one year older, and a somewhat less appealing target for the thousands of Lovecraftian monsters that infest her steampunk-ish magical academy, picking off the lonely, the weak, and the young with ease—that only gives Novik more room to focus on her richly drawn characters, and on the books’ sneakily subversive politics. Teen hormones and a never-flagging capacity for world-building underpin another great story about how easy it can be to sink into crab bucket thinking—even when you and everyone you know has the power to levitate themselves.

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More in September

More in September

The War For Gloria by Atticus Lish (September 7, Knopf); The Breaks: An Essay by Julietta Singh (September 7, Coffee House); How To Wrestle A Girl by Venita Blackburn (September 7, FSG Originals); Matrix by Lauren Groff (September 7, Riverhead); The Archer by Shruti Swamy (September 7, Workman); Where The Devil Don’t Stay: Traveling The South With The Drive-By Truckers by Stephen Deusner (September 7, University of Texas); Late City by Robert Olen Butler (September 7, Atlantic Monthly Press); Hao by Ye Chun (September 7, Catapult); I Wished by Dennis Cooper (September 14, Soho); Three Novels by Yuri Herrera (September 14, And Other Stories); You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union (September 14, Dey Street); Mellencamp by Paul Rees (September 14, Atria); Talk To Me by T.C. Boyle (September 14, Ecco); Imagine A Death by Janice Lee (September 15, Texas Review); Bewilderment by Richard Powers (September 21, W.W. Norton); The Wrong End Of The Telescope by Rabih Alameddine (September 21, Grove); The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel (September 21, Orbit); A Calling For Charlie Barnes by Joshua Ferris (September 28, Little, Brown); Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography by Laurie Woolever (September 28, Ecco); The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard (September 28); Chronicles From The Land Of The Happiest People On Earth by Wole Soyinka (September 28, Pantheon); Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes by Phoebe Robinson (September 28, Tiny Reparations); Unrequited Infatuations by Stevie Van Zandt (September 28, Hachette)

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