The 9 best books to read in September
Several of this month's book selections will remind readers of what's at stake during the upcoming election, from racial equality to governmental transparency -- and that includes the fiction.
"The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War -- A Tragedy in Three Acts," by Scott Anderson (Sept. 1)
Many stories about spies are also stories of derring-do, something Anderson ("Lawrence in Arabia") also incorporates into his new history of Cold War intelligence. Anderson's look at four men who ran covert operations around the globe after World War II is as thrilling as it is tragic, as each man confronts the moral compromises he made in the name of democracy.
"The Lying Life of Adults: A Novel," by Elena Ferrante (Sept. 1)
Meet Giovanna, an awkward adolescent like her foremothers in Ferrante's Neapolitan novels -- except that Giovanna lives in an upper-middle-class milieu and knows nothing of her home city's blue-collar district until an overheard comment spurs her to seek out her Aunt Vittoria. Thereby hangs a tale of awakening and change that will delight both old and new fans of the elusive Italian writer.
"We Germans: A Novel," by Alexander Starritt (Sept. 1)
Meissner, who as a young college student was drafted into the German army and sent to the Eastern Front, in his old age writes a letter to his grandson. At first an account of action and adventure, the letter turns to Meissner's quest to live a life of atonement. Can an individual explain his country's complicity? This novel may be more relevant now than we'd like.
"Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for Us All," by Martha S. Jones (Sept. 8)
We all know that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured the vote for white women. In her important new book "Vanguard," Jones shows how African American women waged their own fight for the vote, and why their achievements speak mightily to our present moment as voters, regardless of gender or race.
"Just Us: An American Conversation," by Claudia Rankine (Sept. 8)
Read the first two title words again, and you'll get a glimmer of what Rankine ("Citizen") has in mind for her new book of essays, poems and images that confront white privilege and white silence. But the subtitle provides an opening to disrupt the old talk and make space for new ideas.
"The Awkward Black Man: Stories," by Walter Mosley (Sept. 15)
Mosley might be best known for his mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, but in these short stories, we see the prolific author as a chronicler of Black life in America. As he overturns stereotypes and focuses on individual characters, Mosley asks us not to look away from men who are isolated and awkward, but to see them as human beings in full.
"Rage," by Bob Woodward (Sept. 15)
President Donald Trump didn't speak on the record for Woodward's 2018 bestseller, "Fear." This time around, the Pulitzer Prize-winning associate editor of The Washington Post landed several exclusive interviews with the president and managed to obtain personal letters between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This may be the clearest portrait we'll get of a chaotic mind.
"Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America," by Laila Lalami (Sept. 22)
The Pulitzer Prize finalist, who was born in Morocco and moved to the United States in the 1990s, explores the benefits and limitations of American citizenship. Her poignant reckoning looks at a country that keeps privileged white men in power while holding at arm's length the "conditional citizens" whose race or gender doesn't conform to the elite's.
"Jack: A Novel," by Marilynne Robinson (Sept. 29)
The latest novel in Robinson's series about Gilead, Iowa -- which also includes Pulitzer winner "Gilead," "Home" and "Lila" -- follows Jack Boughton, the black sheep of his family, who wound up an aimless, homeless alcoholic in St. Louis. There he meets Della, a Black teacher, and they embark on a complicated, poignant romance.