7 BOOKS YOU NEED TO READ THIS SEPTEMBER
Each month, we offer nonfiction and fiction book recommendations. You should read as many of them as possible.
- •The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions, September 1)The four books in Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, of which this is the dark and clamorous finale, are really just one thick novel, but its piecemeal translation has allowed the pseudonymous author’s American cult to swell to Knausgaardian proportions. You’d have to start from book one in order to fully appreciate the complex friendship at its core, between intellectual Elena and tempestuous Lila, two women fated to live very different lives.
- •Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff (Riverhead, September 15)Any story is in the telling — a recurrent theme in Groff’s third novel about a couple blissfully and disastrously married. Lotto and Mathilde, shown consummating their elopement in the opening pages, have a seemingly mythic bond (the Greeks play a large thematic role), but we suspect it isn’t so.
- •The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth (Graywolf, September 1)The very small list of books that succeed in both reinventing a language and telling a great story gets longer with this account of the 1066 Norman invasion of England, unreliably narrated by one of its losers, the vainglorious petty lord Buccmaster. Using an adapted Old English, shorn of Latinate words, that passes from baffling to immersive in about 30 pages, Kingsnorth manages the miraculous task of every very good novel: to make the experience of an alien other understood.
- •Purity, by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 1)The writer who needs no introduction won’t benefit from a spot on another list either. But he belongs here, not just by virtue of his mastery of braided narratives that interweave the personal and sociopolitical, but because this time he brings something new. Freedom retreated from the boldest sallies of The Corrections into the middle-class hobbyhorses of its writer, but Purity expands both formally and topically.
- •Negroland, by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon, September 8)In a moment caught between Obama’s hope and Ferguson’s despair, a critic’s memoir of growing up in Chicago’s black upper class feels like a well-timed appendix. Along with essaysists Ta-Nehisi Coates to Claudia Rankine, Jefferson mines personal experience for political lessons. Yet her eye is more clinical, her voice direct but restrained.
- •Did You Ever Have a Family, by Bill Clegg (Scout Press, September 1)The author who passed from literary agent to crack addict to confessional memoirist (and once again an agent) was himself surprised to have this first novel long-listed for a Booker Prize. But it shouldn’t shock anyone who’s read it. Chronicling the complicated aftermath of a mysterious house fire on the eve of a Connecticut wedding, Clegg isn’t out to break molds, only hearts.
- •Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie (Random House, September 8)Critics who’ve written off late Rushdie as a coasting, over-tweeting bon vivant might have to rethink their positions; one of the godfathers of hyperrealism has written his strongest novel in years. This clever, pomo-mystical triptych stretches back to Andalusia and forward to a distant utopian future, but the meat of it shows modern New York in the grip of an inter-dimensional battle among jinn that lasts 1,001 nights (see title).