22 New Reads for September Nights (and Days)

Say, do you remember? (Ba-dee-ya!) Readin’ in September?

OK, we promise not to stretch this any further, but here in the ninth month, as the nights get cooler and lamp-side reading time gets cozier, we’ve got your new book needs covered. Our booksellers recommend their favorite reads for September. On to the books!

Recommended by Ann

Song of Solomon (Vintage International) Cover ImageSong of Solomon

Sometimes it’s good to go back. With all that’s been written about Morrison since her death, I wanted to reread her. Song of Solomon reminds me why she was an icon: she was the most gifted writer of our time.

Recommended by Karen

Mythos Cover ImageMythos

Are you interested in Greek mythology, but are easily bored with traditional texts on the subject? Who better to spice things up but Stephen Fry? The book comes with family trees, maps and illustrations, but you may be tempted to also buy the audio on Libro.FM so you can hear “Professor” Fry read his retellings of the creation of the myths and gods.

Recommended by Karen

The Silence of the Girls: A Novel Cover ImageThe Silence of the Girls

Now in paperback! This Booker Prize-winning author known for her WWI trilogy now tackles The Iliad, but with a twist. The story is written from the point of view of Briseis, the queen who became Achilles’s war prize. After reading Madeline Miller’s Circe last year, I loved seeing how another author deftly handled Greek mythology from a woman’s point of view.

Recommended by Sissy

The Swallows: A Novel Cover ImageThe Swallows

Did Heathers make you laugh? Did The Kavanaugh hearing make you scream? You’ll love this novel, which takes place on a boarding school campus. It reminded me a little of Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.

Recommended by Kathy

The Secrets We Kept: A novel Cover ImageThe Secrets We Kept

Two secretaries working in the CIA typing pool who became spies at the height of the Cold War and the woman who was Boris Pasternak’s mistress and muse….their stories in the publication of Dr. Zhivago, a book the Soviets tried (and failed) to suppress from the world.

Recommended by Sarah

The Beekeeper of Aleppo: A Novel Cover ImageThe Beekeeper of Aleppo

Inspired by Lefteri’s work with refugees in Greece, this is a hauntingly realistic story of a husband and wife fleeing the war in Syria for the promise of peace and safety in the UK. Though Nuri and Afra may not be real people, there are thousands living out the truths this book holds, and we need to know their stories.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Miracle Creek: A Novel Cover ImageMiracle Creek

A legal thriller crossed with a family drama, Miracle Creek is about what happens after (and leading up to) an explosion that kills two people at an unusual medical treatment center in rural Virginia. The narrative perspective changes with each chapter, so just when you think you know who did what and why, you learn some additional tidbit of backstory that makes you change your mind. I tore through it!

Recommended by Chelsea

The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel Cover ImageThe Lager Queen of Minnesota

A fun, heartfelt family saga that focuses on the relationships between sisters, granddaughters, and beer. When the family farm drives a wedge between two sisters, reconciliation can take several decades and the power of beer brewing. Characters are rich, deep, and perfectly developed, and I wanted to be best friends with them all.

Recommended by Cat

After the Flood: A Novel Cover ImageAfter the Flood

A tense and vivid post-environmental disaster story of a mother who is trying to keep her and her youngest daughter alive while also trying to find her missing older daughter. The world as we know it has flooded and survival has become precarious. Perfect for fans of Edan Lepucki’s California.

Recommended by Kay

How Long 'til Black Future Month?: Stories Cover ImageHow Long ’til Black Future Month?: Stories

This collection features over twenty stories by one of SFF’s greatest contemporary writers. Jemisin demonstrates her talent for vividly painting each world, character, and era she touches with a voice all its own. Whether you want to see the origins of Jemisin’s award-winning novels, insightful commentary on the genre, or just a good story about dragons, this collection will not disappoint.

Recommended by Kevin

Exhalation: Stories Cover ImageExhalation: Stories

The film Arrival, based on a Ted Chiang short story, made me weep in the theater ’til they turned the lights on. Who knew an ingenious sci-fi thought experiment could explore the human condition with such tenderness? And here’s a full collection of them.

Recommended by Steve

A Fortune for Your Disaster Cover ImageA Fortune for Your Disaster

What I want to say is first of all HOW DARE YOU. After publishing one of my favorite music books of the year (that’d be Go Ahead in the Rain), Hanif Abdurraqib is back seven months later with one of my favorite poetry volumes. There’s probably a more elegant way to say this book is wall-to-wall bangers, but I’m not sure what else to say. These poems succeed in ways other poems don’t even attempt.

Recommended by Chelsea

Life of the Party: Poems Cover ImageLife of the Party: Poems

These poems are sharp and honest, and the collection is arranged perfectly. Gatwood weaves in commentary on violence against women into her own coming-of-age stories. This is the most powerful work I’ve read in 2019.

Recommended by Andy

The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier Cover ImageThe Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

Ian Urbina points out that the sea to most people is simply “a place we fly over.” In The Outlaw Ocean he sheds light on the wildest and perhaps least understood part of our planet. With a concise and straightforward style, Urbina reports on illegal and over-fishing, arms trafficking, slavery, gun running, intentional dumping, theft of ships, murder and other topics that would never be tolerated on land.

Recommended by Keltie

The Yellow House: A Memoir Cover ImageThe Yellow House: A Memoir

The Yellow House saw 12 children raised, before The Water came. Sarah was one. This hard-driving yet splendidly affectionate memoir has everything: the complexities of sprawling family; an epic hurricane-flood; questions of social justice and environmental racism; a grand matriarch and a prodigal daughter; and a mythical city. We ask: What is home? A memory? A family? 4121 Wilson Avenue? Can it be lost? Or found?

Recommended by Steve

The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You Cover ImageThe Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You

Dina Nayeri was 8 years old when her family (minus her father) fled Iran. She tells his story in heart-stopping fashion, like the gifted novelist she is. It’s a riveting story. But it’s also an entry point into a larger and even more urgent discussion, distilled from dozens of stories Nayeri has collected, of migration and asylum that challenges assumptions of what makes a “good” immigrant and makes us question why we would even make such a distinction in the first place.

Recommended by Ben

Three Flames Cover ImageThree Flames

Against a backdrop of tradition, poverty, and ancestral ghosts, Lightman depicts one rice-farming Cambodian family’s conflicts, each chapter focusing on a different member. Each has their own desires, shortcomings, hardships; each has a unique experience within the history and culture they find themselves in. The sections feel deeply personal, and the whole stands out for its multifaceted characters and strong sense of place.

Recommended by Sissy

The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction Cover ImageThe Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction

Brook explores the nosedive in race relations after the backlash to Reconstruction. The patterns echo the promise we felt with our first black President and what we as a nation are suffering today. He focuses on Charleston and New Orleans, where mixed race children were common and accepted until the Black Codes swept across the South.

Recommended by Keltie

The Plateau Cover ImageThe Plateau

Paxson is an anthropologist wearied by war when she stumbles upon a story (with a personal twist) about a remote place in France with a long history of sheltering strangers in need (from Jews in WWII to present-day refugees of every kind). In this memoir, she asks the hard questions: What does it take to be a good person when the risk is highest? How does a community choose peace, no matter what, over and over again?

Recommended by Chelsea

Chase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders Cover ImageChase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Billy Jensen is most known for working on finishing Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark after her death. But this book proves that Billy should be known for his own accomplishments: solving crimes using social media. Part memoir, part how-to manual, this is a fascinating read for anyone who loves true crime.

Recommended by Ben

Elements of Fiction Cover ImageElements of Fiction

Celebrated novelist Walter Mosley helps writers explore process and craft, using extended images and examples that make it accessible and insightful. From the blank page, to the concepts of narrative voice, dialogue, context, detail, description, character development, improvisation, subtlety, and rewriting, he explains how to imbue fiction with humanity. The advice is, to use his words, both “pedestrian and divine.”

Recommended by Keltie

The Dishwasher (Biblioasis International Translation) Cover ImageThe Dishwasher

For fans of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, this darkly comic novel about an aspiring artist/spiraling gambling-addict takes us through the weird subculture familiar to anyone who has ever waited a lot of tables and made friends with the lovable reprobates who inhabit that world. Set in Montreal and translated from the original French, this book took me right back to the after-hours adventures of my misspent youth.

First Editions Club: September Selection

Akin Cover ImageAkin

One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading — and at the bookstore we hear this from our customers on a daily basis — is picking up a novel that is about no life experience you can personally relate to, and yet finding those bright, shining moments that allow you a glimpse of the things that connect us. The unexpected insights into our shared humanity. So what a delight to pick up Akin and find a novel chock full of those incredible moments.

You will undoubtedly experience some of those moments for yourself but — and here is Emma Donoghue’s genius at work — the heart of the novel is discovering those moments between Noah and Michael as they get to know each other and build a relationship from seemingly polar opposite backgrounds. A beautiful reminder that amidst differences there is similarity and a chance for connection.

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too.

“It’s all about the book.” More thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:

How do you choose books for your club? It’s fairly easy to rely on the hot bestselling titles like Educated, Where the Crawdads Sing, The Guest Book, or Before We Were Yours. They’re great choices for reading with lots to talk about at your meetings. But there are many other current, non-bestselling books that fit both criteria of being good reads and generating lively discussions. In a recent talk I gave, I highlighted these books that I think have not “gotten enough love”, that are hidden gems waiting to be discovered and promoted to book clubs.

Try these for successful meetings:

The House of Broken Angels (Luis Alberto Urrea) — Miguel Angel de la Cruz is celebrated at his 70th birthday bash by his entire extended family. Both touching and hilarious, this story of four generations of Mexican Americans is at once specific to the de la Cruz family and universal to all.

Woman 99 (Greer Macallister) — In 1888 San Francisco, a wealthy young woman goes searching for her sister who was committed to an insane asylum years earlier. Why are she and so many other women hidden away in this facility? There’s more to the story than madness.

The Only Woman in the Room (Marie Benedict) — Historical fiction about the actress Hedy Lamarr and her escape from the Third Reich, her career in Hollywood and the secret work she did for the U.S. government. So many secrets in the life of this famous woman.

The Age of Light (Whitney Scharer) — Beautiful Vogue model goes to Paris in 1929, meets and falls in love with famous photographer Man Ray. Their affair leads to a new career for her as a successful photographer as well, but trouble in the relationship follows.

The Removes (Tatjana Soli) — Here is the American West in the mid-1800’s as told through the eyes of General George Custer, his wife Libbie, and 15-year-old Anne Cummins, who was abducted by the Cheyenne. Their stories intersect in exciting and beautiful prose, giving a vivid picture of life on the Kansas frontier.

To the Bright Edge of the World (Eowyn Ivey) — In 1885, Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester sets out on a dangerous expedition into the new territory of Alaska, to map the interior and assess the threat of native tribes there. Meanwhile his pregnant wife Sophie awaits his return at an army base in Vancouver, not knowing if, or when, she will ever see her husband again.

The Widow Nash (Jamie Harrison) — A woman changes her identity and starts her life over as a young widow in a small Montana town, trying to escape a fiancé who only wants her money.

If you select some of these titles for your club’s list this fall, you’ll enjoy the read, have plenty to discuss, and launch your club into a successful year.

Parnassus Book Club — Upcoming Meeting Schedule

September — So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres
Monday, September 16 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, September 18 at 6:30pm
Thursday, September 19 at 10am

October — Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Monday, October 14 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, October 16 at 6:30pm
Thursday, October 17 at 10am

Classics Club — Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Monday, September 30 at 10am and 6:30pm

Are you a member of our store book club? Would you like to be? Parnassus Book Club and Classics Club meetings are free and open to anyone. Buy the book, read along, and join the discussion!