September Binder: A Harvest of Great Headlines for Fall Reading

September kicks off the busy fall season, when publishers release their most anticipated titles.

These include “Lessons”, the latest novel by Ian McEwan, who is best known for “Atonement”, and “Lucy by the Sea” by Elizabeth Strout. Both novels go undercover to reveal long-buried truths in the characters’ lives. Deanna Raybourn’s highly watched mystery thriller “Killers of a Certain Age” challenges stereotypes about women and aging.

Why we wrote this

Our reviewers’ favorite books this month include an emotionally honest novel about a single father, a passionate plea for a deeper reading of American history, and musings on what leads to true happiness.

Among the nonfiction titles, historian Peniel E. Joseph describes the obstacles that must be overcome for America to live up to its egalitarian ideals in “The Third Reconstruction.” Annie Proulx makes an eloquent call for the preservation of the world’s wetlands in “Fen, Bog and Swamp”.

In “Black Snow”, James M. Scott examines the American military strategy of targeting Japanese civilians during World War II in an effort to limit Allied casualties and shorten the war. The strategy, used even before the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, raises deep moral questions.

Familiar authors predominate this month, providing a welcome opportunity to delve into their latest works.

1. Lucia by the sea, by Elizabeth Strout

At the start of the pandemic, Lucy Barton is taken from New York to coastal Maine by her ex-husband, who worries about her health. As days turn into months, Lucy reflects on her life and her daughters, and finds kindness, forgiveness, and healing through nature and new friendships.

Why we wrote this

Our reviewers’ favorite books this month include an emotionally honest novel about a single father, a passionate plea for a deeper reading of American history, and musings on what leads to true happiness.

2. Killers of a certain age, by Deanna Raybourn

The members of Britain’s first all-female assassination squad – a well-rounded, skilled and often spicy quartet – have reached their sixties and are ready to retire. Too bad someone in their organization, an outgrowth of World War II resistance fighters, wanted them dead. Deanna Raybourn’s mystery-thriller-boyfriend novel offers tense suspense, side arcs, white-knuckle fight scenes and shrewd commentary on the assumptions faced by older women.

3. Course, by Ian McEwan

What constitutes a successful life – especially one damaged by a crime of passion? Ian McEwan’s novel tackles this question through the story of a troubled single father. Whether he’s describing the daily minutiae, a disturbing affair, or gigantic historical events, McEwan captivates with thoughtful and emotionally honest prose.

4. wedding portrait, by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell’s historical novel was inspired by Robert Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess’ and the rare facts surrounding Lucrezia di Cosimo de’Medici, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1561 aged 16, less a year after his marriage. From this, O’Farrell painted an atmospheric, thrilling portrait of a spooky marriage and a young woman’s valiant attempts to escape her gilded cage.

5. Natural History, by Andrea Barrett

Andrea Barrett’s collection of enriching short stories spans the Civil War era to the present day. Women’s roles evolve, as successive generations explore science, writing, teaching, and even flight, while always finding room for love and community.

6. The Third Reconstruction, by Peniel E. Joseph

American ideologies and policies are in a state of constant flux, or, as Peniel E. Joseph puts it, “rebuilding.” By examining past eras of Reconstruction, as well as the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, it offers a way forward by encouraging us to embrace the duality of American history.

seven. Dinners with Ruth, by Nina Totenberg

NPR’s longtime legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg, remembers the relationships that sustained and sustained her through professional challenges and triumphs as well as personal joys and loss. At the heart of the intimate book is his nearly 50-year friendship with the late United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

8. Fen, Bog and Swamp, by Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx takes readers to the world’s surviving marine wetlands and estuaries, which are besieged by development. She eloquently points out the dangers to the planet, as wetlands sequester carbon emissions. The book is a stark but beautifully written “Silent Spring” style warning by one of our greatest novelists.

9. black snow, by James M. Scott

In March 1945, an American bombardment devastated Tokyo. Although this may have shortened World War II, over 100,000 Japanese – mostly civilians – were killed. Was it justified? James M. Scott raises deep moral questions about military strategy.

ten. happiness in action, by Adam Adatto Sandel

Adam Adatto Sandel’s provocative book draws on his own experiences and the works of ancient and modern philosophers to argue that happiness is less about achieving one’s goals than about “self-possession, friendship, and engagement with nature.

Angela C. Hale