If You Only Read One Book in September, Make it This One

published Sep 2, 2021
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Can you smell that? Pumpkin spice season is on the horizon. While the heat may still be a bit unrelenting, that doesn’t mean you can’t start diving into the exciting rooster of 2021 fall book releases. Kicking off the new autumn reading lineup are these September books that you don’t want to miss. 

First up is this month’s must-read is “Harlem Shuffle,” the first novel from Colson Whitehead after winning back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes for his two previous books, “The Nickel Boys” and “The Underground Railroad.” This time around, Whitehead transports readers to 1960s Harlem for a vivid, spellbinding heist adventure. 

Never one to stick to a set narrative or even genre, Whitehead departs from the serious topics of past releases for this thrilling crime tale. On the outside, Ray Carney is a furniture salesman who looks like an upstanding retailer making a decent living for himself and his family. But his wife’s parents disapprove of their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, and she is expecting their second child. So with cash tight, Carney doesn’t question the jewelry his cousin Freddie drops off from time to time. 

Dabbling in petty crime isn’t new to Ray. Most people don’t know that he comes from a line of crooks, as he has tried had to keep that information in his past. But when Freddie falls into a crew planning a heist, and with Ray looking to make more money for his growing family, Ray finds himself leading a double-life — one of a respectable father and one of a lawbreaker. 

With rich details and intricate storytelling, Whitehead weaves a tale of 1950s and 60s Harlem so captivating you’ll feel like you experienced the culture and the social and political upheaval of the time yourself. 

Here are some other great books to read this month:

“The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina” by Zoraida Córdova

Lean hard into spooky szn with this dreamy, magical realism novel that recalls fantasy reads like “Mexican Gothic,” anything Alice Hoffman, and “The Immoralists” by Chloe Benjamin. Zoraida Córdova’s tale of magic and family secrets follows the Montoyas, who live in the Midwestern town of Four Rivers. They never leave their home and don’t really question why or how they can do so without, for example, having to shop for food. That is until matriarch Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral with the promise of an inheritance and the hope of finding out more about their history. Unfortunately, the encounter ends up leaving the family with more questions than before. They let it go, however, until seven years later when the Montoyas begin to be pursued by a vicious man who brings death and destruction on their extended family. 

Córdova’s enchanting adult debut will have you saying, “Just one more page!” as you read late into the night. 

Get ready to laugh; Phoebe Robinson is back with a new essay collection that is as insightful as it is funny and heartfelt. You may recognize Robinson’s unique voice from her podcasts, “Two Dope Queens” and “Sooo Many White Guysprevious,” or her previous books, “You Can’t Touch My Hair” and “Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay.” She is known for touching on current happenings through pop culture references and comedic wit, and “Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes” is no expectation to the trend. Focusing on the things like the Black Lives Matter movement to choosing not to have kids and values she’s learned from her parents, this collection reads like a transcript of her standup comedy. 

“Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes” is also the inaugural title launching Tiny Reparation Books, a new imprint dedicated to amplifying unique and diverse voices, helmed by none other than Robinson herself.

Lauren Groff’s newest work, “Matrix,” is based on the life and legend of 12th-century poet Marie de France, who is through to be the first woman to first poetry in French. Cast out of a royal court, seventeen-year-old Marie is banished to a remote English convent ridden with disease and home to 20 starving nuns. Over time, Marie reshapes the community into a strong, proud group of self-sufficient women. 

While you might not be expecting to enjoy a story about a 12th-century nunnery, “Matrix” is an exceptionally written historical fiction tale about passion, faith, creativity, and power.