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The novels have it: September sparkles with literary gems



September marks the return of the literary novel, with sublime fiction from authors such as Colson Whitehead and Anthony Doerr.



By Monitor reviewers | September 15, 2021


With the arrival of fall, publishers are rolling out their highly anticipated titles, creating a bonanza for book lovers. Prestigious authors such as Colson Whitehead, Anthony Doerr, and Joy Harjo are among the headliners.


1. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead


Colson Whitehead switches gears from his two previous novels, "The Underground Railroad" and "The Nickel Boys," to write a crime caper novel with moral undertones. In 1950s Harlem, a Black furniture-store owner and family man, who’s seeking upward mobility, agrees to fence stolen goods for his cousin. The atmosphere, characters, and especially New York itself are richly evoked. But underneath lurk questions of self-determination and culpability.


2. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr


A Greek myth about a utopian city in the clouds connects five sharp-cut characters – two in 15th-century Constantinople, another pair in modern-day Idaho, and a pioneer to a planet years in the future. Riveting storytelling and insistent compassion define this ode to libraries and librarians.


3. The Magician by Colm Tóibín


Colm Tóibín’s historical novel about Thomas Mann brilliantly weaves together the German Nobel laureate’s personal life with the creation of his major works – including “Death in Venice” and “The Magic Mountain” – set against the rise of Nazism, which propelled Mann’s family into exile. This stirring novel is a paean to great literature and music and a sobering reminder of what happens when a nation embraces fascism. Read the full review here.


4. Bewilderment by Richard Powers


Astrobiologist Theo Byrne is raising his troubled 9-year-old son after the death of his wife. While the genre-defying novel explores such issues as the expanding cosmos and our endangered planet, at the center of this heartbreaking but beautifully written story is the bond between a father and son. (Readers may wish to know about a disturbing plot twist.)


5. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman


Richard Osman’s action-packed second outing with the Thursday Murder Club overflows with wit, friendship, and derring-do, as the eccentric quartet of British crime solvers joins forces from a countryside retirement village. They tussle with the mafia, investigate murders, and, of course, enjoy teatime.


6. Read Until You Understand by Farah Jasmine Griffin


Farah Jasmine Griffin, one of the leading scholars of African American literature, uses works penned by Black authors to address race, sexuality, and gender. Part memoir, part tender exploration of Black genius, the book gives us a new way of using our own lives as catalysts for change.


7. Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo


In this poignant memoir, Joy Harjo, United States poet laureate, reflects on the power of memory and stories to shape one’s understanding of life and vision for the future. Using poems and prose, Harjo pays homage to her Muscogee (Creek) Nation family and confronts historic and personal abuse. The result is compelling and healing.


8. App Kid by Michael Sayman


Michael Sayman has written more than a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps success story. It’s a memoir about a boy growing up with negligent parents, loneliness, and an unsupportive school, and how his coping mechanism – mentally escaping into coding – became the key to a new and better life.


9. Believing by Anita Hill


Anita Hill’s testimony during the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sparked a national conversation about sexual harassment. In her powerful new book she challenges the economic, political, and social forces that perpetuate gender-based violence.


10. Travels With George by Nathaniel Philbrick


This delightful book retraces the journey of George Washington across the former colonies shortly after his inauguration. It’s a meditation on our first president’s continued relevance to the American identity.



© The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.


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