September’s Best New Books (best paired with pumpkin spice lattes)

September’s Best New Books (best paired with pumpkin spice lattes)

In Reading Lists - Best New Books by Lanie Pemberton

September’s Best New Books (best paired with pumpkin spice lattes)

With back-to-school spirit in the air, and Labor Day bringing the unofficial end to summer, there’s no better time to tackle an ever-growing to-be-read pile. Luckily, September marks the height of publishing season, and there are plenty of new books to suit any reader’s taste. Explore the latest works by prominent authors, including a dangerous fairy tale by Stephen King, a short story collection by T.C. Boyle, and the moving finale of Frederik Backman’s Beartown series. Travel back to historical time periods for true and imaginative tales alike, including books about Cleveland’s most prolific serial killer, a wartime football game by the author of Friday Night Lights, and an ambitious witch during Prohibition in Kansas City. You’ll also find plenty of diverse YA adventures and informative nonfiction on nature, science, and investing topping off this month’s list, proving that September (and every month in our opinion) is made for reading. 

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Charlie Reade, a lonely teenager with problems at home, befriends the elderly Mr. Bowditch. The more time Charlie spends at Mr. Bowditch’s home, the more curious he becomes about the shed out back — and the unearthly noises coming from within. Of course, it wouldn’t be a true King (Billy Summers) novel if the oddly mysterious didn’t morph into a fantastical adventure full of good versus evil and quests for survival. 

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If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

Escoffery, an award-winning writer and fellow at Stanford University, offers a linked story collection about a Jamaican American family struggling to overcome racism, poverty, and natural disaster — not exactly the lauded American Dream. Trelawney, the youngest son, is the most prominent character, and we see much of his family’s search for identity and belonging through his eyes. Escoffery draws readers into the rich vibes of 1970s Miami in this story of the immigrant experience. 

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Sacrificio by Ernesto Mestre-Reed

In 1998, young Rafa moves to Havana during Cuba’s tumultuous “Special Period” and becomes involved with two HIV-positive brothers determined to overthrow Castro’s regime. Mestre-Reed breaks his 20-year writing hiatus to pen a novel that shows the extremes people go to for what they believe. It’s at once a thrilling, fast-paced adventure and a mournful coming-of-age tale about the harsh realities of life.

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The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West

This saga of motherhood and found family takes place in 1960s Memphis during America’s civil rights movement. Sara King, who’s pregnant and unwed, leaves Chicago for Memphis, where she finds home and safety in Mama Sugar’s boarding house, The Scarlet Poplar. The boarding house is filled with rich and lively characters, including Jonas, a teacher that Sara quickly bonds with. The Two Lives of Sara reveals how secrecy is often the undercurrent of community — and the one thing that can destroy it. 

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Happier Hour by Cassie Holmes

Time is one of our most precious and nonrenewable resources, and we often wish we had more of it. Holmes offers time management advice built upon her popular course at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Happier Hour doesn’t teach us how to make more free time, but instead how to make the most of the time we have, leading to greater fulfillment in our personal lives, careers, relationships, and more. In a sea of self-help books about achievement and success, Holmes teaches us how to prioritize what brings us joy.

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On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Sisters Esther, Ruth, and Chloe comprise The Salvations, an up-and-coming R&B group closely overseen by their mother, Vivian, who must reckon with her loosening grasp on her daughters’ lives and careers as they enter adulthood and develop their own dreams for the future. Sexton’s (The Revisioners) family drama highlights the tumultuous nature of mother-daughter bonds and sisterhood, backdropped by impending gentrification in 1950s San Francisco. 

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An ancient curse leaves a long line of Vietnamese women unable to find happiness or bear sons. Mai Nguyen faces the realities of the curse daily as she grapples with divorce and estrangement from her sisters, mother, and other female relatives — the titular “jaded women.” But when a psychic hints at a change in fortune, Mai is eager to reconcile. Modern realities clash with family tradition in Huynh’s funny, insightful novel about a family full of women trying to find happiness in a tumultuous world.

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American Demon by Daniel Stashower

After taking down notorious bootlegger Al Capone, famed prohibition agent Eliot Ness faced another great challenge: hunting the “Cleveland Torso Murderer,” a prolific serial killer active during the 1930s. Stashower (The Hour of Peril) gives readers a true crime account of the case that shook Cleveland residents to their core. This book paints a fair picture of a fallible man, while allowing Ness’ effectiveness as a leader intent on justice to shine through.

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The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas

Thomas (Cemetery Boys) builds a world in which a caste system of semidiós (demigods) dubbed Gold, Jade, and Obsidian must compete in The Sunbearer Trials every 10 years. The loser faces sacrificial death to fuel the sun god’s continual power. Teo, a trans, teenaged Jade, must battle against more powerful Golds, keeping himself and his friends alive to see the next decade. This queer YA fantasy is rooted in Mexican folklore and explodes with adventure, bravery, and friendship.

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On the cusp of her favorite event, Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade, Cicely Destin’s aunt becomes possessed while practicing Haitian Vodou. Cicely teams up with her best friend Renee and crush Kwame to free her aunt from the raucous spirit, an adventure that carries them across New York City. This scavenger hunt rom-com sparkles with rich Caribbean culture, the promise of young love, and family loyalty. 

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The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

After Allegedly, White Smoke, and more thrillers, Jackson returns with a reimagining of Stephen King’s Carrie, this time reflecting on racism and social justice. Maddy Washington is a white-passing biracial teen in the deep south. Her classmates bully her, her white father demands total whiteness, and Maddy is about to unleash years of pent-up righteous anger on them all. 

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Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore

Experience The Great Gatsby through a queer lens. Self-Made Boys is the latest installment of the Remixed Classics series, which infuses diverse perspectives into the classics. This story follows Nicolás Caraveo, a gay, trans, Latinx teenager who moves from Wisconsin to West Egg, New York and becomes enthralled with society — and his enigmatic new neighbor, Jay Gatsby. McLemore (Lakelore) strikes the right balance between familiarity and freshness in this softhearted romance with timely themes.
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Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah

South Asian-inspired culture meets ancient mythology under a YA dystopian lens. In Monsters Born and Made, teenager Koral is determined to compete in the Glory Race against elite competitors, hoping to free her low-caste family from servitude. To succeed (and survive) she must battle elite warriors, angry mobs, and vicious sea creatures, all of whom are out to kill her. 

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It’s been over 30 years since his first novel was published, and Boyle (Talk to Me) continues to captivate us with darkly funny tales about the relatable shortcomings of humankind. This short story collection runs the gamut from speculative satire to modern-day pandemic fatigue, and the characters are at once maddening and sympathetic. 

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Lessons by Ian McEwan

History unfolds through the eyes of one ordinary man in the latest novel by Booker Prize-winner McEwan (Atonement). Roland Baines faces childhood trauma, single parenthood, and a lagging career — along with some of history’s most horrific events, from the Chernobyl disaster to the Covid-19 pandemic. Through each experience, readers glimpse how lives are shaped by small disappointments and major disasters alike. This sweeping story is moving and melancholy. 

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The Mosquito Bowl by Buzz Bissinger

On Christmas Eve, 1944, two Marine regiments went head-to-head in a friendly but competitive football scrimmage on Guadalcanal island in the South Pacific. A few short months later, 15 would be killed in the Battle of Okinawa. Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of Friday Night Lights, unites WWII history and sports in this captivating nonfiction narrative about raw talent and personal sacrifice. 

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After losing her factory job during The Great Recession, Cara, a 50-something Dominican-American woman, shares her life story over 12 different sessions with a job counselor. Cruz (Dominicana) takes a simple concept and breathes life into a character who’s the true embodiment of an American. Cara’s experiences give every reader something to relate to, from love and motherhood to the dehumanizing nature of bureaucracy. 

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Bindle Punk Bruja by Desideria Mesa

Luna Alvarado is not who she seems. To her family, she’s a half-Mexican bruja (witch) with inhuman powers of persuasion. To the rest of the world, she’s Rose Lane, an ambitious but mortal white businesswoman. She keeps her secrets while navigating the seedy underbelly of Kansas City during Prohibition, facing Al Capone, the KKK, and other rotten (usually male) characters. Mesa’s historical fantasy enhances an already vibrant era with Mexican folklore. 

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Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

Fantastical situations highlight hard-hitting themes in this collection of eight short stories by Ma (Severance). Immigration and belonging — particularly from women’s perspectives — play a huge role in Ma’s latest, including “G,” a story about two Chinese-American women whose friendship falls apart upon drug-fueled reflection. 

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How to Invest by David Rubenstein

All the investment advice you need is all in one place. Based on interviews with 23 of the world’s most successful investors, Rubenstein, a billionaire investor and the co-founder of a private equity company, distills the key lessons integral to market success as well as the personal habits and traits that help investors succeed. The result is a straightforward, actionable master class on making your money work for you.

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People Person by Candice Carty-Williams

The five Pennington siblings have one thing — and one thing only — in common: a disinterested and immature father. They grow apart as they come of age, until Dimple Pennington faces a dire situation and calls on her family to help. Carty-Williams (Queenie) pens a comedy of errors that highlights how family can bring out the best and worst in all of us. 

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Marple: Twelve New Mysteries by Agatha Christie, Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse, Ruth Ware

Mystery and murder are afoot in these thrilling short stories featuring Miss Jane Marple, the star of over 20 bestselling Agatha Christie novels. The unlikely detective is reimagined by some of today’s most prolific crime writers, including Lucy Foley (The Paris Apartment), Ruth Ware (The It Girl), and Elly Griffiths (The Locked Room). Modern elements add an entertaining spin but never detract from The Queen of Crime’s classic character.
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Dinners with Ruth by Nina Totenberg

We all felt the loss of the “Notorious RBG” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg — in 2020. But her political prowess and groundbreaking efforts toward equality are only part of her story. Totenberg, an NPR legal correspondent, offers a deeper glimpse of the former supreme court justice. Dinners with Ruth is a story of loss and recovery, ambition and triumph, and, most of all, mutual respect. All of it is gleaned from half a century of friendship (which clearly included many dinners).

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I'm the Girl by Courtney Summers

In one of the most highly anticipated YA thrillers of September, 16-year-old Georgia Avis stumbles upon the brutally murdered body of a young girl. She investigates the crime while working at an exclusive country club and is slowly drawn into a world of privilege — and possible danger. Summers follows her hit Sadie with a page-turning mystery that addresses the abuse of power, allowing readers to experience the dissonance between Georgia’s innocent perspective and harsh reality. 

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The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

In the highly anticipated sequel to Garber’s Once Upon a Broken Heart, Evangeline Fox is still reeling from betrayal by Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. But a terrible curse on her husband forces Evangeline’s hand, and she finds herself working alongside Jacks to set things right. Not your stereotypical fairy tale, Garber’s YA story highlights the addictive nature of complicated love. 

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In this Scribd Original, King, a writer-comedian and a dad, relays formative moments in his life when being both Black and white made him feel like he didnʼt belong (“If the ʻBlack cardʼ was a real thing, mine would only work at certain stores”), and how these experiences inform his outlook on parenting. Donʼt worry: There are plenty of dad jokes throughout.
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Starry Messenger by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Famed and acclaimed astrophysicist Tyson makes the case, in a very unexpected way, for the topic he loves most: science. Starry Messenger isn’t an exploration of scientific topics, but an argument for its use in divisive times. When we can’t agree on politics, religion, or acceptable social norms, Tyson asserts that the answers are found in science and the scientific method. Instead of basing our arguments on emotions and subjective beliefs, this enlightening read suggests sticking to rationality and fact. 

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The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li

Li’s masterful story is a dark and irresistible tale of obsessive friendship. Agnès and Fabienne grow up together in post-war France, where they entertain themselves by writing twisted fictional stories. Eventually, Agnès is propelled to fame while Fabienne remains behind in their village. But their ties are unbreakable, solidified by lies both white and sinister. 

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Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland

Laura Ann Langston is a Black, queer mage in an alternative 1937 America. In the wake of a Great Depression-esque catastrophe that nearly destroyed the art of mysticism, Langston settles for a government job to make ends meet. But she soon uncovers a dark plot, leading her on a quest to set things right. Aspects of magical realism, speculative fiction, and political commentary unite beautifully in this new YA historical fantasy by Ireland (Dread Nation).

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The Winners by Fredrik Backman

In Backman’s (A Man Called Ove) final installment of the Beartown trilogy, a fierce winter storm forces the residents of Beartown to mingle with their rivals in Hed. Tensions rise, spurned by internal fraud, and a senseless act of violence threatens everything this hometown ensemble has built. In true Backman form, The Winners is rich in character development with scenes that will warm — and break — your heart. 

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Fen, Bog and Swamp by Annie Proulx

Proulx’s fiction may be award-winning (The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain) but her nonfiction deserves equal acclaim. Following her 2016 bestseller Barkskins, which explores deforestation, Proulx turns her attention to wetlands, including their purpose and the consequences of their potential demise. This environmentally focused story traverses the globe and history to report on one of our most important, and diminishing, ecosystems.
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Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Inspired by Shakespeare’s As You Like It and set in the same universe as Gong’s These Violent Delights duology, this story follows Rosalind Lang, an immortal assassin in 1930s Shanghai. As the Japanese invade China, Rosalind poses as the wife of spy Orion Hong, whose secrets threaten their entire operation. Magical realism, YA fantasy, and espionage thriller unite in Foul Lady Fortune. Unsurprisingly, in the hands of Gong, the results are brilliant. 

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The Moms are Not Alright by Anne Helen Petersen

“I’m tired and scared and anxious and unmotivated and proud and grateful and desperately sad and hopeless,” says one of the many mothers interviewed by culture writer Petersen (“Can’t Even”) for this Scribd Original. The raw stories these moms share about their experiences raising children during the chaos of the pandemic and more are eye-opening, moving, and reassuring.
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About the Author: Lanie Pemberton

Lanie is a San Diego-based freelance writer with many Scribd Snapshots and recommended reading lists under her belt. She loves reading about animals and the natural world, with plenty of murder mysteries peppered in. When she needs a break from writing and reading, Lanie can be found taking long walks under the SoCal sun, usually alongside her husband and pampered pittie, Peach.

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