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Novel Encounters: 8 Great September Reads

From Some of Our Favourite Writers / BY Nathalie Atkinson / September 8th, 2020


This month is to the fall book season what the September issue is to fashion: a juggernaut. (Lest there be any doubt, in the UK nearly 600 new titles will publish in a single day, on September 3.) Publishers are keeping pace as reading booms in the pandemic: in September alone there are new novels from favourite authors like Nick Hornby, Marilynne Robinson, Gail Bowen, and Annabel Lyon alongside daring literary debuts from Marlowe Granados (Happy Hour) and Su Croll (Seeing Martin). Make sense of the teeming bookshelves with our fiction highlights for the month ahead.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

(Sept. 1) Gyasi’s expansive Homegoing chronicled the damaging effect of the slave trade on Ghana’s Gold Coast across generations. To explore the divide between science and faith, her new novel scales it back and focuses on the minutiae of a Ghanaian family in Alabama. A gifted neuroscientist explores the neural pathways of addiction in lab mice in order to unlock the secrets of addiction and depression; the former because of her brother’s death from heroin addiction, the latter for her mother’s ongoing mental health battle. It’s a character study of a woman who is struggling to make sense of her family’s pain and tragedy.


2One by Oneby Ruth Ware

(Sept. 8) Ware has written modern pastiches of Henry James and Daphne du Maurier suspense classics and in her latest psych suspense novel transposes Christie’s ingenious And Then There Were None setup to a luxury ski lodge – all while skewering tech culture and its toxic inner workings. The members of a successful startup gather at a remote five-star French resort, but their team-building retreat takes a sinister turn after a deadly avalanche. The very idea of tech workers isolated without internet and cellular service is delicious even before you factor in the creeping dread of isolation, suspicion, and paranoia.


3The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons

(Sept. 8) When quiet loner Eudora Honeysett, 85, finds her quality of life diminishing she’s determined to go on her own terms, and books an assisted dying appointment with a Swiss clinic. Unexpectedly, she forges a friendship with her new neighbour Rose, a spunky 10 year old, and widower Stanley. Alternating chapters flash back to the life events that brought Eudora to this moment, contrasted with episodes from the present and the irrepressible zest of the new young friend who changes her outlook. The novel is a heartwarming lesson in both how to embrace life and how to say goodbye.


4The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

(Sept. 22) A spy, a nurse, a trade union official and a psychiatrist walk into a bar –actually, make that an exclusive retirement village in Kent. In this clever, witty and lighthearted crime debut, four pensioners skip the games of bridge and instead meet up to drink wine and solve cold-case murders. Inevitably, an actual homicide that happens on their seemingly idyllic doorstep proves irresistible, as is the diverse life experience that each septuagenarian sleuth brings to the art of detection. Bonus: Steven Spielberg has just bought the movie rights, to be adapted by the same screenwriter who did The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.


5The End of the Dayby Bill Clegg

(Sept. 29) The circular storylines about forgiveness begin with an imperious New York matriarch, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, who heads to Connecticut to try to restore a 50-year-old friendship. Next it alights on Kauai, and the daughter of the family’s longtime Mexican servant. Each successive character’s story is entwined in the tangled branches of the secrets, estranged relationships, and family ties in this elegiac novel that covers 60 years in a single day.


6The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

(Sept. 29) “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want,” the poet Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal. In Matt Haig’s wistful tale these are all possible. When a young woman named Nora despairs of living and attempts to end things, she discovers that limbo is a library filled with volumes of her life. Like the love child of The Butterfly Effect and Terminator but told with deceptive simplicity, every book on the shelves is an alternate biography of her life, the Choose Your Own Adventure version recounted with the benefit of hindsight after changing just one choice. The question is whether infinite do-overs are more exhausting than living with regret.


7The Talented Miss Farwell by Emily Gray Tedrowe

(Sept. 29) This buzzy novel (and its rumoured six-figure publishing deal) was inspired by the story of Rita Crundwell, who, while working as controller and treasurer for her Illinois town, embezzled more than $50 million over two decades. From the title, comparisons to Patricia Highsmith are obvious, but it explores the mindset of a con artist obsessed with owning fine art and leading a double life, and the reasons an ordinary woman would play such a long game of cunning self-invention.


8Bestiaryby K-Ming Chang

(Sept. 29) It’s easy to see why Chang was named a writer to watch this season. She started writing Bestiary as a college sophomore, inspired by a memoir assignment about her grandfather. What took shape instead is a saga about three generations of Taiwanese-American women. It’s sprinkled with the Chinese zodiac (and a touch of magical realism) and considers how their cultural mythology has shaped their lives.


THE SCROLL

Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.


Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.


Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.


Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”


Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956


Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."


The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.


American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


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