The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

10 books to read in September

Since it’s not quite Labor Day, it feels unfair to distract you with big autumn books — but here they come, and they’re worth adding to your to-be-read pile. From a comic romp set in the early 1960s to a somber look at our country’s politics, these titles speak volumes.

‘Poet Warrior: A Memoir,’ by Joy Harjo (Sept. 7)

A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Harjo is the first Native Poet Laureate of the United States. Her second memoir (after “Crazy Brave”) blends personal journey with cultural meaning, weaving in stories from her ancestors that shaped her growth as an artist and teacher. The result is as strong and lyric as her poetry.

‘Everyone wants a place where they feel safe,’ says Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. poet laureate

On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint,’ by Maggie Nelson (Sept. 7)

The author of “The Argonauts” explores the idea of freedom as it relates to the worlds of art, sex, drugs and climate. If that sounds heady, it is, yet Nelson’s care and rigor in fully exploring a concept we all think we know make her essays mind-altering.

Beautiful World, Where Are You,’ by Sally Rooney (Sept. 7)

Those who have read and loved “Normal People” and “Conversations With Friends” can rest easy. Sally Rooney’s third novel is very good, covering new territory with characters in their 30s negotiating longer-term relationships, while maintaining the author’s signature sang-froid.

At 28, Sally Rooney has been called the voice of her generation. Believe the hype.

Assembly,’ by Natasha Brown (Sept. 14)

You may think Brown’s debut novel, at roughly 100 pages, is a quick, easy read. Think again. It’s a carefully constructed indictment of the British world where its young, Black female narrator lives. She’s getting ready for a garden party while pondering a big life-or-death decision; but the bigger decision has to do with how to define her own story.

‘Harlem Shuffle,’ by Colson Whitehead (Sept. 14)

Ray and Elizabeth Carney, expecting their second child, have just enough money to keep them content in their tiny apartment. But Ray, a furniture salesman, has criminals in his family tree and thieves asking him to act as their fence. Ultimately, a failed heist threatens Ray’s domestic peace in this funny and sweet ode to 1960s Harlem by a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

Oprah’s book club pick: ‘The Underground Railroad,’ by Colson Whitehead

‘The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction 1948-1985,’ by James Baldwin (Sept. 21)

Speaking of Harlem, its native son James Baldwin’s nonfiction could knock anyone’s socks off and does in this reissue that includes some of his best essays. Baldwin’s writing about race, class and sexuality remains relevant, which would no doubt sadden and enrage this late genius of American letters.

James Baldwin spoke eloquently to his era. Does he speak to ours?

‘The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People, Lost and Found,’ by Rick Bragg (Sept. 21)

In “All Over but the Shoutin’” and other memoirs, Bragg has treated readers to a cast of human characters in Calhoun County, Ala. When cancer treatment landed him back there, in his mother’s basement, Bragg found his first canine character, a bedraggled Australian shepherd with few good qualities and plenty of bad ones. Their love story is one for the ages; bring your Kleenex.

‘Bewilderment,’ by Richard Powers (Sept. 21)

Following 2018’s transcendent Pulitzer-winning “The Overstory,” “Bewilderment” is a quieter novel that is nonetheless achingly current and wise. Theo, a widowed astrobiologist, must decide whether to enroll his challenged 9-year-old, Robin, in an experimental neurofeedback program.

‘The Overstory’ is the most exciting novel about trees you’ll ever read

‘Peril,’ by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Sept. 21)

Woodward, a Pulitzer-winning associate editor at The Washington Post, and Robert Costa, one of the newspaper’s national political reporters, have collaborated on a book born from over 200 interviews (and 6,000 pages of transcripts) with people involved in the rocky transition from Donald Trump’s presidency to Joe Biden’s.

Woodward’s ‘Rage’ is a damning account of Trump’s cowering sycophants and enablers

‘Cloud Cuckoo Land,’ by Anthony Doerr (Sept. 28)

Doerr’s first book since “All the Light We Cannot See” involves multiple timelines and a huge cast of characters in settings that include a medieval stronghold and a spaceship. If you’re looking for another story about World War II, go elsewhere. If you’re looking for a superb novel, look no further.

Bethanne Patrick is the editor, most recently, of “The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and Other Remarkable People.”

A note to our readers

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.