Summer is coming to a close, which is bad news for students, but good news for all of us who don’t enjoy breaking into a sweat within three seconds of leaving the house. College kids might dread cracking open their bizarrely expensive textbooks, but the rest of us can look forward to digging into some new books that have nothing to do with calculus and don’t cost $100 a copy. This month brings a smart meditation on race relations in America, a biography of one of America’s scariest novelists, a memoir by New Jersey’s favorite son, and more.
We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, Jeff Chang (Picador)
Journalist Chang wrote one of the most celebrated books about hip-hop music and culture (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop), and in his new essay collection tackles the sensitive subject of race in America. The subjects of his essays include Beyoncé’s "Lemonade," the Black Lives Matter movement, and the radically charged rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin (Liveright)
Nearly every American middle schooler has read “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson’s short story about a town’s frightening tradition. But there’s so much more to the California-born author of The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Acclaimed book critic Franklin portrays Jackson as a unique talent with a dark side of her own.
True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy, Kati Marton (Simon & Schuster)
If Noel Field hadn’t actually existed, a spy novelist would have had to invent him. Field, a British-born American State Department employee, led a secret life: he spied for Stalin’s Soviet Union, and later ended up being taken prisoner and tortured by the KGB and subjected to show trials. Author Marton was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her memoir Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America.
Jerusalem, Alan Moore (Liveright)
One of the most anticipated books of the year, this 1,280-page novel from comics legend Moore (V for Vendetta, From Hell) creates an alternate world contained within the English town of Northampton. Moore incorporates a huge cast of characters and a wide variety of prose and poetry styles in what’s certain to be one of the year’s most talked-about works of fiction.
Sleeping on Jupiter, Anuradha Roy (Graywolf)
Acclaimed Indian novelist Roy’s latest book made the longlist for the Man Booker Prize. The book follows three women on a seaside vacation who witness an assault on a young woman filmmaker on the same train. Roy’s novel is unflinchingly violent, and incorporates themes of religion, art, and the kind of history that some would prefer to leave in the past.
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen (Simon & Schuster)
“I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I.” That’s how New Jersey’s unofficial poet laureate begins his long-awaited autobiography, which covers his childhood in the town of Freehold all the way up to the present day. Springsteen is a deeply funny and honest writer, and this book is a must for any fan of the Boss.
Reputations, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated by Anne McLean (Riverhead)
Colombian author Vásquez (The Sound of Things Falling) is celebrated not just in his home country, but all around the world. His latest novel follows a Colombian satirist who’s become a national icon, and who is forced to reconsider a political cartoon he drew years earlier after an unexpected visit from a young woman.