R29's Book Recommendations: What We're Reading This September

The number of books on our reading list is multiplying by the minute and it seems we’re going to be thoroughly occupied with even more this September.

Summer alone was filled with books we couldn't put down or stop telling our friends to read. We couldn't get enough of Everything You Ever Wanted, Luiza Sauma's honest and moving examination of social media, depression and daily life thoughts that plague us all. Our poolside lounging wasn't complete without a copy of music PR legend Vivien Goldman's tales of rebellious music icons in Revenge of the She-Punks. And Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror, a witty series of essays touching on self-deception, was exactly the enlightening read we hoped to stumble upon in 2019.

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But it's now time to say goodbye to Hot Girl Summer. We're preparing to ride through this turbulent mid-season weather and embrace September's back to school vibes, and we need a reading list to match, so allow us to introduce you to our latest literary haul. Whether you're a sucker for an emotionally gripping tale of injustice, breathtakingly visceral personal essays or a 19th century classic, we've got a recommendation for you. Have a gander at the books R29 staffers are pledging to plough through in September.

Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Georgia Murray, Junior Fashion Editor

Book: Sex Power Money, Sara Pascoe

Why is it your September read? I bought this after I listened to Pascoe discuss her new book on Scroobius Pip’s podcast Distraction Pieces. She dives into the three things that drive all human behaviour: sex, power and money, touching on everything from the stigma of sex work to racism in porn. She’s also turned the book into an eight-episode podcast, interviewing people with lived experience about the ramifications of our current legal systems, the prejudice they face, and the misinformation we’re fed about both industries. Pascoe always explores topics with humour, sweetness and lack of judgement, so I’m excited to jump in to this one.
Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Jess Commons, Lifestyle Director

Book: Fleishman Is In Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Why is it your September read? Taffy Brodesser-Akner has written some of my favourite profiles ever, like the New York Times Gwyneth Paltrow interview from last year that took Goop to task. And the hard-to-read Tonya Harding interview from when the film I, Tonya came out. Her first novel has been on my list since it came out in June. Halfway through and I am not disappointed. Poor divorced Toby Fleishman is stuck when his ex-wife disappears after a yoga retreat, leaving him with the kids – which is really inconvenient for his new love of shagging most of NYC via the power of dating apps. But just how sorry should we feel for poor Toby? A timely reminder that the sympathetic narratives people (men) spin for themselves can allow them to excuse even the most callous behaviour.
Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Jazmin Kopotsha, Entertainment Editor

Book: After The Flood, Kassandra Montag

Why is it your September read? This really isn’t my usual bag but I’m curious. After The Flood is a whirlwind of a novel set in a dystopian (obviously) future not far from now. The world is mostly water and we follow one mother’s mission to track down her eldest daughter who was stolen by her father while she was pregnant with her second. Even beyond the wealth of family drama to work though, I’ve heard this is a desperately emotional, heart-in-your-chest type of novel. With the world collapsing under the weight of climate change IRL right now, I’m not sure whether I’ll come out the other side feeling better or worse. That said, After The Flood also sounds reminiscent of Julie Bertagna's Exodus – a YA series I adored in my teens and had hoped to revisit recently.
Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Charlie Elliott, Strategy Associate Director

Book: Weapons of Math Destruction, Cathy O’Neil

Why is it your September read? I’ve been in a bit of a fiction slump recently, so I’ve turned to my stack of half-read nonfiction books for this month. I went to a talk at the Barbican last month on the power of AI and Weapons of Math Destruction was referenced so I bought it in the gift shop afterwards. It is an easy-to-understand look at how Big Data is making racial and economic disparity even worse, and that the algorithms we all presume will make things fair actually create a host of problems. From facial recognition technology having inbuilt racial prejudice to skewed university rankings, it’s fascinating and terrifying all at once.
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Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Sass Webber, Senior Project Manager

Book: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

Why is it your September read? A while back I realised I was reading one hot-off-the-press piece of fiction after the next, which meant I was potentially missing out on some really amazing reads. Since then I have tried to rotate my reading to a recent publication, 20th century read and pre-20th century classic and am currently on Jane Eyre, which I’m slightly ashamed to admit I’ve not read before. With pre-20th century fiction you somehow always expect the books to be hard work, use complex language and feel completely irrelevant to life today, but I’ve found this is rarely the case. Jane Eyre is so fluid to read, the language is vivid and beautiful and the relationship between Jane and Mr Rochester, which is always shown in adaptations to be dark and serious, is just so quick-witted and incredibly funny. Written in first person, Jane often breaks the fourth wall (can you have a fourth wall in a book?) and talks directly to the reader, which makes the book feel so utterly on trend (read: Fleabag-esque) – it’s hard to believe it was written 170+ years ago.
Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Katy Thompsett, Sub Editor

Book: Against Memoir, Michelle Tea

Why is it your September read? I’ve gotten into nonfiction in a big way this year and since zipping through Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women (yes, it is as good as everyone says), I’ve been casting around for something equally meaty to sink my teeth into. So it was to my delight that I discovered Michelle Tea, one of my new favourite writers, would be publishing her collection of essays this month. Often humorous but never sentimental, Against Memoir promises a candid, close-to-the-bone exploration of queer life in America, taking in everyone from teenage goths and lesbian motorcycle gang HAGS to Andy Warhol’s would-be assassin, Valerie Solanas. I have it on good authority that there is also an excellent essay about a pigeon. Coo.
Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Vicky Spratt, Features Editor

Book: Notes To Self, Emilie Pine

Why is it your September read? I absolutely devoured these short essays from Irish academic Emilie Pine. I love life writing and I’ve run out of Deborah Levy memoirs to read so this was the perfect thing to fill the void left by the fact that I now know parts of The Cost of Living and Things I Don’t Want To Know off by heart. Pine’s writing is moving and visceral and the first essay – about her father’s alcoholism – is perhaps the best thing I’ve read this year. It’s honest without being confessional and thoughtful without being hackneyed.
Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Eni Subair, Editorial Assistant

Book: Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams

Why is it your September read? Admittedly I'm a little late to the game. There was no escaping the buzz surrounding this book this summer hence why I'm making it a priority this month. After doing some research the plot spoke to my soul: the witty one-liners and goings-on of main character 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins ensured that I wouldn't be putting this novel down any time soon. Without giving away too many spoilers, Queenie's journey as a millennial is relatable on so many levels. In fact, I'm so besotted with the book (much like Euphoria) that I'm heavily delaying finding out how this enchanting tale ends. It'll be a bittersweet day when it finally arrives.
Illustrated by Natalia Bagniewska
Chemmie Squier, Creative

Book: Fangirls: Scenes From Modern Music Culture, Hannah Ewens

Why is it your September read? When I was 14, me and my friends were obsessed with McFly. We’d write fanfic, visit Virgin Megastore the day a new single was released, go to all their gigs and buy every and any magazine they were in. I even had a VHS that I recorded all of their television appearances on. See? Obsessed. So it’s no wonder this book speaks to me on another level. Hannah Ewens, journalist and self-confessed music lover, delves into the previously unexplored world of fangirls to celebrate the women who have dedicated part of – if not all – their lives to following their beloved musicians. I can’t wait to read it as I reminisce about my own teenage boyband loves.
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Rabeel Ijaz, Editorial Intern

Book: Moth Smoke, Mohsin Hamid

Why is it your September read? This month, nothing on my bookshelf looked appealing enough for me to read during my commute. Then, as I was deep-cleaning my bedroom a couple of days ago, I found a stack of books I brought back from my trip to Pakistan last year. I felt this sudden urge to support authors from the motherland. Moth Smoke follows Daru, whose life quickly unravels after he becomes unemployed. I always gravitate towards books with an element of true crime in them, as I find it super fascinating. The book is set in the '90s in Lahore, the city my parents call home, which makes it all the more relatable for me.
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