This past August, I was strangely immersed in spy-related pop culture. I interviewed
a former spy about her sex life for The Spy Who Dumped Me, I binge-watched season 1 of the , and I read Kate Atkinson's The Americans Transcription, a novel about spies working in M15, Britain's secret service agency, during WWII. Atkinson's characters are always walking around gloomy London in disguises, passing along newspapers with cryptic messages. The book, too, has hidden corners — you're forever doubting whether what you're reading is the truth, or preparation for a twist. Taken together, the three spy-related works had me constantly looking over my shoulder. Transcription is one of many amazing books coming out this month. September features spy novels, reinterpretations of Greek myths, retellings of the history of Liberia, and deep dives into the history of the Myers-Briggs exam — among other fantastic picks.
Here are the books that you should put on your towering "to read" pile.
1 of 15 , Lydia Kiesling The Golden State
Already poised to be one of the great (and greatly inventive) novels about motherhood, Kiesling’s novel follows a young woman left alone with her newborn after her husband is unable to enter the United States due to immigration issues. Daphne leaves San Francisco and travels to a mobile home she inherited from her grandparents, infant in tow. She spends 10 days in a dusty, impoverished swath of California.
2 of 15 Lindsey Stanberry Money Diaries,
Out September 4
Do you spend a good portion of your time perusing Refinery29's Money Diaries — and the comments section? Lindsey Stanberry's funny, astute book turns the observations you may have gleaned from the column into the tangible money tips you need in your life. The book also features some never before seen Money Diaries.
3 of 15 , Leah Dieterich Vanishing Twins: A Marriage
Is “magical” too big a word to describe this memoir? No, it isn’t. In this ethereal yet psychologically astute memoir, Dieterich analyzes the story of her life — from aspirations as a ballerina, to her work in advertising, to her experiment in an open marriage – through the lens of her search for her missing metaphorical twin.
is composed in short, often page-long chapters that each sear powerful images about love, monogamy, and what we ask of the people in our lives, onto the mind.
4 of 15 , Olivia Laing Crudo
We’re living through wild days. How do we process them? Is there a way?
is a book concerned with capturing the experience of today. It’s the summer of 2017, and Kathy, the central character in Laing’s slim debut novel, struggles to keep afloat amid a furious news cycle. You’ll be underlining each all-too-relatable paragraph. In the book, 40-year-old Kathy approaches her wedding as the end of one life — one of solitude and adventure — for another rhythm.
5 of 15 Pat Barker The Silence of the Girls,
If you like Greek mythology retellings, you're in luck: 2018 has been a spectacular year for fascinating interpretations of the oldest myths. Earlier this year, Madeline Miller filtered
The Odyssey through the perspective of Circe
, one of the book's key women. In
The Silence of the Girls
, Pat Barker looks at the "domestic" side of the Trojan War. During the 10 years the Greeks and Trojans fought, many women lived in the Greeks' tents outside of the walled city. This is the story of those slaves, those prostitutes, those wives — the women whose stories were never told in
. There's no
or search for glory on this side of the war.
6 of 15 Abby Geni The Wildlands,
A Category 5 tornado affects the entire town of Mercy, OK, but no family is left more depleted than the McClouds. The four McCloud siblings, already without a mother, lose their father
their house in the tornado. In the aftermath, Tucker, the family's only son, runs away and leaves his eldest sister to raise their two younger sisters. Three years after the tornado, Tucker returns to kidnap 9-year-old Cora and enlist her help on his extreme quest of restoring the land to a more wild state.
7 of 15 , Diana Evans Ordinary People
In Diana Evans’ hands, the daily lives of two “ordinary” London couples becomes a more than adequate subject for an epic, sprawling novel. Evans is concerned with the troubles that come in middle age, once marriage becomes routine and the kids are a whirlwind. Where does one find the spark of newness? Despite a compelling premise, Evan’s exuberant prose, which bursts at the seams with description, is the real star of this book.
8 of 15 Sarah Weinman The Real Lolita,
is a book whose gruesome premise — a middle-aged man kidnapping a young girl to have an affair with her – is often forgiven because of its sheer artfulness. But does your reading of
change if you know it’s based on a real kidnapping? In this book, Weinman uncovers the true story that inspired
The Real Lolita
is an explosive true crime book that rewrites literary history. It’s perfect for fans of literature and true crime alike.
9 of 15 Amélie Nothomb Strike Your Heart,
Strike Your Heart
, Amelie Nothomb, a renowned Belgian writer, creates a haunting fable about the things mothers do to their daughters. Diana is born in a small French village to a mother so wildly jealous that she's incapable of loving her daughter. All the other primary elements in Diana's life stem from that vacuum of maternal love — from her childhood best friend to the alluring professor she works with in medical school. You can finish this psychologically incisive story in a day.
10 of 15 Merve Emre The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing,
If you, like me, siphon through potential partners out based on their Myers-Briggs personality index, then this is the book for you. After reading the history of the exam, we might want to rethink our life decisions — or maybe not.
11 of 15 Wayétu Moore She Would Be King,
History can be told by the way it "really" happened in dry textbooks. Or, it can be interpreted, as it is in Moore's magical debut. In
She Would Be King,
Liberia's early years are reimagined through three characters: Gbessa, exiled from her village; June Dey, a runaway American slave; and Norman Aragon, the child of a colonizer and a slave. Moore's book especially looks at the injustices inflicted on African women throughout the continent's history.
12 of 15 , Liana Finck Passing for Human
Out September 18
As a cartoonist for the
, Liana Finck is an expert in telling stories using a single frame. So imagine what wonders she can work when she has an entire book at her disposal.
Passing For Human
is an affecting graphic memoir-meets-fairy tale about finding the element that distinguishes you from other creative voices.
13 of 15 , Ibi Zoboi Pride
In your heart, all you really want is to read adaptations of Jane Austen, don't you? In
, Ibi Zoboi cleverly transplants
Pride and Prejudice
to contemporary Bushwick. Zuri Benitez and her sisters are immediately intrigued by the obviously wealthy Black family who moves into the brownstone across the street. For Zuri’s older sister, it’s love at first sight for Ainsley Darcy. For Zuri? Well, you know the drill: She can’t stand the arrogant Darius.
is a literary adaptation at its best. It strikes the same notes as
Pride and Prejudice
, but also raises timely points about race, class, gentrification, and growing up in the 21st century.
14 of 15 , Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth Sarah Smarsh
If you’re working towards a deeper understanding of our ruptured country, then Sarah Smarsh’s memoir and examination of poverty in the American heartland is an essential read. Smarsh chronicles her childhood on the poverty line in Kansas in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the marginalization of people based on their income. When did earning less mean a person was
15 of 15 , Kate Atkinson Transcription
In her recent novels — including the one-of-a-kind speculative fiction novel
Life After Life
— Kate Atkinson vividly conjures up Britain during WWII. A country in turmoil, and its people chugging along.
peers into Britain's secret service in the year 1940. Our admirably capable protagonist in
is an 18-year-old orphan drafted to work for M15 as a spy.