September 2023 Book Marks
I love living in the northeast, where the seasonal changes notch the year. Having lived in Northern California, Phoenix, Richmond, Virginia and many other gorgeous places, there is always something to love about the landscape, whether it’s the desert or the mountains. I’ve often wondered if we’re hard-wired to love the land of our birth. For me that would be the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York, worn down over time like rows of old molars. Looking out my window now, the very tips of some leaves are just beginning to blush yellow and red.
Fall means cooler nights and farmers markets with heirloom tomatoes and late blooming flowers like dahlias and zinnias. A new crop of fall lettuce and raspberries are in, and there’s that bittersweet cricket sound toward dusk that signals a back-to-school vibe.
Speaking of crops… there’s a good crop of books for September, so check out your local bookstore or buy directly here on the site. Happy September…..
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
The newest release from Booker Prize winner and author of The Luminaries is set on the South Island of New Zealand, after a devastating landslide cuts off the town of Thorndike. A guerilla gardening collective, called Birnam Wood, was formed to plant crops in abandoned places, a form of insurrection with the goal of helping the planet. When the group founder, Mira, discovers an empty farm, it’s the perfect place to set up camp. But American billionaire Robert Lemoine also has eyes on the land, for a very different and destructive reason. Reading more like a thriller at times, the two worlds of capitalism and eco-warriors collide. What unfolds is treachery, attraction, vanity and violence. The literary work contains both beautiful writing and compelling dialogue.
Tom Lake by Ann Patchet
One of my favorite writers in the world, Patchett has a keen ability to capture everyday life and relationships as images with her words. This story begins during the pandemic, which has brought three girls back to the family cherry farm in Northern Michigan, somewhere near Traverse City. With life stripped down to the basics, the Nelson family reunites at home and while harvesting the cherries, they ask to hear the story of their mother’s past life as an actress doing summer stock in a Michigan town called Tom Lake. But it’s really the story of her fellow actor, Peter Duke, that they want to hear. While Lara left the world of acting behind after that summer, Duke went on to become a movie star. As the story toggles back and forth between the past on Tom Lake and the present pandemic on the farm, the family dynamic and rich storytelling creates a soothing tale for these anxious times.
A Beautiful Rival by Gill Paul
Two beauty icons from the 20th century, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein, revolutionized the beauty industry, creating products and persuading women around the globe to buy youth and beauty. Keeping an eye on one another at all times, the women’s fierce competition led to two of the biggest cosmetic empires of all time. Rubenstein, a Jewish woman from Poland, and Arden, who grew up dirt poor in Canada, had an intense, three-decade-long long rivalry as they struggled with marriages, relationships, employee poaching and high society. Their goal was to one-up each other as often as they could. When the ravages of WWII touched each of their lives, the two entrepreneurs finally found a moment to share their mutual respect. This well-researched book is a quick and engrossing read.
A Very Inconvenient Scandal by Jacquelyn Mitchard
When Frankie returns home to Cape Cod, eager to share the news that she’s not only getting married, but having a baby, she’s stunned to find out that her newly widowed father is getting married too. Turns out it’s to her childhood best friend, Ariel, who is also pregnant. Still grieving the loss of her mother, Frankie’s complicated emotions are burdened by the fact that Ariel’s mother also has suddenly returned home after a ten year absence. More mysteries seem to swirl than answers, and Frankie must navigate her anger with her desire to protect her old friend from past hurts and a very unstable mother.
Chenneville by Paulette Jiles
Union soldier John Chenneville wakes up from a coma in the military hospital, after receiving a head wound in battle. Little by little he begins to put the pieces of his life back together and make his way back to St. Louis to see what his left of his family homestead after the Civil War. Returning to fallow tobacco fields and an almost empty home, he learns that his sister, her new husband and baby have been murdered. Forsaking his need to rest and heal, he sets out on a mission of vengeance to find the murderer as he travels across the brutal post-war landscape of a nation trying to get up off its knees with Reconstruction. The trail leads deep into Texas, where he begins to understand that his quest for justice many cost him more than he has to give. From the author of “The News of the World,” Jiles writes historical fiction in such a way that you feel you are living it.
How I Won a Nobel Prize by Julius Taranto
This insightful and funny novel begins with Helen, a brilliant physicist who is working on a high-temperature superconductor which could save the planet from a collision course with global warming. When her advisor is involved in a sex scandal and ousted from the University, he is invited to a private island, founded by a billionaire. The island houses a controversial university comprised of academics who have been thrown out, disgraced or cancelled by other schools. It’s a place where people can behave as they wish, with no consequences, and continue their academic pursuits. Helen decides that her work is more important than her outrage, and decides to move to the island and continue her project, but none of this sits well with her partner, Hew, who accompanies her. As Helen drifts further into her new world, Hew becomes more polarized by everything around him. This book explores what it means to be a good person, as it takes a realistic look at compromise and choice.
Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon
Three generations of women come together in this mystery that begins when a bloated body is discovered in a small coastal California town 300 miles north of Los Angeles. Lana is the grandmother, a high-powered real estate person in LA who’s just received a cancer diagnosis. When her daughter Beth, a nurse who lives in the small town, brings her home so that she and daughter Jack can care for her, Lana is worried she will die of boredom before the cancer kills her. But then the body is discovered and her granddaughter Jack becomes a suspect. All three women begin to solve the mystery and untangle the lies and corruption around land and zoning, conservationists and builders and family vendettas. The gem in the novel is the interaction among the women in the family, who must learn to work together to solve the case.
*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are Bookshop.org affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to check books out of your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!