As the leaves begin to change and the scent of pumpkin spice fills the air, September 2023 promises to be a month of literary delights. With an array of highly-anticipated releases spanning various genres—from spellbinding mysteries to deeply emotional dramas—this month is set to captivate readers’ imaginations. Heavy hitters like Zadie Smith and Lauren Groff are making eagerly-awaited returns, while emerging talents such as Ayana Mathis are generating buzz that’s impossible to ignore. Whether you’re a fan of heart-wrenching stories or prefer the suspenseful thrill of a well-crafted novel, there’s something for everyone to look forward to. Get ready to cozy up with a hot cup of tea and dive into our list of the 10 Most Anticipated Books of September 2023.
10 Most Anticipated Books of September 2023
- The Unsettled: A Novel by Ayana Mathis
- The Fraud: A Novel by Zadie Smith
- Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll
- Wellness: A Novel by Nathan Hill
- The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves
- Wednesday’s Child: Stories by Yiyun Li
- Holly by Stephen King
- Rouge: A Novel by Mona Awad
- Digging Stars: A Novel by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
- The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger
The Unsettled: A Novel by Ayana Mathis
The best-selling author of “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” returns with this multi-generational tale that also extends its geographical scope to Bonaparte, Alabama. Ava Carson is a determined mother battling against the dismal conditions of the Glenn Avenue family shelter, from its cockroach-infested rooms to its questionable security. With her ten-year-old son, Toussaint, Ava plots their escape, not just from the shelter but also from a complicated past that continues to haunt them.
Mathis masterfully captures the racial and political tension of the ’80s, examining social issues that remain painfully relevant today. With themes of resilience, survival, and the complexities of the African American experience, “The Unsettled” is a poignant addition to historical and literary fiction, addressing critical dialogues on race and systemic issues. The novel promises to be both a gripping read and an important cultural document.
The Fraud: A Novel by Zadie Smith
Set for release on September 5, 2023, “The Fraud” by Zadie Smith promises to be a scintillating blend of historical fiction, mystery, and biting social critique. Diving into the complexities of the infamous Tichborne Trial that swept Victorian England, the book explores themes of identity, deception, and societal facades through the eyes of two captivating characters—Mrs. Eliza Touchet and Andrew Bogle.
Touchet, a Scottish housekeeper skeptical of the world’s moral fiber, and Bogle, a former slave from Jamaica, are thrown into a whirlwind of legal drama as they grapple with questions surrounding authenticity and fraudulence. Intricately weaving together the contrasting backstories and worlds of its characters, the novel delves into Britain’s social fabric and Jamaica’s colonial past.
Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll
Inspired by the chilling real-life sorority targeted by America’s first celebrity serial killer, the novel takes readers on a riveting journey that spans from Florida State University to Seattle. At its heart are two women: Pamela Schumacher, a sorority president who narrowly escapes death, and Tina Cannon, a woman determined to find out what happened to her missing friend Ruth. As the story unfolds, they become unlikely sisters united by a chilling mystery.
Through Knoll’s meticulous narrative, the novel shifts focus from the sensationalism that often surrounds serial killers to the lives of the exceptional women they victimize. The story confronts societal misconceptions about so-called “brilliant” and “charismatic” killers, emphasizing instead the courage, intelligence, and resilience of their victims. The book is not just a tale of suspense and tragedy, but a cultural critique offering a fresh, feminist perspective on a narrative often dominated by male-centric viewpoints.
Wellness: A Novel by Nathan Hill
Known for his New York Times bestselling novel “The Nix,” Hill turns his keen eye towards the intricate weave of marriage, middle age, and the pitfalls of a health-obsessed tech culture. The story follows Jack and Elizabeth, college sweethearts turned spouses, navigating the labyrinthine challenges of adulthood. From cults masquerading as mindfulness groups to the perils of social media, the couple finds their relationship strained in unexpected ways.
The novel seamlessly transitions from the raw energy of ’90s Chicago’s underground art world to the quagmire of contemporary suburban life, complete with detox diets and home renovation frenzies. Hill digs deep into the societal norms that often dictate our views on wellness, technology, and relationships, offering an evocative commentary on the modern human condition. With keen insight, irony, and a rich emotional core, “Wellness” redefines what a love story can be in the 21st century.
The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves
Ann Cleeves, celebrated for her New York Times bestselling Vera and Shetland series, brings us the much-anticipated third installment in the Two Rivers series with “The Raging Storm: A Detective Matthew Venn Novel.” Set in the atmospheric Greystone, Devon, the story unfolds with the mysterious appearance and subsequent death of Jem Rosco, a sailor and adventurer. His lifeless body is found anchored off Scully Cove, a place shrouded in its own set of eerie legends.
This case is particularly challenging for Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, who has a complex history with Greystone. He finds himself navigating a stormy sea of superstition, rumor, and another grim discovery as he investigates the murders. Cleeves excels in creating an intricate plot that keeps the reader guessing while addressing contemporary issues such as LGBT themes. As Venn grapples with the unsettling return to his roots, he must also contend with a web of dark secrets that put even his judgment into question.
Wednesday’s Child: Stories by Yiyun Li
Acclaimed author Yiyun Li returns with “Wednesday’s Child: Stories,” a new collection that focuses on themes of loss, alienation, aging, and the peculiarity of modern life. Li, celebrated for her novels and memoirs, goes back to her roots with a compilation of short stories that have appeared in esteemed publications like The New Yorker and Zoetrope.
Each narrative is a microcosm of human emotions and experiences, set against the backdrop of ordinary lives disrupted by extraordinary circumstances. From a grieving mother creating a spreadsheet of losses to a restless woman engaged in a mysterious email correspondence, Li’s characters are richly crafted and deeply flawed. The stories oscillate between the mundane and the profound, highlighting how even trivial moments can carry monumental weight.
Li’s unique narrative voice remains tender yet unsentimental, and metaphysical yet straightforward. Her storytelling skillfully weaves in nuances, allowing readers to find meaning in minute details like a stolen jar of honey or a hidden photograph. With “Wednesday’s Child,” Li not only presents a tableau of human experiences but also provides poignant reflections on the cost—emotional and material—of living.
Holly by Stephen King
In “Holly,” Stephen King brings back one of his most compelling characters, Holly Gibney, in an eerie tale that promises to unravel the unsettling mysteries surrounding a series of disappearances in a Midwestern town. Evolving from a reclusive figure in “Mr. Mercedes” to an adept private detective in “The Outsider,” Holly’s journey comes full circle as she grapples with unimaginable evil lurking close to home.
Despite the grim circumstances she finds herself in—her partner Pete is down with Covid, and she’s just lost her complex mother—Holly is roped into a disturbing case by the desperate pleas of Penny Dahl, who’s frantic about her missing daughter, Bonnie. Living just blocks away from where Bonnie vanished are Professors Rodney and Emily Harris—octogenarians who outwardly embody bourgeois respectability. But the Harris couple hides a dark secret, one that may be connected to the disappearance, and they aren’t the easily caught amateurs that populate most crime fiction.
King’s latest installment in the Holly Gibney series is more than just a mystery thriller; it’s a cat-and-mouse game where intellect battles malevolence. The professors are savvy, patient, and merciless, and Holly must harness all her investigative might to decode the diabolical puzzle they’ve crafted. A tour de force in the horror and mystery genres, “Holly” is an eagerly awaited addition to King’s canon, making it a must-read for September 2023.
Rouge: A Novel by Mona Awad
In “Rouge,” Mona Awad explores the harrowing intersection of beauty obsession, grief, and family bonds through the lens of a gothic fairy tale. Awad, who previously penned the critically acclaimed novel “Bunny,” delves into the psyche of Belle, a lonely dress shop clerk haunted by her lifelong obsession with skincare and her skin.
Upon the mysterious death of her estranged mother, Noelle, Belle finds herself grappling with not just her mother’s considerable debts but also a plethora of unanswered questions. The mystery around her mother’s death starts to unravel when a woman in red offers a cryptic clue during the funeral, leading Belle to La Maison de Méduse—a luxurious spa and her mother’s last-known sanctuary.
The story, reminiscent of Snow White’s obsession with beauty and the unsettling sexual tension in Eyes Wide Shut, takes us through Belle’s journey at the spa where she comes to confront terrifying secrets about her own and her mother’s fixation on physical appearance. In doing so, she must also face the unsettling realities and dark forces that lurk behind the glass of every mirror.
Digging Stars: A Novel by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
It is a compelling exploration of identity, race, and the ethics of technology within the backdrop of academia. Protagonist Rosa joins The Program to continue her late father’s research but grapples with personal anxieties and unresolved questions about her father’s mysterious life. The novel showcases a diverse cast of Fellows, each focused on different academic disciplines, challenging Rosa’s preconceptions about success, meritocracy, and knowledge itself.
Characters like Shaniqua, studying melanin molecules, and Peralte, a gamer turned programmer, add thematic richness. Tshuma’s narrative is an intricate tapestry that questions the narrow definitions of success and invites us to rethink our relationship with the broader universe. The book serves as a critical reflection on the limits of ambition while advocating for a more inclusive and expansive understanding of achievement and identity.
The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger
In William Kent Krueger’s novel “The River We Remember,” the small town of Jewel, Minnesota is plunged into turmoil in 1958 when Jimmy Quinn, a wealthy landowner, is found murdered. Assigned to the case is Sheriff Brody Dern, a war hero struggling with his own past. As Dern digs into the investigation, the town’s long-standing racial and cultural tensions rise to the surface, particularly when Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran, becomes a prime suspect. Alongside this central drama are a war widow, an ambitious young newspaper publisher, an old deputy, and a crusading female lawyer—all of whom have pasts they’d rather keep hidden but which are threatened by the unfolding events.
More than just a captivating mystery, the book offers a nuanced portrait of mid-century American life, exploring themes such as racial prejudice, the scars left by wars—both home and abroad—and the complex nature of community and belonging. Krueger’s storytelling adeptly balances suspense with thoughtful exploration of how we seek to heal and the power of stories in shaping our understanding of home.
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