The Lists

The Perfect Books to Read in the Month of September

what are the perfect books to read to capture the mood of September 2020?

We’re always looking for our next great read – so what are the best books to read in September? We’ve shared a list of the fantastic new book releases coming in September 2020.  For additional ideas, here’s our take on the perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of September. Not just what to read in September 2020 – these are what to read any September.

recommended reads for the month of September

So many books, so little time! Reading can be one of life’s sweetest luxuries. But how to quickly find the next great volume to dive into?

Perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of September.

To lend a hand, every month we share our Dandelion Chandelier Recommended Reads: books that we’ve personally read and loved – some brand new, and some published long ago. Selected to suit the season, we think they deserve a place on your nightstand. Or your e-reader. In your backpack. Or your carry-on bag. You get the idea.

Join our community

For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter. And see luxury in a new light.

sign up now >

In this edition: the perfect books to read in September 2020. We think these books best capture the mood and the essential spirit of the month.

what is the essential spirit of September?

As we move from summer into fall, the beach reads of August must yield to the Serious Fiction and Important Non-Fiction of autumn. At least, that’s what the traditional publishing model has always been.

Related Post

what are the best new books coming in September 2020?

read more >

And yet September days are still balmy and summer-like; the evenings are still long; and rosé still feels appropriate, at least for a little while longer. Heck, most of September occurs during the summer, no matter what the conventional wisdom is about the “unofficial” start of fall (and no matter how many pumpkin spice-flavored food and beverage items come our way early this month).

So rather than rushing the season, how about slowing down a bit? We think the ideal September read is a perfect balance of light and heavy; silly and serious; sweet and sour; escapist, and yet filled with hard truths. Winter is coming – but it’s not here yet.

Perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of September.

what makes for the best September reading list?

So what’s the perfect reading list for the month of September? It should strike precisely the right late-summer breezy note.

Related Post

what are the best beach books of summer 2020?

read more >

perfect books to read in the month of September

Given all of that, here’s our list of 12 perfect books for September. They’d pair well with sweater weather, a bouquet of sunflowers, or the last lingering days of lolling by the pool. With a solo meal out on the terrace, cute fall boots, leather jacket days, or a misty morning in the woods. And that first day when the crisp snap in the morning air reminds us that autumn has finally arrived.

Perfect books to read in the month of September. Courtesy Photos.

1. Early Work by Andrew Martin.

Early Work gets our nod for “Most September of all.” It’s a sharp, funny, melancholy debut novel set in Charlottesville, Virginia about a summer love affair between two writers in their mid-20’s that burns red hot for a while. But the relationship starts to frost over as the fall arrives. It’s smart, sweet, and honest about relationships between two talented people working in the same field — and if this early work is any indication, we’ll be longing for more from Martin long after the summer is gone.

2. Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill.

The New York Times named Department of Speculation one of the most influential modern works written by a female novelist. Published in 2014, it’s like Early Work, it’s the story of a strained relationship between two highly intelligent people. But in this case, the protagonist is a married new mother, struggling with issues of trust, intimacy, ambition and purpose. The format is ground-breaking — spare, austere and yet deeply emotional. It’s a must-read any season, and particular perfect for the autumn.

3. The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger.

Nothing triggers a parent with high ambitions for a child more than the topic of private schools: how to get in, how to pay for them, and once enrolled, how to scale the heights of the rigid social hierarchy among the parents and faculty. What better read for back-to-school season, then, than The Gifted School – a smart debut novel about the arrival in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado of a new school for gifted and talented students? A send-up of the pursuit of prestige at any price – and an eerily prescient warning about the college admissions bribery scandal – this is a page-turner about what happens to friendships, careers, and kids when parents will do anything to help their offspring succeed.

Perfect books to read in the month of September. Courtesy Photos.

4. On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

As universities awaken from their summer doldrums and come sparkling back to life in September, it’s the perfect moment to read On Beauty,  a witty and sharp novel set in the world of academia. The story of an interracial family living in the university town of Wellington, Massachusetts, the plot is filled with misadventures in the culture wars on both sides of the Atlantic. Underneath the breezy tone is a serious meditation about who gets to be called “beautiful,” and why. Smith won the Orange Prize for fiction for this novel in 2006, and it  remains eerily relevant, funny and provocative today.

Related Post

the best novels about work and office life

read more >

5. The Idiot by Elif Batuman.

The Idiot is a bit of a long read, but if you hang in you’ll be rewarded by this sincere, frank and deeply-felt tale of a Harvard freshman having a bewildering flirtation with a senior classmate, and her misadventures trying to win his heart and understand her own. A perfect back-to-school read that will remind you – perhaps all too well – what it felt like to be 18 and facing the world on your own for the very first time.

6. Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter.

For many of us, September is like the New Year: a chance to start fresh, to hit the reset button, to chase our dreams in purposeful ways. Which makes Old in Art School completely on-point for a September read. This is the delightful memoir of a historian (the aptly-named Nell Painter) who retires from the faculty at Princeton and enrolls in her sixties at the Rhode Island School of Design to pursue a BFA and MFA in painting. In addition to providing inspiration, Painter’s memoir is also a profound meditation on the meaning of art and beauty. How are women and artists seen and judged by their age, looks, and race? What does it mean when someone says, “You will never be an artist”? Who defines what “An Artist” is and all that goes with such an identity, and how are these ideas tied to our shared conceptions of beauty, value, and difference? You may see yourself differently after reading it.

perfect books to read in the month of September

Perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of September. Courtesy Photos.

7. This One is Mine by Maria Semple.

Semple is justifiably well-known for her classic Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which is a truly fantastic novel. We stumbled across her first novel, This One is Mine, at a local bookstore and loved it. It’s an excellent introduction to her oeuvre. And a really good read: raunchier and rawer and just as witty as Bernadette. It’s a similar tale in many ways: a mother and wife living on the West Coast has all the material goods anyone could want, but is still deeply unhappy. Her chosen solution to this dilemma is quite different than the ones chosen by the protagonists in Semple’s other two novels, though. You’ll nod in recognition as you hear the author’s voice in this first outing, and reflect on how it has evolved over time. Fall is for new beginnings, and this novel marks the start of a brilliant writing career.

Related Post

the new luxury scented candles perfect for bibliophiles

read more >

8. The Pleasing Hour by Lily King.

The Pleasing Hour is the brilliant writer Lily King’s debut novel. It’s the poignant coming-of-age story of Rosie, an American au pair in Paris. She’s fleeing an unspeakable loss, and struggling to connect to Nicole – the distant and sophisticated mother of the three children she cares for. Meanwhile, her bond with the patriarch of the household becomes erotic and destructive. You can see the seeds of King’s later powerful novels like Euphoria in this deeply moving and insightful work.

9. Hotels of North America by Rick Moody.

Hotels of North America. Autumnal melancholy permeates this lovely novel. Think of it as “Up in the Air,” but on the ground. Reginald Edward Morse makes a living one of the top reviewers on a fictional website, RateYourLodging.com, that’s similar to Trip Advisor. As we read his reviews, we hear the story of his life. Love, loss, disappointment and stubborn hope emerge as he writes in a wry and sometimes hysterical voice about hotel properties both grand and humble. It’s a wonderful read: funny, poignant and realistic about how work is both a shield and a barrier when it comes to our most intimate relationships. By the end, we’re prepared to join him on whatever journey he decides to undertake next.

Perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of September. Courtesy Photos.

10. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris.

Gorgeously written, funny, sharp and elegiac, Then We Came to the End is the story of a failing ad agency in Chicago, and how its rag-tag group of employees handle the stresses and humiliations of downsizing and failure. A work family as dysfunctional as any we’ve seen alternately plays pranks on each other, indulges in gallows humor, and occasionally succumbs to despair. It’s melancholy and steeped in a sense of loss. But all the way through, the beating heart of the office – with its confusion, fear, loopiness and illogical optimism – feels timely, urgent and achingly real. 

11. White Tears by Hari Kunzru.

In White Tears, two young white New Yorkers – one a striver and the other a scion of a wealthy family – accidentally record an unknown black singer in a park. When one of them sends it out over the Internet, claiming it’s a long lost 1920’s blues recording by a musician called Charlie Shaw, an old collector contacts them to say that their fake record and their fake bluesman are actually real. Along with one of their sisters, the pair spiral down into the heart of the nation’s darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation. It’s ” a ghost story, a terrifying murder mystery, a timely meditation on race, and a love letter to all the forgotten geniuses of American music and Delta Mississippi Blues.”

12. The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison.

If September is about going back to school, then one of the greatest joys of the month is receiving knowledge and wisdom from teachers, professors, and fellow students. So we end our list of perfect reads for September with The Source of Self-Regard, a collection of works by the great Toni Morrison that spans four decades. It is divided into three parts: the first is introduced by a powerful prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second by a searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last by a heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin. What better way to remember Septembers past and gain courage and guidance for the Septembers still to come?

Perfect books to read in the month of September. Courtesy Photos.

Perfect books to read that capture the mood of the month of September. Courtesy Photos.

what to read in September

There you have it: 12 books that are urbane and wry, sophisticated but not overly serious, uplifting but not saccharine. Books that capture the mood and essential essence of September. They’re just what what we need to help us make our way with purpose into the autumn this year. What’s on your list this month, dear reader?

join our community!

For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.

Forward This Article

Join our community

For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter. And see luxury in a new light.

sign up now >