If You’re Going to Read One Book in September, Make It This One

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Can you smell that? It’s the scent of pumpkin spice lattes hitting the cool, crisp air. (Alright, you got me, it’s still hot, but we can pretend it’s not, right?) While fall doesn’t officially begin until the end of September, nothing is stopping us from diving into the autumn season head first. So grab a fuzzy blanket, divulge in your favorite pumpkin-flavored treat, and get cozy with one of September’s new book releases. 

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My pick? Ernesto Mestre-Reed’s mesmerizing historical fiction, “Sacrificio” is the one book you definitely have to read before October comes.

Through a sophisticated, layered network of stories within dialogues within stories, the novel becomes a shifting mosaic that explores Cuban history, queerness, and identity as readers follow a young man named Rafa in 1998 Cuba, who inadvertently finds himself while searching for his missing friend, Renato. 

Informative as it is imaginative, “Sacrificio” delves into a complex historic moment when the Cuban government forced HIV-positive citizens into lifetime quarantines in sanitariums, unintentionally creating a space for queer culture to thrive. As Rafa searches for Renato through various spots in Havana, “Sacrificio” depicts Cuba’s underground queer culture in fascinating detail.

Here are some other great reading options this month, in case you’re really looking forward to getting cozy:

While this sophomore novel is from Candice Carty-Williams, the author of the internationally bestselling novel “Queenie,” it’s not to be compared to the debut. “People Person” is a biting example of the phrase “Blood is thicker than water.” When 30-year-old Dimple gets herself in a very touchy situation, her half-siblings, who she hasn’t talked to in years, wind up being the support system she never knew she needed. Think “My Sister the Serial Killer” meets a sweeping, comical family drama. 

Jazz sets the tone in this tender debut from Laura Warrell. The author drops you off in 2013 with protagonist Circus Palmer, a 40-year-old trumpet player in a midlife crisis. He surrounds himself with a cast of women he can’t seem to stay away from or get enough of, including lovers, ex-wives, daughters, and the like. Through smoky bars and clubs, hotel rooms, and bedrooms in New York, Boston, and Miami, Warrell spins a big-hearted multicultural world that never ignores race but still allows each character to live their lives as they see fit. 

Don’t let the synopsis of Steve Stern’s “The Village Idiot” intimidate you. Yes, the novel is a fictional take on the life of the remarkable expressionist painter Chaim Soutine — but knowledge of or interest in the time is not needed to enjoy this heady fever dream. Witty, dark, and poignant, you’ll want to strap in for Stern’s venture into Soutine’s adventures and romances. 

Most older women will tell you that they can often feel invisible. In “Killers of A Certain Age,” Deanna Raybourn shows with humorous dialogue and action-packed scenes how that invisibility can be a strength. After 40 years on the job, four elite assassins — who are also middle-aged women — let loose on a retirement cruise when they suddenly realize that they’ve become targets. That’s when they decide that it’s time to kill or be killed. 

If you’ve been bitten by the holiday bug and your mind has already bypassed Halloween, Jenny Bayliss’s charming rom-com might be the perfect temporary fix. “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe” captures the same small-town charm and holiday cheer found in Bayliss’s debut novel, “The Twelve Dates of Christmas,” while tackling themes of class relations, self-acceptance, family loyalty, and the value of old friendships and new love. Not-so-spoiler alert: This is an enemies-to-lovers romp in the English countryside. 

This queer, addicting thriller, “I’m the Girl” by Courtney Summers, deals with murder, assault, relationships, and class issues. That’s all you need to know. 

For fans of short stories, “Two Nurses, Smoking” by David Means is a must-add to your list. Each of the 10 stories in this collection is depicted through the relationship between trauma and catharsis, isolation and communion, and the tendrils of grief that wrap around us when we’re least expecting it.

I’ll let Kirkus Reviews Magazine say it all for “The Weight of Blood” by Tiffany D. Jackson: “Jackson’s expert reshaping of this tale highlights the genuine horrors of both internalized and externalized anti-Blackness. Horror done right.”

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