15 of the Best New Books in September 2015

Books Lists
Share Tweet Submit Pin

From Margaret Atwood’s dystopian thriller to Jim Butcher’s new steampunk/fantasy series, this month’s new releases deliver adventure and intrigue. We’ve rounded up the 15 books we were most excited to read, including 11 novels, three nonfiction titles and one huge encyclopedia featuring Bill Murray

Check out our picks below, then leave a comment describing the books you want to read.


1. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Release Date: September 1st from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Why You’ll Love It: With a title ripped straight from a 1914 newspaper headline, Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits with Gun is billed as the hair-raising, violent adventures of one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs. Dive into the novel to discover how Stewart successfully mines the life of Constance Kopp and the riveting sliver of history that bears her stamp. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding 15 years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family—and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.


2. Purity by Jonathan Franzen

Release Date: September 1st from Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Why You’ll Love It: Those outside of the reading community no longer know Jonathan Franzen as “the novelist who pissed off Oprah big-time.” Now, he’s “the dude who almost adopted an Iraqi war orphan to understand young people,” but among the noise, Franzen has also gifted readers everywhere with two of literature’s most-discussed, recent American novels. The Corrections and Freedom were heralded for their entertaining explorations of modern families—whether it was through the eyes of retired, Parkinson’s-afflicted Alfred Lambert in The Corrections or the journaling of college basketball star-turned-housewife Patty in Freedom. Franzen has moved from retired baby boomers in The Corrections to a still-unsatisfied middle class in Freedom, and now he’s diving into the world of post-grad Millennials in Purity, where he tackles the consequences of our tech-obsessed existence. This is the September book readers will be discussing years down the line. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: Young Pip Tyler doesn’t know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she’s saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she’s squatting with anarchists in Oakland and that her relationship with her mother—her only family—is hazardous. But she doesn’t have a clue who her father is, why her mother chose to live as a recluse with an invented name or how she’ll ever have a normal life.

Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organization that traffics in all the secrets of the world—including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn’t understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.


3. Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

Release Date: September 4th from LucasBooks
Why You’ll Love It: Set immediately after the events of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath kicks off a thrilling new book trilogy. You’ll meet a host of new faces in a galaxy far, far away as Wendig describes the adventures occurring between the sixth and seventh films in the beloved Star Wars series. —Frannie Jackson
Description: As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.


4. Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash

Release Date: September 8th from Ecco
Why You’ll Love It: The award-winning author of Serena returns to Appalachia with Above the Waterfall, a breathtaking novel weaving violent pasts and uncertain futures. A sheriff and a park ranger narrate alternating chapters of story, luring you into a mystery that will captivate you until the final page. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Les, a long-time sheriff just three-weeks from retirement, contends with the ravages of crystal meth and his own duplicity in his small Appalachian town. Becky, a park ranger with a harrowing past, finds solace amid the lyrical beauty of this patch of North Carolina. Enduring the mistakes and tragedies that have indelibly marked them, they are drawn together by a reverence for the natural world. When an irascible elderly local is accused of poisoning a trout stream, Les and Becky are plunged into deep and dangerous waters, forced to navigate currents of disillusionment and betrayal that will lead them to question themselves and test their tentative bond—and threaten to carry them over the edge.


5. The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray by Robert Schnakenberg

Release Date: September 15th from Quirk Books
Why You’ll Love It: It’s a big, bad book about Bill Murray. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: He’s the sort of actor who can do Hamlet and Charlie’s Angels in the same year. He shuns managers and agents, and he once agreed to voice the part of Garfield because he mistakenly believed it was a Coen brothers film. Bill Murray’s extraordinary career is rich with fascinating anecdotes, contradictions and mystery, from his early success on Saturday Night Live and the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s (Caddyshack, Stripes, Tootsie, Ghostbusters) to his reinvention as a hipster icon in the early 21st century (in films like Lost in Translation and Moonrise Kingdom). And now you can get your fill of Bill: part biography, part critical appreciation, part love letter and all fun, The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray chronicles every single Murray performance in loving detail, relating all the milestones, yarns and controversy in the life of this beloved but enigmatic performer.


6. Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting by Eilon Paz

Release Date: September 15th from Ten Speed Press
Why You’ll Love It: This gorgeous book deserves a prime spot on your coffee table, regardless of your enthusiasm for record collecting. Boasting 350 stunning photographs and 12 in-depth interviews with vinyl collectors across the globe, Dust & Grooves delivers an adventurous, accessible glimpse into the lives of people who simply love records. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Dust & Grooves is an inside look into the world of vinyl record collectors in the most intimate of environments—their record rooms. Compelling photographic essays from photographer Eilon Paz are paired with in-depth and insightful interviews to illustrate what motivates these collectors to keep digging for more records. The reader gets an up close and personal look at a variety of well-known vinyl champions, including Questlove, Gilles Peterson and King Britt, as well as a glimpse into the collections of known and unknown DJs, producers, record dealers and everyday enthusiasts. Driven by his love for vinyl records, Paz takes us on a six-year journey through 12 countries to unearth the very soul of the vinyl community.


7. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Release Date: September 15th from Riverhead Books
Why You’ll Love It: Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff’s novel on the Longlist for the National Book Award, begins with a honeymoon and ends with a wedding. It’s a narrative choice that would feel overly sentimental if it weren’t for the dark exploration of marriage that rests between these two events. For Lotto and Mathilde, the main characters in the decades-spanning story, marriage is not overly idealized or cloyingly romantic. Instead, it’s a safe harbor for two people desiring to escape the past. —Bridey Heing
Description: At age 22, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill, we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets.


8. Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story by David Maraniss

Release Date: September 15th from Simon & Schuster
Why You’ll Love It: For most of my life, I’ve lived in a town a half-hour west of the Detroit city limits. Seeing the nation become enamored with Detroit’s story in the last decade has felt strange—from the downfall of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, to the crumbling architecture, to seeing the whole landscape scare the shit out of America in It Follows, to Rolling Stone’s questionable counting skills. On one hand, it’s great to see a national spotlight shining on these long-churning issues, and on the other, the lack of context and information has led to knee-jerk reactions when I tell my long-distance pals that I’m off to see a show in what used to be referred to as Detroit Rock City. I believe books like Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy and, now, Washington Post associate editor David Maraniss’ Once in a Great City are important, because they inevitably invite audiences to explore not only decay, but the culture that existed beneath. Maraniss tackles a time when Detroit was on top: think booming auto factories, Motown and the rise of the UAW. His argument is a compelling one, stating that Detroit’s downfall was written in stone as early as these profitable years. With many people wondering what could’ve been, I’m interested in hearing a side that says it might not have been meant to be—at least in a permanent capacity. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march. Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption, neglect and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities—from harsh weather to high labor costs—and competition from abroad to explain Detroit’s collapse, one could see the signs of a city’s ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.


9. Population Wars: A New Perspective on Competition and Coexistence by Greg Graffin

Release Date: September 15th from Thomas Dunne Books
Why You’ll Love It: I had the opportunity to speak with Greg Graffin about his latest book, Population Wars. The read—a quick one, coming in at a few hundred pages—is essentially Graffin’s long-form meditation on coexisting peacefully in our modern society. But as Graffin reaffirmed in our discussion, Population Wars isn’t a piece that’s easily summed up in a few sentences. It’s a concise packaging of Graffin’s worldview, which he’s assembled through his time as a professor at Cornell, the lead singer of punk band Bad Religion and as a father and property owner. Through all of these things, Graffin explores his own place in the world through evolutionary science, philosophy, punk rock and—surprisingly—collecting tractors, but it’s strung together so thoughtfully that it’s difficult not to carefully consider his body of supporting evidence. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: In Population Wars, Greg Graffin points to where the mainstream view of evolutionary theory has led us astray. That misunderstanding has allowed us to justify wars on every level, whether against bacterial colonies or human societies, even when other, less violent solutions may be available. Through tales of mass extinctions, developing immune systems, human warfare, the American industrial heartland and our degrading modern environment, Graffin demonstrates how an oversimplified idea of war, with its victorious winners and vanquished losers, prevents us from responding to the real problems we face.


10. Scrapper by Matt Bell

Release Date: September 15th from Soho Press
Why You’ll Love It: Scrapper delivers one of the most unflinchingly real and devastatingly disconcerting narratives of a hero’s acclaim imaginable. Offering no consolation, no certainty, no redemptive promise, Matt Bell writes a punishingly effective and brutally affecting novel set in a blighted Detroit. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: Detroit has descended into ruin. Kelly scavenges for scrap metal from the hundred thousand abandoned buildings in a part of the city known as “the zone,” an increasingly wild landscape where one day he finds something far more valuable than the copper he’s come to steal: a kidnapped boy, crying out for rescue. Briefly celebrated as a hero, Kelly secretly avenges the boy’s unsolved kidnapping, a task that will take him deeper into the zone and into a confrontation with his own past and long-buried traumas.


11. Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

Release Date: September 15th from Ecco
Why You’ll Love It: The Sisters Brothers author Patrick deWitt takes on an even greater comedic challenge in his new book, the relentlessly wry and often outrageously funny Undermajordomo Minor. The absurdity of protagonist Lucy’s journey—from hazy dissatisfaction to focused, driven antipathy—makes the novel a gut-busting and satisfying tale. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, Lucy is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for producing brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the Majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux.

While tending to his new post as Undermajordomo, Lucy soon discovers the place harbors many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master. He also encounters the colorful people of the local village—thieves, madmen, aristocrats and Klara, a delicate beauty whose love he must compete for with the exceptionally handsome soldier, Adolphus. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of human behavior is laid bare for our hero to observe.


12. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Release Date: September 22nd from Quirk Books
Why You’ll Love It: The challenge Ransom Riggs faces in Library of Souls is to match the remarkably high standard set by the first two books in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, either the mind-bending bafflements of the first book or the edge-of-your-seat action of the second. Riggs succeeds, delivering a thrilling conclusion to a celebrated trilogy. —Steve Nathans-Kelly
Description: Time is running out for the Peculiar Children. With a dangerous madman on the loose and their beloved Miss Peregrine still in danger, Jacob Portman and Emma Bloom are forced to stage the most daring of rescue missions. They’ll travel through a war-torn landscape, meet new allies and face greater dangers than ever . . . Will Jacob come into his own as the hero his fellow Peculiars know him to be?


13. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Release Date: September 29th from Roc
Why You’ll Love It: Already the bestselling author of two series (The Dresden Files and Codex Alera), Jim Butcher launches a new steampunk/fantasy series this month with The Aeronaut’s Windlass. Set in a captivating world on the brink of war, the novel follows an eclectic band of characters on a covert mission. With steam-powered tech, clairvoyant allies and cats that just might be smarter than humans, The Aeronaut’s Windlass delivers an adventurous debut in The Cinder Spires series. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances and building fleets of airships.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than 10,000 years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…


14. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Release Date: September 29th from Nan A. Talese
Why You’ll Love It: Margaret Atwood’s built a name on her dystopian tales, and she’s back with another for The Heart Goes Last. Set in the same universe as her Positron series of four ebooks, the novel possesses everything fans of Atwood could hope for: grim visions of not-impossible alternate worlds served with Atwood’s own wry sense of humor. —Tyler R. Kane
Description: Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.

At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.


15. Lightless by C.A. Higgins

Release Date: September 29th from Del Rey

Why You’ll Love It: Lightless, the thrilling debut novel in a new sci-fi trilogy, hails from the mind of physics major-turned-author C.A. Higgins. She imagines a solar system ruled by a ruthless government, whose constant surveillance is wearing on the people. When terrorists with suspected ties to freedom fighter Mallt-y-Nos attempt to hijack a spacecraft, the consequences turn violent for everyone onboard. This is a gripping drama that you don’t want to miss. —Frannie Jackson
Description: Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate one of the terrorist’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of his mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.